Joe Pilates and his work for the Hamburg Police Department (Ordnungspolizei) by Eva Rincke and Nichole L’vov
Joe Pilates and his work for the Hamburg Police Department (Ordnungspolizei)
By Eva Rincke and Nichole L’vov
Many of us have heard the lore that Joseph Pilates taught military officers or that he worked with policemen back in Germany. But like most details about Joseph, it is hard to distinguish what is fact and what is fiction. Documentation is limited in Germany due to the destruction left behind from World War Two and the large span of time since Joseph lived in his homeland. How much can we truly corroborate? The facts lie in the link between Joseph’s internment, boxing career and finally, the Hamburg Ordnungspolizei.
In the beginning of the 1920s, self-defense training for the police was considered very progressive in Germany. It was comprised of exercises mostly from boxing and Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu, the martial arts of the Samurai, had been very popular in Germany already before World War One. Boxing, on the other hand, had been restricted – public boxing events had to be given permission by the local police. The German boxing scene was therefore very small. In the aftermath of the First World War, this changed radically. There was a boxing boom in Germany. Men who had been interned with Joseph Pilates in the Knockaloe internment camp for civilians on the Isle of Man had competed in boxing so successfully during their internment that their experience was sought after when they were repatriated after the war. In the early twenties, boxers from Knockaloe were winning titles in all the weight classes in German boxing championships. Hans Breitensträter, who repeatedly won the heavy weight title, was the most popular and successful of the former internees.
Joseph Pilates had been an important figure for the boxing community at Knockaloe camp. There is interesting proof of this in an ad that was published in the magazine Box-Sport….
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