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Joseph Pilates
Joseph Hubertus Pilates (1883-1967), a natural innovator, was the founder of the Classical Pilates exercise method. Born in Germany, during his childhood he had suffered from many illnesses that eventually inspired his keen interest in physical fitness regimens. Joseph’s father was also an influential figure and introduced the young Pilates to both Western and Eastern forms of exercise (including gymnastics, body-building, jiu jitsu and boxing). Joseph Pilates eventually developed over 500 specific exercises using five major pieces of unique apparatus that he also designed.
In 1914 Joseph moved to England earning a living as a boxer, circus performer and self-defense trainer. He also studied a wide range of philosophies from yoga, zen and martial arts to ancient Greek and Roman disciplines. However, the beginnings of the True Pilates Method took shape while he was interned as a hospital orderly during World War I. To improve the physical health of his patients and fellow internees, he developed a unique sequence of movements that worked the mind and body in harmony, and continuously refined and improved his concepts. Joseph also cleverly utilized bed springs to offer light resistance exercises – an idea that later evolves into the Cadillac and Trapeze Table. 
After the war, Joseph Pilates returned to Germany, before relocating to the United States in 1925. Along with his wife, Clara Pilates, the couple founded a studio in 8th Avenue, New York City that taught the Pilates method (referred originally as “Contrology”). Joseph and Clara dedicated their lives in teaching the priniciples of Contrology, in particular the importance of the mind to control muscles, and use of “core” muscles to help keep the body and spine aligned.
The New York studio was a success and quickly established a devoted following within the local dance communities. Among his clients were well-known dancers such as Martha Graham, George Balanchine and Ruth St. Dennis, who regularly sent students to Joseph’s studio for rehabilitation and to build flexibility, strength and stamina. Soon, a young dancer named Romana Kryzanowska met “Uncle Joe” and Clara, and worked alongside the Pilates as a devoted and talented protégé.
Joseph Pilates wrote several books, including Return to Life through Contrology and Your Health, and he was also a prolific inventor, with over 26 patents cited. Joseph was an icon of fitness until his death in 1967, when complications from a fire took his life in 1967. He died aged 83. However, his legacy lives on as his many disciples continued to teach variations of his method or, in the Classical/Traditional method in the way Joseph originally intended. 
Nowadays, Pilates has spread to become one of the most popular and respected fitness systems practiced around the world, with its benefits helping the lives of athletes, dancers, fitness professionals, as well as the general public.
"I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be happier." - Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 82