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             22 September, 2019
 

    
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History of Pilates Exercise (Part 2)

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2006-12-26 02:21:56     
Article by Lynda Lippin

We know that Pilates traveled to England when he was in his 30s, but there are at least two different equally plausible stories about how and why he went. The first story tells us that he went there to box, having exhausted most of the prizefighting venues at home. The second claims that Joe had begun successfully performing in the circus with his brother, and they had a Greek statue act that was so popular they took it to England. Whichever is true, Pilates was in England in 1914 when WW I broke out and was interned by the British as an enemy alien. He first went to a small camp near Lancaster, where he began teaching self defense and wrestling to the other Germans, claiming that they would be stronger when they left than when they entered. It was here that Joe began to develop his system of Contrology. Then he was transferred.

During both World Wars, the British set up their Alien Civilian Internment Camps on the Isle of Man. Interestingly, they only interned males women were not interned. For WW1 (1914-1918) a very large camp was established on the west coast of the island at Knockaloe. The Knockaloe camp, intended to house 5000 men, ended up expanding to hold about 24,000. It was 22 acres large, divided into 23 compounds split into 4 separate camps. Each camp had its own hospital, theater, cafeteria, printing presses, etc. and the hospitals were used to treat soldiers injured on the front lines of battle. The Knockaloe camps were built from wooden huts, and became extremely depressing after several years. To make things worse, the camps did not close right at the end of the war, since there was a long period of postwar hostilities. The camps finally closed in late 1919, and most of the internees were deported back to Germany.

It was while interned at Knockaloe camp that Joe Pilates began to really experiment with his exercises and theories. It was obviously his priority to maintain his own strength and conditioning, which was not easy given the basic lack of hygienic conditions and the presence of injured and sick internees and soldiers, but Pilates also had to deal with the great influenza epidemic of 1918. In a time when there was no physical or exercise therapy and medicine was relatively archaic, Joe began to work with the sick and injured men. He taught them to breathe and attached bedsprings with straps to the walls by their hospital beds so they could begin to stretch and exercise by pushing or pulling on the springs before they could even get out of bed. His patients got out of bed much faster, and Joe's experiments were encouraged. Outside of the hospital he took large groups of internees through his exercise regimen every day believing wholeheartedly that the more everyone breathed and moved the better off they would be. "Out with the bad germs and in with the fresh new oxygen," he would counsel. England lost tens of thousands and while the camps were hit extremely hard by the flu, only 200 men died at Knockaloe, thus proving to Joe that he was right.

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