Joseph Pilates, the creator of this method, was born in Dusseldorf Germany. He was a very sickly child, with rheumatic fever, asthma and rickets. He decided at a very young age to dedicate his entire life to physical fitness. He became proficient in bodybuilding, diving, skiing, and gymnastics and by the age of 14 was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts.
In the 1910's, he moved to England where he worked as a boxer, a gymnast, a dancer, a circus performer, and taught martial arts to the English detectives. But, during World War I, because he was a German national, he was designated an enemy alien and was interned at a prison camp on the Isle of Man. He worked as a nurse, and rehabilitated his patients by using hospital bedsprings for resistance along with his evolving exercises. Interestingly enough, none of his patients caught the influenza that was sweeping Europe at the time and killing tens of millions of people. The doctors attributed this phenomenon to the stimulating effect his exercises had on the immune system.
He then became trainer to Max Schnell, who was a famous boxer at the time. Pilates accompanied him to NYC and on the ship to America, Pilates met his future wife Clara, who was in a wheelchair from rheumatoid arthritis. He said to her, I will make you walk again, and he did. Together they opened a studio on 57th street where people from all walks of life studied with Joseph Pilates. George Balanchine, the founder of the NYC Ballet, sent his injured dancers to Pilates so that when they got back to class and onstage, they would be in perfect condition. Martha Graham, the mother of modern dance, Margot Fonteyn, one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century, studied with Pilates, and many, many others. Pilates trained and passed the torch of his knowledge to Romana Kryzanowska, who is Suzi's teacher and mentor.