I absolutely love reading the stories, anecdotes and memories of Joseph Pilates, it adds colour, depth and a stronger understanding of what and why we teach his Method. I was so excited to read Cathy Strack’s highly anticipated book, “Get to Know Joe Pilates” and it did not disappoint. I was delighted when Tracey Waples, a wonderful Pilates teacher and author, offered to review the book.
I’d heard good things about this book . Like many other Pilates devotees, I’m interested to learn about the life of Joseph Pilates. When I first trained as a teacher I wondered what had inspired him to create the exercises. Where had he gleaned his knowledge? What led him to invent such a wide variety of apparatus? I soaked up quotes attributed to him, listened eagerly to Jo Cobbe’s anecdotes and watched interviews with people who had met him. I know I’m not the only one to have read as much as I could around the subject but there were still unanswered questions. ‘Get to Know Joe Pilates’ fills in a lot of the gaps and shines a light on the man behind The Method.
Cathy Strack is meticulous in her attention to detail. Extensive research brings Joe to life on the pages. As she recounts his far from idyllic childhood in Germany through to growing his business and reputation in the United States, the author’s tone is non-judgemental, allowing the reader to take a close look at the protagonist and form independent opinion.
Like all good reads, this book draws you in. Aside from the catalogue of Joe’s life events, there is humour and pathos in abundance. There is vicious bullying in his youth, deaths of siblings and the loss of his mother when he was just 18. Tales of him dismissing students he didn’t think were “the right fit”, a fondness for nudism and a studio with “a library hush” all help paint the picture.
You might think an unfair share of trauma at an early age would have held him back but in fact it seems to have spurred him on. Joe demanded a lot from his clients but he made the same demands of himself. At the age of 80 his studio was still open daily from 7am until 7pm.
I started out with an idea of who I thought he was and finished the book feeling differently about him. Joe Pilates often boasted he was 50 years ahead of his time. “When I am dead they will say Pilates was right,” he claimed. How right he was.
Cathy Strack hasn’t finished. Her next book, They All Go to Joe’s, which takes a look at the Pilates Elders, is in the pipeline. I’ll be at the front of the queue for that one.
My only criticism is the cost of this paperback ($45 plus $35 shipping from the US). Maybe a vast order from the UK will bring the price down!
You can purchase your copy by visiting https://cathystrack.com/store/