Joseph H. Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. He was often sick as a child, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. His various illnesses inspired a lifelong devotion to physical fitness. In Germany, he studied bodybuilding, boxing and gymnastics, and he became a skilled skier and diver. By the time he was 14, he was fit enough to model for anatomical charts.
In 1912, Pilates moved to England, where he was a boxer, circus performer, and self-defense trainer. During World War I, he was confined to an infirmary and created a rehabilitation program for bedridden soldiers. It was then that he began developing the exercises he called “Contrology.”
After World War I, Pilates immigrated to the United States. In 1929, he and his wife, Clara, opened the first “Contrology” studio in New York City and established a following in the dance and performing arts communities. Pilates continued to teach students until the late 1960s. Today, the “Contrology” exercises he created are known as “Pilates,” which is practiced around the world by students of all ages and from all walks of life.