Joe’s Return to Life

Joe’s Return to Life

Joe’s Return to Life

on the Isle of Man

 Mo Sherring was the first person to teach Pilates on the Isle of Man since Joseph Pilates was released from the Knockaloe Internment Camp 100 years ago., Here, she shares how she helps keep his legacy alive on the island she calls “The true spiritual home of Pilates”.

PILATES STYLE: What’s the connection between Joseph Pilates and the Isle of Man?

MO SHERRING: At the outbreak o the first world war, Joe was living in London, teaching self-defence to Scotland Yard detectives. As a German national, he was arrested and sent, alomng with other “enermy aliens” to the Knockaloe interment camp here. He lived here as prisoner 14001, until the end of the war. 

PILATES STYLE: How did you end up on the Isle of Man?

MO SHERRING: I grew up here durring the Second World War. I left for London in the 1950’s, where I worked for a dress designer, a catering manager and later as an exercise teacher. When I heardabout Pilates, I knew I wanted to teach it. I did all my training with Michael King of MK Pilates in London.

PILATES STYLE: How did you celebrate the 100th anniversary of Joe’s release?

MO SHERRING: Michael and I arranged a Pilates Heritage Weekend here with classes hosted by instructors from across the globe. They included Roberta Rose Kirschebaum (from Rolates Pilates in New York City), Elisa Withers (from the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute), Malcolm Muirhead (from MK Pilates) and Kateryna Smirnova (from Kiev, Ukraine).

PILATES STYLE: Why do you refer to the island as “the true spiritual home of Pilates”?

MO SHERRING: Joe was already developing his exercise methods when he arrived here. Instead of letting his interment hinder his research, I believe it enhanced it. In 2015, at the Pilates Heritage conference in Mochengladbach, Germany, I asled (Pilates elder) Lolita San Miguel if Joe had ever mentioned his time on the Isle of Man. She told me that he discribed his time here as “wonderful years” because “they gave me time to work on my method and to work with a variety of people”. Because of the sheer volume of men interned here (23,000), Joe would have had a wide range of ailments to work on, from the physical to the psychological.

PILATES STYLE: Did he leave behind any evidence of his work here?

MO SHERRING: Although there is no written evidence that Pilates worked at the camp hospital, according to word-of-mouth stories, he rearranged the metal springs of the hospital beds lengthways in order to provideresistance dring streatches to help bed bound patients exercise. If you look at any early Mini Reformer, its resemblance to a hospital bed is unmistakable! We’ve also unearthed a photograph of a group of hospital orderlies, one of whom looks very much like Joseph Pilates. Also letters have been found that prove he taught phsyical education, much like the modern day Pilates we know now,anc boxing at the camp.

PILATES STYLE: What is left of the internment camp now?

MO SHERRING: The original location of the Knockaloe camp is now an area of farmland on the west coast of the Isle of Man. An extremely interesting museum opened there on May 11th, 2019 that commemorates the camp, Last year, I was privileged, along with Michael King, to unveil a plaque dedicated to Joseph Pilates that has been placed in a garden at the site, it reads

“In honour of Joseph Hubertus Pilates, interned at Knockaloe internment camp 4, 12th September 1915 – 16th March 1919, where he developed the foundations of the world renowned Pilates method of exercise.”

PILATES STYLE: Do you feel a special connection to Joe, knowing your studio is so close to where he first devoped Contrology?

MO SHERRING: Standing on the Knockaloe site, Michael and I got goose bumps just knowing that this is where it all started. I do feel a connection with Pilates and I feel very strongly that his connection with the Isle of Man needs to be celebrated.

PILATES STYLE: Do “regular” people on the Isle of Man know that Joe developed his method here?

MO SHERRING: I was the first person to teach Pilates on the Isle of Man 25 years ago – people still used to refer to it as “Pilots!”. It was a slow process to educate people about Joseph’s connection, but we now have the museum, and last year, a beautiful bronze-and-stainless steel sculpure, which celebrates Pilates and Manx Artist Archibald Knox, who also worked at the camp, was errected at Peel Cathedrel in the vicinity of Knockaloe.

Isle of Man Pilates Instructor joins Masterclass with pupil of Joseph Pilates

Isle of Man Pilates Instructor joins Masterclass with pupil of Joseph Pilates

Leading Pilates instructor Mo Sherring has returned from a workshop in Spain led by Lolita San Miquel, the only person still alive to have been certified to teach Pilates by Joseph Pilates himself.

Mo was specially invited to join select instructors at the unique workshop, held at Sitges near Barcelona. In addition to trainign with Lolita on Matt work and equipment, Mo had the oppotunity to talk with her about Joseph, and the vital role the Isle of Man played in the development of Pilates.

Mo, who runs the Pilates Studio Isle of Man in Onchan, explained: ‘It was an overwhelming experiance. There were only 20 people invited to attend, coming from all over the world, and we had the unique experiance of working with Lolita for more than 6 hours every day.’

Some people are aware that Joseph Pilates developed the Pilates method while an internee on the Ilse of Man.

She is one of only two people to be certified as an instructor by Joseph, having trained with him at his New York Studio, and gave us a wonderful insight into the man. Some people are aware that Joseph developed his Pilates method while he was an internee in the Isle of Man, and Lolita said he would often be asked about that time while working in New York.  “She said he described his time here as good, and it had provided him with an amazing opportunity, the time to work on his method. He was a working man, who never had time to develope the method. When he was interned, he finally had that time, and worked on what became Pilates with patients at the old hospital and with fellow internees. It was amazing to hear from someone who spwent time with him, just how important the Isle of Man was in the creation of a fitness method which is now known and practiced around the world.”

Lolita also revealed that the Universal Reformer, a familiar piece of equipment which can be found in any Pilates Studio, was developed in the Isle of Man and it’s history lies in the humble hospital beds of World War I.

The workshop was orginised by Master Trainer Micheal King, the highly regarded tutor Mo trained with New York born Lolita, who is this year celebrating 56 years of practising Pilates, is one of the two remaining “Distinguished Elders” of the Pilates Methods Alliance. After a distinguished career in dance – she was a soloist with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet for over ten years and was Ballet Mistress for Ballet Hispanico for three years – Lolita moved to Puerto Rico in 1977, where she founded Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico and Pilates y Mas, teaching, training and certifying in association with Polestar Pilates Education. She retired from Ballet Concierto in 2005, after 27 years as Artistic and Executive Director, and at the age of 70 started a new career dedicated to teaching the Pilates method. Mo said: “I have been teaching Pilates for more than 20 years, but there is always more to learn and different or new ways to train and teach. Being invited to this Masters Series workshop led by Lolita was a great honour, but also a wonderful opportunity to develop my skills further, and bring great benefits to those I teach Pilates to in the Isle of Man.

“Lolita is also the embodyment of one of Joseph’s favorite sayings, that you are only as old as your spine is flexable, and that if you have a flexible spime at 60, you are young. Lolita is 80, but, as she sayd, she is young.”

Pilates is a method body conditioning which promotes, flexibility, muscle strength and endurance in the legs, abdemon, arms, hips, and back by concerntraiting on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing and developing a strong core, or centre, and improving coordinationand balance.

Mo offers and range of classes and sessions at her studio in Onchan and venues around the island, with programs suited to all ages and experiance levels. To find out more visit:, call: 490480 / 625772 or find Pilates Studio Isle of Man on Facebook and Twitter.