Joe Pilates didn’t leave his legacy well-documented when he died leading to big differences in teacher training.
Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) defined a new approach to health and fitness which culminated in an exercise method based around a series of mainly equipment-based exercises. He had a devoted New York following of sportspeople and ballerinas and several understudies to whom he had taught his method. But there was no official training programme and certainly no proper documentation of what exercises should be taught to who, how they should be instructed and on what machine.
So followed a splintering of ideas around what Pilates was and several lawsuits vying to copyright the name. Plus a plethora of agencies promoting training. Hence it’s often difficult to compare Pilates teachers- we’re like apples and oranges!
Classical Pilates training institutes train teachers to teach the work that Joseph Pilates originally performed (see him on his ‘bednasium’ below!).
Of course, this itself is contentious as we don’t know exactly what he used to teach! But the Classical bodies try to stick to what came directly from his understudies. Naturally, different understudies had different views on the Classical repertoire. Romana Kryzanowska was one of Joe’s more prominent understudies and set up her own Kinetic Pilates training movement. When she died a few years ago, her daughter and grand-daughter took over the reigns. Many instructors think that her route is the ‘truest’ to Pilates’ original teachings although, by default, that makes it extremely narrow. True classical lessons are usually the same every class.
Alan Herdman is the UK’s most prominent classically-evolved teacher although he has adapted his approach to encompass advancements in science. Alan’s courses involve at least 750 hours of teacher study and three full-terms of work. Our lovely Alex at the studio is trained by Alan and has 15 years of teaching under her belt. Lucy has had a brief couple of days training with Alan and loved meeting a legend!
Joe Pilates was one of the first people to address postural problems and joint pathologies through exercise. Modern physiotherapists and sport scientists now lead an evidence-based approach to recuperation and strength though movement. So it makes sense that his work should have evolved through time with an input of knowledge from the medical profession.
Training bodies like APPI are generally only open to medical professionals who want to study Pilates. Their courses are very short, often only two days long- acknowledging the learned academic status of the attendees- but the APPI repertoire is not directed to provide varied class content nor is there any necessity for students to have studied Pilates more than watching 5 hours worth of online videos. Thankfully, our lovely physiotherapists, like Philippa, join in our classes so they have the best of both worlds- an in-depth understanding of human movement and access to a wider and more evolving exercise repertoire. Jojo has also attended the APPI specific Equestrian Pilates courses and the team regularly attends their conferences.
Contemporary Pilates takes the fundamental understanding of Joseph’s philosophy of movement and aligns this with modern research into bio-mechanics. Many exercises remain the same, but many more exercises have been added or variations have been made to allow for injury rehabilitation and creativity by the instructor.
The Pilates Method Alliance is the largest register of professionally approved Pilates training schools worldwide. This US based body takes a forward thinking approach to the development of teacher training. The Balanced Body team (who supply our classroom machines) are the largest PMA member and the largest Pilates company worldwide. Smaller schools such as McEntire Pilates (which developed that lovely Arcus bar that we use in One Grove’s classes) have evolved very specific remedial programmes to cater for Cerebral Palsy and other conditions. In the UK Polestar Pilates and Equinox Pilates are PMA registered training bodies- training takes at least six months with 450 hours of practice required as a minimum. Lucy has trained with Balanced Body and McEntire Pilates in the USA. Alex has trained with Balanced Body, BASI (another body with a reputation for academic excellence) and Eric Franklin on dynamic neuro-cognitive imagery.
Stott Pilates, a Canadian institution, is considered the ‘Ivy League’ of training bodies although it is by no means definitive. The strength of Stott training is its huge resource-base with hundreds of training DVDs and manuals for its instructors as well as an insistence on continual annual upgrades for instructors to stay current. Lucy, Jojo and Frankie are all current Stott instructors and Lucy and Jojo have completed advanced and specialist qualifications. Reception staff Beth, Luci and Cath have all undertaken Stott training courses and are now in the process of certification (which takes more hours of observation, practice and study!).
Smaller training bodies
There are a host of small companies that train Pilates teachers including J Pilates and Fitness Pilates, both of whom Lucy has trained with. They vary in training depth. For example, Fitness Pilates courses cost just a couple of hundred pounds (compared to the industry standard of several thousand pounds) and take place over one weekend- there is no need to have had any prior experience in the field of exercise. Fitness Pilates teachers often teach in large gym chains and village halls. Other organisations come and go- Body Control had a strong ‘Daily Mail’ presence in the noughties but took its eye off the ball with respect to medical advancements. The Pilates Institute (which was the largest UK trainer when Lucy trained with them a decade ago) no longer exists- it priced itself out of the market!
A broad Church
You can see that there are huge variations in approach, depth of knowledge, entry requirements and cost of training across the Pilates world. Our One Grove philosophy is continual improvement for our clients’ benefit- both in terms of developing functional classes and creating interesting variety and challenge within our sessions. So we aren’t snobbish about who we train with, as long as they have something educational to say.
We have a library of books and DVDs for instructors to share and study and we run regular teacher training sessions within our One Grove team. As you know, we also consult with our physiotherapists to ensure that an individual’s specific rehabilitation training goals are being served. You will also see us attending each other’s classes!
We firmly believe that this broad church training approach to our continual improvement at One Grove is the most complete way of serving our clients. We consider ourselves a mixed fruit basket.