In 1988, Bruce King came to Boulder, Colorado. I was fortunate to have my first experience with a First Generation Pilates Master Teacher. Bruce was very precise, detailed, and a consummate teacher employing an economy of words with exquisite demonstration. In our naivety all the Boulder students were very eager to show him our vast knowledge and our impeccable performance! I am certain that when Bruce retired to his room at night, he must have had some concerns about the quality of Pilates practice in Colorado. John Steel, Joseph Pilates’ attorney spoke at the PMA Conference in Orlando in 2007. Mr. Steel affirmed that Joe Pilates would be pleased with the growth in the practice and vision of his work. He also assured us that Joe would have gone about our studios correcting the work and informing us sternly how is was to be done. I imagine that this may have been Bruce’s reaction. He began to “fix” the situation. He was patient and in review of sharing with others and personal recollection, the workshop was a presentation of basic mat and basic equipment.
My notes from the workshop in 1988 include a quote from Bruce, “Movement in correct alignment produces correct muscular development”. That comment has never left my consciousness throughout the years. Bruce passed in 1993, so I cannot ask him more about this quote nor can I express my gratitude for the inspiration evoked from one simple sentence.
I have taught dance, coached gymnastics and many other athletes. A preponderance of my teaching hours involved the education of how to stand upright in correct posture. Static posture brings an awareness of centering, balance, and symmetry. In the process of training movement in art or athletics this stasis must evolve into motion. Thus the posture must change to adapt to gravity and momentum without conscious thought but due to innate response. This response comes from practice and perfection of simple movements. The student begins to move with grace, art and skill. Without this careful tutelage, Bruce King’s quote could be an inverse observation that movement in poor posture produces incorrect muscular development, faulty movement patterns, and artless exercises with little depth. These are not skills. They are maladaptive movement patterns that can be the result of injury, poor training, and can contribute to future injury, pain, and lack of joy in our chosen activities.
When I was coaching gymnastics and involved with the United States Gymnastic Federation’s recommendations for scoring performance, I recall a former men’s USA Olympic team member stating a similar observation. “The gymnast did the skill. However the form was so deficient that the deductions for the required movement would be greater than the amount of points for which the skill was valued”. Joe Pilates would have understood this comment immediately and would most certainly put the student on the mat.
I am reminded and teaching my students that it is not what we do, but how we do it! Thanks, Bruce!