Discussion #1738

Sean Gallagher on Romana

55 min - Discussion


Sean Gallagher gives an in depth discussion about what it was like to work with Romana Kryzanowska. He tells us his first impression of Romana and the Pilates method, the contributions that she made to the Pilates method, how she inspired him and other students. Sean also shares his thoughts on the Trademark Lawsuit and how he believes the industry would be different today if the Trademark had not been overturned.
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Jul 14, 2014
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Chapter 1


I'm Sean Gallagher. I'm the owner of Performing Arts Physical Therapy and the New York Pilates Studio. I've been a physical therapist for almost 30 years. I work on Broadway. I do a lot of performing arts companies. I teach up at Jacob's Pillow. I teach at different universities. In 1984 I read an article in GQ magazine about an exercise system that dancers use to stay in shape and prevent injuries. And I was in PT school at the time, double major, and I got a degree in dance and PT at the same time. It took me more than four years. It took me six years to get the two degrees and the athletic training under my belt.

A girlfriend of mine had transferred to SUNY Purchase, and she told me that they had a Pilates studio at SUNY Purchase. So when I went to visit her, she introduced me to Steve Giordano who was running the studio at SUNY Purchase. I believe it was 1985. It was in 1984, 1985 when Steve introduced me to Romana. My first impression was that she was an elderly woman who was teaching exercise. And I wasn't sure what to expect, you know. I didn't have any impression. Steve had told me a lot of things about her, so I had his impressions, but when I met her, it wasn't the same. I mean, she was nice. She was very helpful. She was very giving in the sense of the exercises and pushing me in the way I wanted to. But also if I would want to try something, she'd be like, "Okay, go ahead." She let me do what I wanted to do. More springs or change things. The reality is that I was learning about Cybex and Nautilus and free weights and all these other things in physical therapy school and in athletic training. And I took one session, the first session I took Pilates, I got off the machine and I said, "Why isn't this everywhere?"

And I went back to my teachers and my instructors and asked them about it. And that wasn't what they taught. They knew nothing about it. They'd never heard about it. They didn't really care. I mean, the same with Feldenkrais and Alexander and all the other modalities that were out and about at those times that dancers were using, but were not in mainstream yet. Learning physical therapy, learning athletic training, seeing what was the current and what was available, and also coming from a dance background, I'm able to see and understand what's needed. And that wasn't really being provided in a way that Pilates does.

And I still believe it's the best exercise for the normal population. And you know, there's nothing better out there still and if there is, it's probably based on Pilates.

Chapter 2

The Pilates Legacy

Romana is very inspiring in a number of ways. I mean, I think that the main thing that is the inspiring part is the work. I mean, because very few people are as committed as she was and as loyal as she was. I mean, Romana taught Pilates and she taught Pilates as best she could and kept it the way it's supposed to be. Most people didn't want to do that. I mean, I just read Javier's book and he's talking about how Pilates always used to complain about Carola and say, "Oh, you're doing the Carola thing again," because she trained with Pilates and she went out and did her own thing and she changed it and added her own variations and her own ideas and ways of working, which everybody can do. But Romana didn't do that. Romana kept it what it was I think more than anybody else. I think there's a few dance things she threw in there a few places, but most of it is the same. I always say Pilates was 95% right, and Romana was 95% Pilates. So you're still pretty close to the real thing.

When you would work out with Romana, she would inspire you. She would push you the right way. She would let you do what you want to do. I think I said it before, she let you kind of make it work and you let you experiment. And she was strict but she wasn't strict, because she would allow you to sort of experiment and then she'd push you and nudge you and eventually when you got done, you were doing what she wanted you to do, but she helped you find that way there and understand that way. And she didn't give class. She taught class. And very few people teach class. And she was always giving. If you committed to her, she would commit to you 100%. The biggest contribution she's made to the Pilates Method is that she kept it the Pilates Method. She did not waiver from that, and she followed the trademark.

She tried to do what she was taught by Joe and Clara and continue their legacy and their work the way it was taught to her by them. And to me that's because again, a lot of people have their own egos and they want to go do other things. She didn't let her ego get in the way so much, I don't think. I mean, on that level she had egos with other things, but on that level, no. One of the things that Romana did when she taught is she taught the Pilates

Method. And the Pilates Method is, if it hurts you don't do it. You leave it out, but you leave it out on that apparatus and then she'll take you onto this other apparatus and let's try it in a different configuration. Let's try it in a different way. Let's experiment and see if you can do it this way and let's see if you can do it that way. And then eventually she comes back to the traditional, and that's how Pilates should be taught, is that there is the basic workout that everybody should do for the normal, healthy adult. And as Clara used to say, everybody comes in with a handicap. So you have to understand the handicap.

You have to use the system to use and change that handicap. And then when they're done and they're in good shape, they are basically doing the normal, healthy adult workout. And when they do that, that's the Pilates Method. That's how it's done. And that's not 500 exercises, that's 30 or 40, but you have 500 exercises to help people get to that place and all the different configurations. And also, people get bored. So you've got to spice it up and you can change things around. So you can do it in different ways and in different configurations in a way that allows them to learn and grow as an individual.

And understand the philosophy that Joe tried to give people, which is a philosophy of life. And it's a philosophy of moving and it's an understanding that is inherent in the way that we are designed to move. And that's what most people don't get. And Romana got that. She understands that because that's how she taught because she taught the way Joe taught. And this is my interpretation of what Joe taught, is that Joe really understood the function of how we move. And he used the equipment to do what he would do for you and allow you to find the balance between stability and mobility. And that's always the issue.

Because every function requires a stable component and a mobile component. And the system is inherently designed to allow that to happen and find the balance within that. And this is about balance. And when you change the equipment and you change the springs and you do all that other stuff, Joe spent 50 years doing that and now everybody has their ego and they're trying to do it again and they don't understand it. You just have to do what he did. And it works because he spent the time doing that, and that's what Romana teaches. And that's what she taught. And that's what she, and again, I'm not sure she understands it the way I'm explaining it and I'm trying to explain it more of on a kinesiological and an anatomical and a scientific level in some ways. And Romana was not that. She didn't know her anatomy that well, but you don't need to know your anatomy to be a good Pilates teacher. Will you be a better Pilates teacher? Most likely, yes

if you know you're anatomy but can you be an amazing Pilates teacher and know no anatomy? Sure. Because anatomy is about breaking it down into its component parts. And Pilates is not about single muscles. It's not about muscle groups. It's about the true multitasking. That's why it says physical and mental conditioning on the door, because you have to be able to think and move and integrate all of those things at the same time. You know, his original Reformer, I have the plans for it.

It had seven springs. Now you have four. And he ended up with four. Traditionally an exercise, the only way you get stronger is to increase the resistance. Well he decreased it. So in Pilates less is more, and science doesn't explain that. And you know, there are ways to explain it because you're working the core more than the periphery and you know, most exercises are designed to work the periphery.

It's designed to work muscle groups and only muscle groups. So when you'd lift a weight the arms work and that's it. in Pilates, the core is working all the time and the arms are working and each configuration on the apparatus, each exercise is a developmental position. And developmental is, you know, when we first learned to move, go through a sequence, it's called a developmental sequence. And almost everybody does it. Some people miss a few of the sequences, but most of us go through a sequence and you start on your back, you go on your stomach, go on your side, you're kneeling, you're sitting, you're piking, and you're walking. Well, Pilates does that. And we're hardwired to learn that and if we don't do that, we start to lose our function and our balance. And so being able to use the system that way and take people through that because that's how Joe developed it, and seeing where those imbalances are and where those restrictions or those hyper mobilities were is one of the key things that Romana was able to do. And it's because that's what Joe and Clara taught her. And they didn't use the vocabulary that I'm using because, you know, science is catching up with Pilates. I think one of his earlier articles, he said he was 25 years ahead of his time. And like the last article, he was 50 years ahead of his time. And he's right, because we're a little bit past 50 years now, and the science is catching up and things are happening. So there's big changes and there's still more to find out. I keep reading articles all the time and it's like, oh yeah, okay, what do you know? Pilates was doing that a hundred years ago.

I think she's more like Joe that way. He didn't say a lot and Romana didn't talk about all the body, mind, spirit. I mean, she would mention it. It was on the wall. She talked about the quotes and everything else. And she would tell you the stories about Joe and everything and the things he said. But a lot of times that wasn't while you're working out. That was after. And at other times when you're working out, you were there, you were there to work out, she was over you, she was looking at you, she had her hands on you, and she was helping you figure out things and if she thought that she needed to give you a cue, she'd give you a cue. And then if you're having an issue, and sometimes when you exercise and you start to move in ways you're not used to moving because you're holding due to emotional issues, guess what?

You start to get emotional. And she would address that and deal with that and be comforting and supportive. And you can say that she is old school but Pilates was old school. And sometimes the old school is good because some of the new stuff, everybody's trying to come up with something different and new to make it so that they're the new Pilates and you know, there's only a few geniuses every generation. And most of the ones I've seen are not geniuses. Pilates was part of her family. Her children called Joe "Uncle Joe." So she was a very big part of their world, I think, to a certain degree. Or maybe he was a big player, a big part of her world. Maybe she wasn't as big as in theirs as he was into hers,

but that process and that relationship made a big difference, and I think that some of the commitments she has, because it was that process of being part of the family. Romana was usually very loyal. More than most. And so when you look at the history, she followed the trademark, whoever owned it, she would do the teaching and the training. And you know, part of that was because it also was a job. But when I bought the trademark, she was already working at Drago's. She didn't need to come with me, but she chose to do it because it was the trademark. And she also understood that she, like I said before, she had a fairly good business sense. And so she understood what I was trying to do and she saw what I was trying to do and what I was trying to do was to make this a professional program and a professional training and do it the way it should have been done, the way Joe wanted it to be. He wanted it to be out there and he didn't want it to be all over the place and bastardize and all, so I was loyal to them and I was loyal to her because of that as well.

Chapter 3

Training Program

When I bought the trademark from Wee-Tai in '91,

part of what I wanted to do was develop a professional training program, and Romana was the best choice for that. I mean, there are other teachers, Kathy Grant, there was some other, you know, Lolita. I met Carola, as a matter of fact, even Carola at one point donated some pictures to Purchase, to me and the studio. And I met with her and we talked a lot about Pilates, and when I first started running the studio at SUNY Purchase, I never really talked to her about Carola that much. I mean, we didn't really discuss her history as far as Carola. I only usually would talk to her about Pilates. I heard her say that she had taught at Carola's and she would say that what Carola taught wasn't Pilates. She talked about Kathy and Lolita being the ones that got the certificate through the New York State whatever. I'm not sure exactly what it was called, but it was I think through the New York State. She knew all the other teachers. She knew of everybody that was out. I mean, it was not a big world. Pilates was a very small community and especially after they passed away, it got smaller and smaller over time.

And there were other people doing other things that were a take-off on Pilates so she knew what was out there. And when she owned the trademark and she owned the studio, she also sent letters with her lawyers to tell people who were trying to use the name to stop because they weren't teaching what Joe taught. With other teachers, Romana was the one. She carried the work and she was the one that carried on and she didn't want the other teachers necessarily. She wanted people that she knew that trained with her and that were doing what she felt was the Pilates Method and what she was carrying in the way she wanted to carry it on. And I think that she felt that most of the other teachers had added too much of their own exercises and ways of thinking and such to make it something different. And so she wasn't really interested in working with them unless

they were willing to come, and none of them were really willing, my understanding, were willing to come and and do what she taught. They wanted to continue to teach what they were teaching, which I understand, but I think that was where some of her ego came in and, again, it was supposed to be taught the way Joe taught and not your interpretation of what Joe taught and adding your information to it as well. The first time I took a session with Romana was at Purchase, and then she would come over to our studio and teach with Steve. And Steve and I, before we hired him to trademark, we had the Synergy Exercise Systems, which is a business. And we did Pilates based training. So I didn't have the trademark, couldn't use the name. So we made up. I was still doing training, and Romana would come and help out and help us teach. I still have a lot of those films of her when she first started teaching and she still had to go look at her notes when she first started because before then, Wee-Tai had a training program, but it was a basic training program. So a lot of the others like Moira Stott and some of the other people, they only got basic training. That's the only certificate they got. They didn't get the intermediate, they didn't get the advanced, they didn't get the special populations. All that they got,

they all just got the basic training and that's the certificate that they were provided with. And so, when you looked at Wee-Tai's training manual, it was copies of Gail Eisen and Robert Friedman's book, so it was the Mat. There was no Reformer. There was no equipment pictures or anything like that in the training manual that Wee-Tai had done. The reason why I stuck with Romana was because Romana stuck with Pilates basically. I mean she was the person who, if you look at some of the older archives, Pilates used her as a model. So she knew the method. She had it in her body better than most people I've ever met. When you look at what she was able to do, she understood it kinesthetically and then she was the person who was left to carry on the work. I mean, Clara chose Romana to carry on the studio and trained her to do that, trained her to carry on their method basically. And since she'd always stayed with the trademark and she wanted to continue and I wanted to, that made sense to me. SHe had the most knowledge as far as I was concerned because other people had studied with Joe or trained, but they weren't trained to carry on the work. And that's the big difference. I think that between Romana and anybody else out there is that people were trained as teachers. But even when we do a training now, they don't get everything. You start with basic, you do intermediate, you do advanced, and then you do all the other things. And that didn't happen with everybody. They got basic training and they did certain things and after a while they got to train because they were in the studio long enough.

That doesn't mean they learned all that Joe and Clara had to offer. When you're passing something on, you try to make sure that they get all of it. And that's the difference, I think. Having done other trainings as far as Feldenkrais and doing acupuncture and doing physical therapy, the first thing I did was develop a code of ethics and the standards of practice and realize that. Between New York and LA, the first office I opened was in LA because part of that is the PR and the press. And if you can get the stars to do the workout, then they tell their friends and you get publicity and then it grows. And so my goal was to start training centers all over the country and start to spread it that way and get it going that way. So LA was the first one, and then there was Seattle, there was Chicago, there was Atlanta, there was Philadelphia. So as they grew the training centers, each business in each area has different requirements and needs as far as the business goes and how it runs and it's never the same. I mean, even franchises are different. They're never exactly alike, you know. Even the church is different. The church is the first franchise. So you have those things, but that's what we tried to do. So we would all meet. The directors, everybody was a partner with me. I own 51% of every business, and that was how I set up the business, where it would be a partnership, and they would run it with me and it was all connected.

And so I would invite them in to meet and we would then discuss how we were doing everything that we were doing and how to grow the program and what their problems were, what was somebody doing that worked so that other people could learn from that. And so we were all working together to make it a better program and a better business. Sari started working with a training program probably around '94, I think. When it comes to dates, I don't know exactly. It's been a long time. So it's 20 something years.

So I'm not exactly 100% sure, but I believe it's probably around '94, '95. Before that she was just teaching at Drago's with Romana, and then Romana started to try to bring her in as part of that because as we were growing and we had trainings to do, I was pretty much trying to keep it to Romana, and then it was Romana and Sari, and then some of the people that Romana chose that had been teaching for a long time, like Juanita and Dorothee in Seattle. So the people in other cities that had been students of Romana's for a long time, and were following the authentic way were the people that we worked with and started to grow. But in the beginning it was mostly Romana and it got to be too much to travel all those places, so then we started using Sari as well. Carol Dodge ran the studio at Purchase. Carol was the person who helped put the first training manual together. She worked with Romana and I, and then we did the photo shoot and everything else. But she wrote out a lot of the exercises based on what Romana had told her to say, and she wrote it out for her because Romana was not a big writer that way.

So Carol would write it out then Romana would look at it. We would look at it. We edited it and tried to get it pretty close to what she thought was good. And we did it within a couple months of me buying the trademark. That was a very important thing for me to just get a training program and have a manual and get it out there. And I spent probably 20 or $30,000 developing that manual, because the photos are a lot more difficult. Back in those days, nothing was digital, so it was very expensive. And also when I did it, I purchased it so that I owned all the copyrights as well. So it was a little bit more expensive that way. So Carol ran the studio at Purchase and then we worked together to develop the manuals from the first edition of the manual. And that was in '92, '93.

Chapter 4

Working with Romana

What Romana does to inspire people is that she gives you everything if you give her everything. And very few teachers do that. She also expects you to be loyal. And when that expectation is there and you're loyal, then that's part of the agreement, right? And when you have an agreement with somebody and that's part of the agreement, that allows you to open up and she can work with you in many different ways. And she gave you a way of moving, but a way of understanding yourself as well through the movement. So I think that that's the power because most exercise doesn't do that. And that's her power. Pilates power. It really is, you know? Same thing with Pilates. Why were so many people committed to Joe? I mean, there are plenty of other gyms in New York. There's always been gyms in New York and there's still plenty of gyms in New York and everybody does their own thing. But he invented his own way and his own equipment.

But it wasn't just the equipment, it was the philosophy and the way he taught and the way he did things and what he gave you and how he gave it to you. If you were committed, he was committed and if you weren't, he didn't have much time for you. I think Romana was a little nicer. Romana is probably a little bit more like Clara than she was like Joe, but there's a little bit of Joe in Clara, in her teaching as well. Beause they both trained her. And he trained her when she was younger and she learned the system from him and did it very well. And at the end Clara trained her to carry on the work. And that's the process. To me that makes the difference because very few teachers provide you that and give you a 100% and then more and are concerned about who you are. She was concerned about who you are and was interested in seeing you change and get better and improve.

She was always interested. One of the hardest things as a Pilates instructor is that most of them get bored because it's the same thing. In the beginning, you've got to do a lot of work to get them. But then when you get to them in the normal, healthy adult workout, what are you doing? Same workout. And a good teacher, even within that, finds the little things. And she always found the little things and always helps you get better. The little tweaks, and little pushes, and the little speak, and the little touch, and all those little things that she would give you make a big difference. And that you can't do that unless you have the experience. That it's intuition is experience.

And she had that experience and she had an experience with Joe and Clara that nobody had. I've had people say all the teachers are just as good as the others. I don't believe that at all because they didn't have the experience that she had and they didn't have the training that she had. And you know, to go and work in the studio for a year or two or three and then go out and say I studied with Joe, or some of them even saying they worked out of Joe's Studio, so now I know Joe's method. If you come to me and I give you therapy, and my therapy sessions, you know 1/20th or maybe 1000th of what I know and provide to all my different patients because of what their needs are. That doesn't mean you can go out and do what I teach and what I do because you came and worked out with me or you've got a session with me. And even when you spend 10 or 20 years when you have a Sensei or a real teacher, you know that that doesn't happen overnight. You can't be a ballet teacher in a weekend. You can't be a martial arts teacher in a weekend. You can't do that in six months. It takes years. Like a dancer. You can't be a dancer. You can't go to school for two or three years and say, "I'm a dancer."

It takes 5 or 10 at minimum. She understood how to use the method and understood who people were and what their needs were, both psychologically and physically. And you know, people come in and when you look at a handicap, there's some interesting people who walk through the door. And they are not all necessarily healthy and are unhealthy in body and they're also unhealthy in mind. And if you change who you are through movement, you have to change who you are in the body, mind, spirit. Because if you change the body, you change the mind. And if you change the mind, you change the spirit. And that's what Joe gave to Romana and that's what Romana continued. And that's what Romana gave us. And you know, to me that's what she was teaching. And, that, I think, is what gives her power. Because again, there's very few people who understand that it can work the system and understand people and say, okay, yeah, you can do that.

You can do that and then still bring you back around and then make you realize that you don't need that because that's not really how it's supposed to work. And then you're feeling, because you're used to what you're feeling, right? So we're stuck in our habits and Romana helped you find and change your habits. And that's very difficult because I spend my whole day trying to help people change their habits because if they're easy to change, we'd all have the perfect spouse. We'd all have the perfect body. We'd all have to perfect everything, and we don't because we have a lot of issues and we all have our handicaps. And she helped you massage those and understand those and integrate those in a way that the system is designed to do. I was working with Romana in two ways.

I worked with Romana as the working out with Romana and then there was working as a business with Romana and working out with Romana was always exceptional. And you know, I learned not to say, "Go ahead and kick my butt," because she would, and I'd be pretty much on the floor dying after the workout and she could make you work harder than you know. I thought I was strong. I was dancing. I was very strong, but she could always show you how weak you were in many different ways. And that was really challenging. And I think that was a great part of it. I would go and be her first client. So, that made her, you respect me, because if you got up at 6:00 AM and got there and did her first session, to her that means you were committed. And I was committed to the work and I was committed to working with her. So I learned from her. I'd go for weekly sessions and we'd work out. And then working with her was also trying at times, but Romana was the easy one to work with. There were others that weren't, but Romana was easy because she had run the studio. She understood the business. She wasn't necessarily the best at business, but she understood what it took to run the business and the problems that you can have. So she was very understanding that way. We would meet every week or two and go to our apartment and we'd sit down and we would discuss both the business and the training and what we needed to do and how to grow it and make things happen. And we did that for almost 10 years. Romana and I got along pretty well. I mean, I understood where she was coming from and what her needs were. And I think she understood mine on a personal and on a business level. I think we liked each other and we enjoyed our time together. We did a lot. We spent a lot of time together, and I always enjoyed going up to her house. She'd make you a little dinner. We'd have a good time.

She drank a little, have a glass of wine. I'd drink my water and we'd have nice discussions and talks. And so I think we got along fairly well. When I met Romana I was, let's see, that was right when I got married when I started working with her. '91 is when I got married, and we'd talk about all sorts of things like family life, and then we would travel. With the training program, we would have a yearly retreat with all the centers and the teachers and discuss how to enhance and make the program better. And part of that was time with Romana and everybody else, but Romana and I would spend a time together talking about all those things as well. And then when we went to the meetings, then we would discuss what we were going to do and how we were going to do it, and then we'd get the input from the others and then every year would change, you know what I mean? It got harder and harder to do our training program. We added more and more. We didn't take away.

We added more every year as far as requirements and what needed to be done because we'd found that when you just let somebody walk in, it doesn't work. So you need to have prior training, you need to have understanding, you need to know what you're doing.

Chapter 5

Trademark Lawsuit

When I bought the trademark, it was a valid trademark and then when you have a valid trademark, you have to protect it. Or at least I thought it was valid and I assumed it was because I bought it. I paid a fair amount of money for it. And it had been around since the '80s. '86, I think is when it was. There was some from '80, and there was some from '86. So when it was trademarked, there was the Pilates, the Pilates Studio, there was the Magic Circle.

There's a couple of different trademarks I purchased from Wee-Tai. When you have a trademark, if you don't protect it, you lose it. Basically that's the law. So I started to send letters to people for cease and desist, basically. And I became the bad guy because I was telling people they couldn't do this and you couldn't use the name Pilates. I said you could use Pilates-based, but if you're going to teach Pilates, it has to be Pilates. There was one woman I sent a letter to that, I know for a fact that somebody lost their front teeth in her studio because she didn't have the safety chain on the bar. So there were safety issues there. And Romana always taught safety first. And it was always about safety. Usually when you failed our test, it's because you weren't safe more than anything. And most of the time, most people when they fail is because they weren't doing things. They forgot safety issues. So the trademark was really fighting for, if you're going to call it Pilates, it should be what Joe Pilates taught. That's what Romana was teaching.

And that's what I committed to doing. So I was committed to keeping it authentic and keeping it the way Joe taught it. And the training manual was based to do that. The whole code of ethics to standards of practice, all the things that the PMA's doing, I did 10 years before they did it. Well, maybe not 10. Yeah, probably 10 years before they did it. And it was already set up that way. You had to do continuing education. You had to be certified. Every year you had to do certification to be able to stay certified and to say that you were using the Pilates name. But at the time, people didn't want me being the guy that tells them what to do. You'd be surprised at how many people when you own a trademark will tell you that people are using your trademark. I would see an ad, somebody would tell me there's a Pilates class,

and if you've seen an ad that says Pilates class, you would find out. And people would tell me. And you know, when I opened a studio and a training program in LA and they were then certified and then they would see somebody saying they're doing Pilates, they would let me know and we would send them a letter and invite them to join and do the grandfather or stop. They had a choice. Or call it Pilates-based. It wasn't like you can't do it. And you know nobody likes getting a letter from a lawyer. No, it's never fun because that's usually an issue, right? And that means you have to get a lawyer and then everybody spent a lot of money because they're the ones who have only ever made any money. The grandfather program was that if you had been trained by anybody else in Pilates and you wanted to be able to use the trademark and participate, you would have to come and do and be evaluated and see how you were taught.

And if Romana or one of the other teachers felt that you were teaching what we taught, you could get grandfathered in. And if you couldn't do that, then you would have to take the workshops and train so that you understood. Because again, if I tell you a story and you tell that person a story and buy it, you go around about 5 or 10 people, when the story comes back to me, it's a totally different story. And so I never said that what people were doing was bad. I just said it wasn't necessarily Pilates. It might've been very good. Matter of fact, I do a lot of other things that are not Pilates that I think are pretty good. My patients think the same thing, but that's still not Pilates. It's not what Joe did, you know? And he took them into the back room to work on them while I keep them out here and work on them, and I have my back room as well and I do all sorts of things. The patients like that, but it's at the same time.

It's not necessarily Pilates. And so people would, once they were certified and they did all the work, because it's a big commitment. And I would have PTs calling, "I went to PT school. Why do I need to do the training?" I said, "Because what you were taught in PT school is not Pilates and you weren't taught to be a teacher. You were taught to be a therapist." And they are two different things. Well, they're similar but they're not the same. And the exercises and the methodology is not taught in PT school because I went to PT school and I know, so you don't know this information and you can't get it in a weekend. Even if you're a PT, you need to practice. You need to experience. You need to see how other people teach the way that Romana taught that, and try to carry that on and put that out there so that people see. And again, you're never going to be Joe. You're never going to be Clara, but you can be pretty close. I took the Pilates Institute in Santa Fe to court, and I got jurisdiction in New York. So when I did that, they folded and agreed to not do it. Kenny Endelman, who was the Current Concepts owner, he and I had talked about it. I tried to work a deal out with him where he would do the equipment and I would do the education and we would have the trademark and we could use it that way. And he decided not to do that. And I was, at the time, buying equipment, and I kept saying, "Take Kenny. He's doing certain things with the trademark so he can't do that." And finally one day he laughed about it and I said, "Okay. That's it." Because it gets to the point where if he's laughing about it, it's not getting done. You need to do something.

So I took him to court. Well that was my understanding. It probably wasn't his. And I think the only reason why he kept going is because he had insurance. And so the insurance paid for his legal fees. So if he had no insurance, he probably would've folded as well. But he had insurance and he got lucky. I mean, when I bought the trademark, I knew it wasn't a 100% super strong trade. Trademarks have varying degrees of strength and you can lose a trademark fairly easily if it becomes descriptive. I just didn't necessarily agree with the judge, but I wasn't going to appeal. I mean, she said that it was like yoga or aerobics, and I said, "Yeah, but there was no Mr. Aerobics and there was no Mr. Yoga."

And that's a big difference to me. But I wasn't going to argue with the judge. I lost. I spent $1,000,000. I spent a lot of money, and I tried to do it the right way and tried to keep it what Joe wanted it to be. And that's what I was trying to do. And I was the fourth owner of the studio. I tried to carry on the way it was, the best way possible. And you know, I lost. And as soon as I lost, there's 100,000 trainings out there and a lot of, it's not what Joe Pilates taught. It wasn't just the trial. The trademark was even before that. I was sending letters and Romana would bring me stuff and tell me that students brought something in and so we'd work together all the time on that side. It wasn't just me. It was Romana as well and somebody wins and somebody loses and whoever loses, they're on the short end of the stick. So I was on the short end of the stick. I gave, probably from when I bought the trademark to when I lost, it was almost 10 years. I think it was 2001 and I bought it in '91 so 10 years of my life trying to do the right thing and do everything to do it the right way and really put it out there and make it what it should be. And you know, I was poised to franchise. I had a franchise. I had done all the work to do a franchise. We had a franchise and we would have been, you know, all the Pilates studios out there would have been Pilates and they would've been what Joe Pilates taught. And the way we taught it, I lost it. Now it's, you know, the system is designed, you either protect the inventor or you provide it for the consumer, and the consumer is your buyer beware. And that's what it is today. It's buyer beware because there's no consistency in what the PMA says they're trying to do. It was already being done. But then, you know, that's what a trademark does. It gives you that ability for quality control. So I had the quality control. We had all that. And now everybody's trying to fix that because you have somebody that does it in a weekend and you have somebody that spent 600 hours and when you go to work at a gym, as long as you've got a certificate that says, "I'm certified in Pilates," they'll hire you. Whether you have a weekend or what.

And it may not be anything that Joe Pilates ever taught. I've seen lots of, I mean, I always know. You know how well you're taught because I can see it. What you do to teach an exercise because it's supposed to be taught a certain way. If you're not teaching it that way, it's not Pilates. So that's the issue. And so the trademark is really that process. And so the trademark was to provide the quality control and make sure that when you walked in the door and somebody said "Pilates", you knew what you were getting and now you don't. So it's buyer beware.

Chapter 6

Break Up

When we lost, it was devastating to all of us. Not just to me and Romana, but all the people who were part of this because now all of a sudden, we all worked so hard and everybody put the time and energy in to do this. And basically it was out the window and there was no more control. Romana kept asking me to ensure to her that when she was done that I would make Sari the next person.

So a little nepotism. And I told her I would not do that. And so I think that's the main reason between losing the trademark. I had some money issues. It was right after 9/11. I almost went out of business because of everything here and everywhere else. So it was a very tough time. Of all the problems that we had in our training programs, Sari was the biggest issue. She would have people upset all the time. She would change things. She would say one thing, do this, get them upset. People were always upset with Sari and she didn't really understand business that well and she didn't understand what we were trying to do, I don't think. And it's hard to be underneath the wing of somebody like Romana because Romana had the business and was trained by Pilates and was carried on. And yes, Sari says she worked with Joe and so did her brother, and I'm sure they did, but working out is not the same as being trained to be the teacher.

But Romana was very loyal to her family and she wanted me to ensure that I would do everything for Sari now, but business wise, that didn't work for me. And I said no. That's not saying she was a bad teacher. She just wasn't Romana. And so between that and then losing the trademark and having money troubles, that's when they all got together and basically took the program and started to teach it on their own and do it their own way because I lost the trademark. They went and did Romana's Pilates. But before that happened, I mean, I did a lot. We wrote books together and Romana didn't really write the book. So I made sure all that happened. Even the manuals. The second manual, her and Sari and Bob worked together. But the main reason that the second manual came is because Romana kept saying it was wrong or Sari kept saying it was wrong because people would take the manual and take it as the Bible and if it's in the book, that's the only way to do it. And that's not how the Pilates Method is.

So that's part of the problem with making a book. But at the same time, our society requires it. We weren't in Joe's time where you could just come and spend a couple of years as an apprentice and that's how it was done. We do it differently. And so I tried to mold those two together in the training program by doing both a didactic aspect and an apprenticeship aspect. So you mix the two and the didactic required a manual to me. That, to me, made the most sense. Well, when Romana left, what I did is I picked the most senior teachers I had and I asked them if they'd want to do it and they said yes. I'm also loyal that way as well. I mean, if you're here and you've put the time in, I'm going to go to you first because you've done it. You've done the time and the energy and the effort to do it.

And so to me, loyalty is important. And there's not a lot of that in the Pilates world. Pilates has always been a fraction group. I could say that because I had the trademark and the ones who didn't, you know, there was that battle then. I think a lot of them probably realize now that maybe after they've seen what happened, I'm not so sure they would have been so upset. I don't know. You can ask them and see. After the trademark, I was a little depressed. You get a little depressed after you put your life into something for that much time. I had also bought Pilates' old summer property. I have his old studio and all his old original equipment and I at the same time, besides doing a franchise, I had bought a wood shop and I was making authentic equipment based on the exact replications of what he made. So all the wood equipment I have in my studio is, most of it, there's one Cadillac that's a little wider, but the thin one was the exact same as his. I mean, not exactly. The pipe is a little different size and some of the hardware is not exactly the same, but all the measurements were the same. And it was all the stuff that he'd built. So I have all that original stuff. I have his original beds, the V beds, all those different things. So I had a lot of money invested in this process and when Romana left and went and did her own, she used to promote my equipment, and then when she left she promoted Gratz's. And so I didn't make as much. I had trouble selling equipment, and Kenny was importing from around the world and he was doing it a lot cheaper and it was very expensive to make custom made equipment to the specifications the way that Joe did. I did it in hardwoods and fancy woods and tried to make it special, but the business wasn't there. So that tanked, this one tanked. So that was a tough time for awhile. I kind of got disillusioned, and that's when Brett and David and Catherine came to me and wanted to license the trademark a couple of years later. I was more than willing to do that. So they licensed the training program in the US for the teacher training program.

Chapter 7

The Pilates Industry

My personal opinion is that everybody thought it was a big benefit and I think it was a big loss. If you look at business, when something becomes popular and it hits, because not everything hits, and when something hits, it mushrooms. And when you don't have control of that, it goes way out of whack.

And that's happened. And now if you see what's happening, studios are closing all over the place. I mean, part of it's the economy as well, but you know, when there's no consistency and there's no one place, people don't know what Pilates is. And people are saying it's this, it's that, it's this. And some people get hurt. So a lot of problems happen. With the trademark, that wouldn't happen as much. I mean, there's a McDonald's and there's a Burger King and they basically sell the same products. Fries, soda, and a burger, right? One's called Burger King, one's called McDonald's. And they both have their own quality control, the owner of their own market, and all that. So maybe that would've happened. But now what you have is you've got 50 million different little restaurants that are calling themselves McDonald's. When you have 50 million little McDonald's, it's buyer beware. When you have McDonald's, you know what you're getting. And that's the main difference that when you say what do I see? That's the difference. And yes, I'm the guy that would own the trademark and would I have gotten wealthy from it? Yes. But you know, somebody else, Kenny got wealthy too. And that's the business part of it, you know. So I lost the business part and for me, it's kind of sad that it was more about that than about the methodology. And people didn't see that. But that was my, and I guess really my and Romana's way of looking at it, that we wanted to keep it what it was.

And I still believe in that. I'm not necessarily saying what they're teaching is bad, it's just not Pilates. I'm pretty close to, you know, I can look at his writings, I can look at his drawings, I can look at his pictures, I can look at the videos, I can look at Romana. I can say that you're not going to get much closer than this. And what happens is you see these people come up with all this other stuff and they say that it's great, and I say that it may be great, but it's not what he taught. It's not the system. It's not the methodology and you don't understand it.

And I can see by what you're saying that you don't understand it. But you know, I have all the different photoshoots of all the different apparatus and the different levels. I think there's three for the Chair and there's three for the Reformer and different times. And you know, people say, "Oh, he would've changed it." Well, guess what? He didn't. Very little change. Three different time periods and it's almost exactly the same stuff. So when people say, "Oh, if he'd known now, he would've changed it." He had 30 or 40 years to change, and he didn't. Because why?

Because it works the way the way it is. You don't need to change it. Ralph Hollander, who was the president of the foundation, the second foundation, I have audio tape of their founding meeting and I also have audio tape of Joe teaching. At the end, they were trying to develop and put a program together. And that was one of the ways that they saw doing that. Before he died, that was what they were trying to do. And then when he died, it just went out the window. "And vun and two and three!" Really high German accent. I mean, I always though he would have a deep voice, but it was very high pitched. You know, Pilates is not exercise. It's a methodology, and the methodology is the whole system. And if you only learn one piece, you don't understand the system.

You don't understand Pilates. You only understand one piece. And without the whole system, you don't have the benefit of the Pilates Method. So when people say it's no good, but you know, Romana always used to say, or maybe she said that Joe said, I can't remember which one, but even bad Pilates is good Pilates because even when you do it half ass or different or add all this other stuff, if you're sort of similar, you're still going and you're using the equipment. There's still benefit because you're going to get those things. They may still be very beneficial. You know, what I always say is that if you're really smart and somebody gives you a piece of equipment and you don't know how to use it, what are you going to do? You can make things up. You're going to invent stuff because you're smart and it's limited. And somebody walks in and it's like, well, that doesn't work for this patient, so let me make something up. And that's what's happened. And again, it may be really great.

It's just not what Joe Pilates did. And if you do what Joe Pilates taught, you don't need to do all that because it was already done. He did it for you and he was smart and he did it in a way of thinking that nobody else did. That's the genius. His way of thinking about how to move and how to exercise and use that equipment. It was not done before him. And since it's not been done after, or if it is, it's based on what he did. And most people don't understand that concept of stability and mobility, and how that balance happens through that equipment through the developmental sequence. They don't get that. They don't. Because it wasn't taught. But if you analyze what he did, he looked at people and he looked at animals and though about how they moved, right? He patented everything all over the world. He went and he patented it in Europe. He patented it here. So, you know, people say that Joe wasn't protective, but he was extremely protective of his work and what he did.

Otherwise he wouldn't have spent all the money and the time back in those days to patent everything. And he copyrighted his books. He wouldn't have done that. It's a bunch of crap that he didn't want that. Like, "Oh, here everybody! Take it! It's free!" It wasn't like that. And he was very protective of his work. And then sometimes to his own detriment, because he wouldn't trust anybody, he didn't want to go out there and didn't want it bastardized. He wanted it his way and he was very much about his way, but he understood it in a way that nobody else did. And that's usually what geniuses, that's the thing, is that they understand it in a way that most people can't even conceptualize. And then he develops it and then he tries to teach it. And you know, you can teach the exercise, but the whole concept, and that's again the power of Romana. I think that she got that. And maybe not exactly the way he did it, but she understood the power of the methodology and the system.

With all those 50 million Pilates studios, the routes happening, nothing lasts forever. We've already hit the peak. We're going down, and we're going out on the other end, and it's not going to die out because you've got too many people making a living at it, but it's not going to be what you know. But I think with the trademark, it would've been a lot stronger and salaries and everything else would have been different, but they're not.


6 people like this.
Thank you Ms Kristi Cooper for sharing this interview with Mr Gallagher. Many of us would never have gained the knowledge and history shared here without this interview.
Thank you Mr Gallagher for articulating the situation so clearly.
Have to agree with pretty much everything he says. Thanks Kristi for making this happen. And thanks Sean for sharing so openly.
Junghee Won
Thank you Sean for so opened interview. And thank you Pilates Anytime for doing this project. It is so important to know Pilates method correctly and the history as well as a Pilates teacher. Through this interview, I hope Pilates industry goes the right direction with true, honest and loyalty.
Niedra Gabriel
Thank you Sean and PA for posting this interview. Very interesting. I was part of that first group that were trained in LA when the west coast was opened up, and this has shed some expansive perspective on a time that was full of emotion and intensity . This was really great to watch and get - it makes a lot more sense to me now. and Yes, the method in its pure form was and is fabulous.
Raymond Harris
Thank you for the interview. I work and teach in the industry and
I love what I do. I love the difference that Pilates makes in my clients lives and I do my best to educate everyone on the history and methodology about creating that 'balance of stability and mobility. In life, I love change and differences of opinion and I remain open to new ideas, but I also do respect the history and the need to be true to the method. I enjoyed the interview and hearing what Sean had to say.
2 people like this.
Thank you to Sean for sharing this interview and thanks to Kristi for paving the way and taking time to interview and include some of the key players in the history of pilates on this website. It is so important for all to know the history if pilates before one can truly understand pilates in it's entirety. The evolution of pilates is inevitable especially as more people are engaging in the practice. But giving credit to the original work and stating that and then evolving the work and stating that, to me, is so important in carrying on the method and giving respect to the work. I really enjoyed the interview and appreciate the history.
Cathy M
10 people like this.
Interesting, and I really like all of the interviews in the Legacy Project. Sean was a good interviewee, direct and informative. I disagree with him that the trademark would have protected Pilates, it was already a community and grew far beyond Pilates the man. Had the trademark been upheld, Pilates would not be as widespread or popular today (both the good and bad Pilates). Nothing is ever perfect, and my preference is the growth of Pilates over the purity of the community. And I realize that's one of the key conflicts in the Pilates community, maintaining the pure method and it's benefits vs. making it more accessible.
3 people like this.
Thank you,very informative. I feel it negates Pilates Anytime, which is all made up! Get some costumes and put on a show! With that said some presentations are very good. John Gossett
3 people like this.
Kristi! Wonderful interview. Thank you Sean for talking about everything. The furture is upon us. And Pilates Anytime you are a great part of this. Thank you.
14 people like this.
Thank you, Pilates Anytime for working so hard to preserve and make available our rich history and for ensuring that all of the voices of that history, despite some their conflicts and disagreements, are heard and valued. And if I may say so, my experience with PA has been that they have provided an invaluable service to the Pilates community by making diverse, excellent teachers and classes available to anyone anywhere and providing an open forum for discussion and exchange of ideas in a supportive environment, or in other words, being the antithesis of “putting on a show.”
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