Politics and Diversity In Pilates

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Pilates has gotten way too political and divisive over the past 15 years. Can't we just get along?

About 15 years ago there was a huge and extremely divisive lawsuit in the Pilates community. A physical therapist who we call X bought the Pilates trademark, which had existed but was never actively protected, and started to sue people.

In fact, he sent "Cease and Desist" letters to every single Pilates teacher and studio he could find in the US. He claimed control and ownership of the Pilates work, and demanded that everyone either join him by re-certifying and paying fees, or risk being sued and shuttered.

Most of us responded by taking the word out of our marketing materials, instead using ungraceful terminology like, "exercise based on the work of Joseph Pilates".

While this was going on, there was a lot of anger and animosity among camps of Pilates teachers, many of whom felt very threatened (me included). It was a stressful time.

X lost the trademark in a class action lawsuit in 2000, when the term was upheld to be generic.

And we had about 12 blissful years of community rebuilding and reconnecting. Of meeting others from different backgrounds, working on different apparatus, and exploring.

Until one day the nasty letters and emails started to re-appear - this time directed at anyone who used any materials (photos, quotes, manuals) that X acquired when he bought the mark.

In one particular Pilates teacher forum on Facebook, his presence and animosity managed to cause such tension among a previously open and sharing group that many of us chose to leave, rather than be upset on a daily basis.

My thoughts: Pilates has evolved. There are fabulous teachers in all areas, and fabulous equipment developed. We have fought so long for connection. There is no reason for bitterness or division. Just teach, help others, and pass on good Pilates!