Joseph H. Pilates was born in Germany, in 1880. A sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, he dedicated his entire life to becoming physically stronger. Joe studied body building and gymnastics and by the age of 14 was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. In 1912 he moved to England earning a living as a boxer, circus performer and self-defense trainer. During World War I he was interned with other German citizens in a camp where he trained other inmates in fitness and exercises. It was here that the beginnings of the True Pilates Method began to take shape. After the War, Pilates emigrated to the United States.
On the ship to America he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960’s. Pilates and his method, which he and Clara called "Contrology", soon established a following. From their point of view, "Contrology" is the complete coordination of the body, mind and spirit. Well known dancers George Balanchine and Martha Graham became devotees and sent their students to them for training. Pilates practiced what he preached and lived a long healthy life.