He ruffles a lot of feathers and doesn’t take any bull from our so-called experts! Brett Miller is one of today’s leading Pilates instructors and his weekly posts at PilatesIntel are a must-read! Edgy, thought-provoking, well written – it’s the best stuff in the Pilates world today! Take a moment right now to sign up for his weekly posts!
Anyway, about a month ago he took on the Pilates establishment by insisting that all teacher-training schools require the reading of Joseph Pilates’ short but seminal book “Return to Life.” Makes sense? Well, you wont believe the response! It’s a lengthy 4-part post, but well worth your time!
Return to Life – A Requirement for All Pilates Teachers?
A while back I got to talking a bit with a young lady enrolled in a Pilates training program. In the conversation, she mentioned “This brand of training took all the dangerous parts of Pilates’ technique out and thus made it better”. Stunned by the bluntness of what I considered to be a blanket statement, I emitted a spontaneous “Wow!” It was not she was dead wrong, I myself do think improvements have been made. No, it was that I sensed she had no idea what she was talking about. I asked if she had read Joe’s ‘Return to Life’, to which she replied no. I then inquired if she planned on reading it, and she replied with time constraints, it was not a high priority. I finally asked how Joe’s technique was dangerous and how her educators had improved it? Not expecting any pushback from her initial comment, she became flustered and defensive, and the conversation ended. It is not my intention to disparage this obviously dedicated and enthusiastic person, I myself have countless times brashly stroked broadly on subjects upon which I am ignorant. Nor do I find Pilates educators directly responsible for the behavior of their students. Nonetheless, the event left a mark with me.
I think most of us are aware that there are many with a Pilates career who have no motivation to read ‘Return to Life’, the signature work of the very man whose name they use daily and whose technique they say they teach. Alternatively, it might even be so that they are not even aware that RTL exists.
And so my question is, is this really okay? The answer that strikes me first is a definite ‘no’.
Obviously there are those who find this situation acceptable. And so I set out to get their point of view, focusing on training programs that certify individuals as a Pilates teacher without the requirement to read RTL. There are several schools without this requirement (at the time of this writing – Oct 2014), but I chose to contact Stott Pilates, BASI Pilates and Balanced Body.
Amazingly enough, one of the first things I learned was that these schools also do not even require their instructor trainers, those who teach others to teach Pilates, to read RTL.
Really? Teaching others to teach Pilates and not finding it necessary to read Pilates?
Reality check —- Return to Life is 93 pages long. Reading it requires a max of 2 hours.
I went about this small project by composing a letter:
Hello, I am a Stott Pilates certified instructor of 8 years, and publisher of the weekly newsletter ‘Pilates Intel’. In my instructor training there was no material about Joe Pilates the man himself, nor any talk about him of significance. I am also aware that the Stott Pilates training curriculum currently does not require that a trainee should read the original work of Joe Pilates. I have been investigating this question, and have been told that the same is true of your school. There are many training programs that do require knowledge of Joe’s original work, and many even require a read of the books prior to entrance into their program.
If it is true that your school does not require a reading of at least one of Joe’s books, this leads me to the conclusion that you find it unnecessary to study the source of Pilates in order to be a certified Pilates instructor. Now, my meaning here is not to be confrontational, for I find it is possible that there exists a rational and articulate explanation for not requiring reading about Joe’s vision.
Could I please ask if I am correct with my observations and assumptions above, and further, why is it so?
Thank you, Brett Miller
I sent this letter off to the schools mentioned above, and the first reply I present to you is from BASI Pilates:
Dear Brett, Thank you for your inquiry as this is an important topic and we are happy to respond.
First and foremost, J.H. Pilates’ writings are always highly recommended to all students of the BASI work. Whether it is within the Mat, Comprehensive, ProBridge or specialization course, we relate to Return to Life and the legacy of the method throughout each program.
In the past, we required the reading of Return to Life but do not teach exactly the way Mr. Pilates did. However, we are looking at the possibility of moving back toward making it a requirement again.
I hope this has addressed your question and thank you again for your interest in the BASI work.
Sincerely, Constance Holder – BASI Pilates, Director of Education
To this letter from BASI I now reply to in this article:
Thank you for the kind reply. Of the schools I have contacted, you are the one that I know least about. I experienced a 30 minute class with Rael at the November PMA, and I recognized it definitely as Pilates. I then had an experience with Stella on BASI’s ‘Avalon’ apparatus that was perhaps was ‘different’ than Mr. Pilates (as you mentioned), and it was lovely.
My response to you is appropriate to Balanced Body and Stott as well, it has to do with:
I am an old school guy wherein I find that any serious student must know the origin of the subject studied. Every great artist that I know was strongly dedicated to knowing thoroughly their art. I think that any quality Pilates training program should strive for the greatness of all trainees. Yes, I am old school… and that is why I think every Pilates trainee should be required to read RTL, which include Joe’s own instructions on performing the 34 mat exercises that undoubtedly are the basis of your mat repertoire.
But I am not just an old codger, there is another good reason. Knowing RTL gives a view of the original nature of the work, and what Joe Pilates wanted to accomplish with it. I am very open to variations of that work, which I understand you have done. But for a student to see from where the work has come will give a greater understanding of how the work has developed and come to its present state. This in turn encourages the development of an intuition for the work, facilitating true intelligence in one’s own practice and teaching. Do you agree with me? Is a deeper intelligence and intuition not something to strive for? Will reading RTL not contribute to that?
I am sure I say nothing that you do not know yourself. And while speaking with Stella she let me know that my inquiry to you was a catalyst for an internal discussion about reinstating the requirement to read RTL. That would be great.
In any case, is it not rational to require your teacher-trainers to read RTL?
I welcome a further response if you wish, this is a great, albeit sensitive, subject from which we can all learn.
I have received a happy reply from BASI, but leave it to the next segment of this series to present it, along with the initial response from Balanced Body, and my response to them.
Brett goes on to communicate with BASI, Balanced Body and the Stott school – all very positive except Stott – for the entire 4 Part series go to PilatesIntel.com.