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The brief history of Pilates, BASI Pilates and The Block System.

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

What is Pilates? Wait… who is Pilates? And how does BASI Pilates fit in?

Joseph Pilates was born in 1883 in Germany. He was an ill child who suffered from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. This encouraged Joseph Pilates to look for movement to achieve better health namely: bodybuilding, gymnastics, diving, eastern and western forms of exercises and philosophies. When World War 1 (WW1) broke out, he left for England with the German nationals and interned in a camp in the Isle of Man. Here he practiced his physical fitness regimens. While in the camp, he started to devise apparatus from his surroundings and used it to help the sickly and disabled. This apparatus can still be found within studios (although slightly modernised) but still used with the same purpose. After WW1 Joseph Pilates returned home to Germany where he was invited by the German government to train the new German Army. He recognised the implications of this and soon left for the United States of America. Here he met Clara, who he soon married. Together, they opened their first studio in New York City, attracting a diverse population (circus performers, gymnasts and dancers). It was the dancers who recognised and felt the benefit of this movement, both for everyday life and performance. Over the course of his career he created more than 600 exercises for the different pieces of apparatus he invented. A man way ahead of his time, creating apparatus to address “the whole” to achieve good health. He aimed to correct body alignment and balance. Joseph Pilates called his exercise “Contrology”, seeing it as a way of life and a path to total health, rather than a simple series of exercises. This holistic approach was created as a life long process, instead of a physical fitness regimen. Many might say he died a disillusioned man, yet he has changed the world we live in. With scientific knowledge, the evolution of Pilates began its journey. Different schools of Pilates emerged which can still be found today. Rael Isocowitz, a Jewish, American man, born in South Africa, founded what we know as BASI (Body Arts and Science International) Pilates. He has added both art and science into the Pilates work. As research is conducted and more is learned, so the original (Joseph) Pilates work has adapted, and evolved while still giving credit to its source. It is inconceivable to think that someone as creative and adaptable as Joseph Pilates would not have wanted his work to evolve. Joseph Pilates then and Rael Isocowitz now continuously makes changes to the movement while still staying true to the integrity and quality of the work. One of the many things that makes BASI Pilates unique is "The Block System". It is the essence of the structure of the BASI approach to the Pilates method. It can be described as a "filing system" to ensure the whole body is addressed, with different levels within each body part (fundamental to advanced) in each teaching hour. This system allows a client to get the exact exercises suited to their body and their progression, adding variety and challenge.

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