Fans of Pilates introduce system to Korea

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Fans of Pilates introduce system to Korea

Mention the word “Pilates” to someone in Korea and you could get some interesting answers: some sort of exotic rice dish, or perhaps a famous Roman emperor.
Several leading authorities on Pilates hope to introduce more Koreans to this system of physical and mental conditioning through a symposium tomorrow at the National Ballet Theater Academy in northern Seoul.
The Korea Pilates Association and the Korean branch of the International Dance Council have invited Brent Anderson, Shelly Power and Dawnna Wayburne from Polestar Pilates Association in Los Angeles to the first International Conference for Dance Medicine.
“Pilates is not just exercise, but functional re-education,” says Jun Hong-jo, the founder of the Korea Pilates Association, who got into Pilates while studying ballet at the Royal Academy of Dance in London.
Pilates focuses on the body’s powerhouse ― the abdomen, buttocks, hips and lower back ― with non-impact exercises. Its philosophy incorporates eight principles: relaxation, alignment, coordination, concentration, centering, breathing, flowing movements and stamina.
Joseph Pilates, born in Germany in 1880, was a frail and sickly child. Determined to overcome his ailments, he studied yoga, martial arts, gymnastics and boxing. He moved to England in 1912 and became a self-defense instructor for Scotland Yard.
When World War I broke out, he was interned along with other Germans in his adopted country. During that time, he taught his exercise philosophy to fellow inmates.
After the war, he returned to Germany, where his system was embraced for its holistic approach and for the lean muscles it produced. He trained the Hamburg police force, but was unhappy with German politics. So in 1923, he immigrated to the United States.
In 1926, with wife Clara, he opened a studio in the same building as the New York City Ballet. Martha Graham and George Balanchine were among the early Pilates enthusiasts. After he died in 1967, his students and wife carried on his work, and his student Ron Fletcher brought Pilates to California. Hollywood celebrities couldn’t get enough, and hospitals began to incorporate the system into physical therapy for pregnant women and rehab patients.
It was only recently that Pilates came to Korea. “Jun Hong-jo wrote the history of Pilates in Korea,” says Yoo Yeon with the dance council, a nonprofit group that promotes cooperation between dancers and choreographers.
Ms. Jun went to London in 1996 to study dance. At the time, she was looking for a way to develop muscle coordination. “Dancing is incredibly demanding,” Ms. Jun says. “And my body often hurt.”
As she gained more precise control over her body and form through Pilates, she thought, “This is it.”
She returned to Korea in 2000, releasing a book and video on Pilates the following year. Other Pilates devotees began returning to Korea from abroad. But while exercise studios began to introduce Pilates, few trainers were actually certified.
Ms. Jun created the Korea Pilates Association earlier this year, to reach dancers and the public at large. “Therapists are interested in Pilates because of the overall benefits. In the same way, the benefits that dancers talk about apply to anyone.”

by Joe Yong-hee

For more information visit the Pilates Korea Association’s Web site at
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