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Posted by on Mar 5, 2017 in Business & Education, Featured, Interviews, Social | 0 comments

Ken Endelman – The man behind Balanced Body

Ken Endelman – The man behind Balanced Body

Working with Pilates as I do, I get to interview some of the most inspirational people involved with Pilates over the years. It makes my job so much more rewarding and helps to inspire and inform our ever increasing audience of Pilates enthusiasts.
During Pilates on Tour 2016 in London, I got to interview Ken Endelman, the man behind the innovative creation of Pilates equipment. It was a golden opportunity to find out more about the man, how he started out, his inspiration and plans for the future.
Before we start, a little background about the man himself for those who are new to Pilates. Ken started out as a designer of custom made furniture back in the 70s along the famous Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. A future customer would change Ken’s path when she came in asking for modifications on an existing piece of equipment, known as the “Reformer.” With no background in or knowledge of Pilates, he studied the original designs from Joseph Pilates, consulted with other knowledgeable instructors and original students of Pilates, and came up with something special. From there would begin a whole new adventure for Ken and Pilates enthusiasts. Today Ken is the CEO of Balanced Body, providing equipment, exercise, instruction and much, much more worldwide.
My first question to Ken was about his early days and that first special client: Looking back now he can remember stalling and putting her off, thinking it was something he shouldn’t really get involved in, that it would be a phase, a passing fancy that wouldn’t really result in anything. However, the lady was persistent, and following some random dates in the diary as to when he would start, the lady in question eventually cornered and confronted him about when he was going to start. So from there, he worked on modifying and refining the Reformer.  Ken continued his work on Pilates equipment and creating pieces that helped make Pilates a pleasurable, safer and more unique experience for the user.  Input from others helped him to formulate his ideas including an antiques dealer from Majorca, Pilates instructors from all over the States, the use of unusual bits and pieces such as motorcycle parts and various shaped lamps, everything was explored and everything was changed, modified and fine-tuned, until it was right, until it was perfect.


Lawsuits and trademarks made Ken’s early career difficult. Pilates really started taking off in the 1990s, with the enthusiastic endorsement of celebrities and movie stars. However, back in those early days, it was impossible to use the word ”Pilates”, or even call yourself a ”Pilates” instructor without the risk of being sued.  The ‘P’ word was a dirty word that everyone was afraid to mention, and it made it difficult for Ken to use it for his new found business in Pilates equipment.  Ken took the lead in the Pilates trademark dispute, and thankfully, in 2000 the federal court in Manhattan, along with the US Patent & Trademark Office, decided that the word Pilates was not trademarked and could be used to describe exercise, equipment or studios without risk of legal action, and that had a tremendous impact on Ken Endelman’s career.  The result was that the name Pilates was freely available to everyone.

Although Pilates became popular in the 90s, it started much earlier, Ken was happy to fill me in on its earlier history.  Joseph Pilates was born back in the 1920s and become popular for a brief period in the 60s before fading away in late ’67.  In the 1990s, it gained more momentum with Pilates schools coming up in the mid-90s, and of course, with the help of movie stars and celebrities, it gained worldwide popularity.


For Ken his work is about the process of perfecting, improving, and brainstorming with other people. Collaboration is the key and he’s worked hard with many people over the years to fine tune his existing equipment and to come up with new ideas.  At this same time, other aspects of Balanced Body business are developing, like for example, education.  Numbers for the Pilates on Tour Conferences, and workshops are increasing and it takes tremendous dedication and focus he to keep all these balls in the air. You take an empty room, he points out, a room with nothing but carpets and walls, and turn it into this dynamic conference centre with equipment, people, and all the dynamics that goes with that, and then at the end of it you have an empty room again.
Looking to the future, Ken mentions that in the US, 85% of Pilates users are female, and this is something he wants to change (considering the founder was a man).  It’s good to have more men on-board, and he’s looking to see what he can do to make this happen.  Men like to work hard, get sweaty and beat it up slightly, although he’s quick to point out that perhaps he’s generalising a little.  As most of the exercises men do, usually, involve standing positions, and Pilates involves lying down and sitting, he’s looking to create something where there’s more focus on practicing in a standing position. What kind of situations can we present people with? What will make it more appetising for them? And how can we market Pilates in a way that’s appealing to people who aren’t doing it now?
In his 40th year in business, Ken is as enthusiastic about Pilates now as he ever was. The beauty of Pilates with its “cool set of principles” that make a lot of sense, but, his mind is still working on improvements and attracting a wider audience.  He’s frustrated by the fact that Pilates is only a small part of the fitness world and that people still don’t really understand it and would like to find a way to reach that part of the population and steer them towards Pilates through varied approaches.  For example, the Bodhi SuSpension System,  a practical and challenging piece of equipment for the Pilates studio owner, it needs somewhere to hang, preferably a strong wall, a wall that’s safe. The Bodhi provides exercises that involve working against gravity. Yes, there are other kinds of suspension like TRX but he feels that Pilates can feature its own unique form of suspension, and he’s keen for people to try it out.


Does Ken know more about Pilates now and does he practice it himself?  Yes, for a man who started out as a self-described ‘closet engineer,’ he does enjoy Pilates, even though he started out not having a clue as to what it was. He understood the basics enough to create the machines he came up with, and what their end goal should be, but little more. However, for more than a decade he’s been consistently practicing Pilates back home in Sacramento. He also practices it whenever he can when travelling.
Balanced Body is very much a family affair with everyone involved including his wife and his sons. His daughter-in-law has become a Pilates Instructor and is also involved in the business, Pilates is clearly had its influence on the entire family.
Apart from Pilates, how does Ken relax when he’s not working? He enjoys bike riding and goes for ‘epic’ rides.  In 2015 he prepared for a fantastic ride at Lake Tahoe in aid of Leukaemia. His preparations involved daily 100-mile bike rides!
I ask him if he has anything to tell us he’s not told anyone else before, a secret he’d like to share with us today, he thinks for a moment and then suggests philanthropy. He’d like to be a philanthropist, to be able to give stuff away to those most in need. He buys the $5 lottery ticket and thinks about what he’d do with the money should he win a considerable sum. We talk about small kindnesses and the importance of giving. He mentions the book “Who Stole My Cheese?” and we talk about simply being nice, of making someone’s day, just because you can.
His favourite Pilates moves are standing ones mostly, (no surprises there) and also standing moves using the Corealign. He also loves the Elephant.
I ask finally, what’s his birth sign? Pisces. And that’s interesting I tell him because that’s the typical ”giver” – the philanthropist who’s tries and does everything until they have a large body of knowledge. Then they think about what and how can they give to others.
It’s a perfect way to end the interview.

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Posted by on May 8, 2014 in Pilates, Reviews, Social, Workshops | 0 comments

Balanced Body Pilates on Tour 2014

Balanced Body Pilates on Tour 2014

balanced-body-logo-100904For the third year in the row PilatesTree attended Balanced Body Pilates on Tour, London.  This was the 67th PoT and 4th in the UK.  PoT is a great opportunity for teachers from many different countries and different schools to interact, mingle, play and work together and to expand our knowledge. Teachers from more than 37 different countries attended this year.  PoT is here for 5 days, the first two days are dedicated to teacher training in Core Align, Balanced Body Barre, MOTR and Pilates for a healthy back.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday are a variety of workshops presented by very well respected teachers from all over the world.

This years presenters included:

Valentin, MS; Pilates Body By ValentIn

Shari Berkowitz; The Vertical Workshop

Madeline Black; Passing the Torch Mentor; Studio M Pilates

Blossom Leilani Crawford; Owner, Bridge Pilates

Tom McCook; Passing the Torch Mentor; Center of Balance,

Portia Page; Balanced Body faculty

Joy Puleo; Body Wise StudIo

Erika Quest; Studio Q Pilates Conditioning

Chrissy Romani-Ruby PT; PHI Pilates

Lolita San Miguel, Passing the Torch Mentor; Pilates y Mas

Suzanne Scott; The Scott Studio

Anna Maria Vitali; Balanced Body faculty

Each day began with a morning class at 7.30am taught by one of the presenters or another specially invited teacher, this was followed by a delicious breakfast and chat.  There are two 3 hour sessions of workshops 9am – 12 noon and 2pm – 5 pm.  In between there was a good break for a lovely lunch, a spot of shopping, mini workshops and a quick talk and lottery draw from Nora St Jones, co-creator of PoT.

The mini workshops are a chance to try out pieces of equipment such as the MOTR and Core Align among others.

Friday evening, PoT hosted a free reception with drinks and nibbles. This is an opportunity to meet new friends, catch up with old friends and meet the creators & crew of Pilates on Tour including Nora St Jones, Al Harrison, Ken Endelman, Dave Littman (see interview last year).

PoT bring all the equipment with them including, Reformers, Cadillacs, Wunda chairs, Pilates arcs, Sitting Boxes, Orbits, Core Aligns, accessories, fascia release balls, Franklin balls, springs, foot correctors, pads, foam rollers. It takes an awful lot of organising but they have it down to a fine art.   Teachers also have the opportunity to buy some of the large equipment which is a special show price.

What do you get for you money other than the workshops? Morning workout, US style, super breakfast and lunch, endless coffees, teas, soft drinks and cakes, a thick BB mat, pen and a welcome pack, Ken’s history talk on Saturday after the workshops. You can gather many of your yearly requirement of CPD points too, all in one 5 day period.

Thank you to all the presenters and crew members who gave us their time (too many to mention individually) we hope to catch up with those we didn’t manage to talk to next year.

Thank you to Ken and Dave for facilitating our visit this and we look forward to the 5th Pilates on Tour in London, April 2015!

 

Coming up soon:-

Workshop with Lolita San Miguel

Interview with Shari Berkowitz

Interview with Nora and Al

Interview with Suzanne Scott (the only UK presenter)

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Posted by on Jun 9, 2013 in Beginners, Featured, Owning a Studio | 0 comments

Fifty Shades of Grey – Introduction to Pilates Equipment

Fifty Shades of Grey – Introduction to Pilates Equipment

In my previous years of teaching when a new client walked in to the studio, they would look around and say – ‘oh dear, this looks like a torture chamber ‘- I am sure all teachers have heard that a few times.  However, these days when the client walks in they mostly say – ‘oh this looks like the Red Room of Pain from Fifty Shades of Grey’ (:o).  I have to say, it’s a great ice breaker though.. ‘you read Fifty Shades of Grey, did you, hmm.. all of the books… oh have you, all in one day! lol’ – common ground established.  Of course, I had to read it myself to make sure I knew what the clients were referring too ;).

We can safely say that walking in to a Pilates studio, for the first time, can be overwhelming so here is a guide to most commonly used Pilates equipment.  Below, you will find a gallery of pictures including the Cadillac, Reformer, Ladder Barrel, Small Barrel and Wundachair.

Further, I will dedicate a separate blog to each of the apparatus including brief description, variations, makes, pictures and so on .  To keep it simple just for now, I have used images from the BalancedBody Pilates site only, but when introducing pieces individually I will add other manufacturers.  Most commonly purchased at the moment are: Stott, Balanced Body, Peak Pilates, I have found something called Align-Pilates, Gratz Pilates (considered closest to the original designs of J Pilates).  Since the equipment is mostly produced in the US, here in the UK this means a bit of a hassle getting it into our studios but things are getting easier.

History tells us (Origins of Pilates) that J Pilates designed most of his pieces based on a hospital bed, while he was in the prison camps during WWI.  He built the frame, added the springs and bars to effectively aid the recovery of those injured through exercise, even if they were bed bound.

The equipment manufacturers are getting more and more innovative with the machines: developing, modifying, evolving to make it safe for us to use, more practical, better looking; safer and more efficient for the clients to use and enjoy.  In fact, you can pretty much coordinate your studio equipment in style, colour and space i.e. the leather upholstery comes in many colours, the equipment can be purchased in the most simple form for new, small studios (at home) and developed over time, like the Reformers with detachable tower.

Do you think you have the best looking Pilates studio or do you think the one you take your classes in, is? – send us pictures for our gallery, we love beautiful studios! (office@pilatestreemagazine.com)
 

Next time … The Pilates Cadillac.

Reformer Tower

Reformer Tower, Allegro 2

 

Cadillac

Cadillac (Trapeze Table)

 

Reformer

Basic Reformer

Ron Fletcher

Ron Fletcher Reformer by BB

 

Baby Arc

Baby Arc

 

Wall Tower

Wall Tower


Toe Gizmo

Joe’s Toe Gizmo

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Ped-O-Pull

 

Foam Arc

Balanced Body Foam Arc

Ladder Barrel

Ladder Barrel

Pilates Barrel

Pilates Barrel

Ladder Barrel

Ladder Barrel

Wundachair

Wundachair

 

Reformer and Cadillac Combination

Reformer/Cadillac Combination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Business & Education, Interviews, Owning a Studio | 0 comments

Interview with Dave Littman, Balanced Body Pilates

Interview with Dave Littman, Balanced Body Pilates

13aba41We met Dave at Balanced Body, Pilates on Tour in London, April 2013

What is your role in Balanced Body?

I’ve been with Balanced Body since in 1998.  When I started there was just a few of us so the roles were broad, I was involved with sales, product development, business relationships and bringing products to the market place.  Initially, our international sales represented about 2% of the business and now it’s over 30%.   Currently, my title is Director of International Sales and I report directly to Ken Endelman, who is the founder and president of the company.  There’s about ten people on our management team who are responsible for sales, marketing, education, financial, purchasing and production.

Is there a philosophy at Balanced Body?

Balanced Body has always been a company that is known for listening and responding to our customers’s needs. From the beginning we have been designers and tool-makers.  Our philosophy is to listen to the broad range of the Pilates market and produce quality products that exceed expectations.   From the very beginning we made special custom equipment with wide range of adaptations and innovations. That’s what makes us different, we celebrate sharing, celebrate creativity, we’re open and inclusive.  Our customers are really important to us.  I think this is demonstrated by our customers’ respect for our support for the Pilates community, for our education and equipment, and for producing events like Pilates on Tour.

When did BB first begin making equipment?

Ken Endelman is from Los Angeles.  He is a woodworker and in 1976 someone brought him a picture of a piece of Pilates equipment and asked Ken to build it.  This was a part-time job for a few years and then it became Ken’s life.  At that time you could count the number of Pilates studios on your fingers, just a few in New York, Los Angeles and London and now… so many.

Who is Dave Littman?

I am from Cleveland, Ohio, United States.  I am married and have 3 kids and 4 grandchildren. I live in the mountains and I been a ski teacher for over forty years.  I celebrate the winter snow and I love gravity.

Please tell us a bit about your ski teaching and how you became involved in teaching the disabled?

I had been a ski instructor when I should have been going to university. I was in a running club and there was a blind guy, I started running races with him, 10K’s and marathons and he asked to me to teach him how to ski.  I didn’t know if there was such a thing as skiing for the visually impaired, so we went out and fumbled around a bit and I found out I was slightly dyslexic… I’d say, ‘Right, right…oh no, I meant the other right!’

I was the National team clinician for an organisation called Disabled Sports USA. I have traveled all over the United States and the world, teaching instructors how to teach adaptive skiing. I am a sit-down ski specialist, that’s my real passion and all the best things in my life have come from adaptive skiing.   My wife and my family are directly connected, and skiing is the reason I’m involved in Pilates.

.. and then?

I worked with the big commercial fitness and rehabilitation company Cybex.  I got into that because of my work with sports people and people with disabilities, that led me to meeting Ken.  We got together about the time that Balanced Body was introducing the Allegro reformer.  Ultimately, it became my responsibility to bring the Allegro into the market.

Do you practice Pilates yourself? 

Yes, my wife is a Pilates and yoga teacher.  She guides my Pilates on the reformer we have at home.  Just about everyone at Balanced Body practices Pilates, we have a showroom studio where daily classes are taught by BB team members.  About 10 years ago Ken had a cervical injury and he used Pilates for his rehabilitation.  He practices three times a week and encourages everybody to do it.

So when you’re developing a new model or piece of equipment, do a group of teachers get together and come up with some ideas. How does it work?

As I said previously, the thing that makes us different is our willingness to listen and trying to create solutions.  A good example is our Clinical Reformer. I met a pediatric physiotherapist who was working almost exclusively with little kids with cerebral palsy.  Her reformer was too large for her patients, so we built her special shoulder rest extenders.  These proved to be unstable so Ken looked at the idea of a footbar that can be positioned anywhere over the carriage.  It was easier to manufacture this particular concept by cutting tracks down the full length of the wood frame.  This allowed the footbar to be positioned anywhere along the reformer frame and that opened up all kinds of cool ways to use the reformer.  That’s typical of the kind of development that we do.  Nearly every success that we have and every development that we make is a direct result of identifying needs and implementing solutions.

Our clients know and respect that we can develop and deliver good products to the market.  We are always open to new ideas and developments that may be send to us.  CoreAlign is a good example of this process and success.  We have just introduced a suspension training system and a Barre programme.

How can we buy Balanced Body products in the UK?

We sell our products direct in the UK, we don’t have a middle man or distributor. We stock our products at a warehouse in London and deliver all over the country.  Speaking nearly the same language helps and this works really well for our customers ;)

What about the future?

We will be back in London in April 2014 with Pilates on Tour, also we sponsor the Pilates Foundation and Body Control conferences.  That’s another example that differentiates Balanced Body: consistent and generous support of the Pilates community (we have to agree).  This is really important to us and we will continue to do so.  The UK is our most important international marketplace, we have been working with our most loyal customers here for over 20 years, and we are totally committed to them.  We wish we could spend even more time here…the weather is so fantastic (now we think he’s playing with us!).  No seriously, we have many good friends here.

Once last very important question, what is your birth sign?

I’m a Scorpio

…Ah – passionate, clearly passionate about his work and it shows.

The interview concludes and we thank Dave for his time.

If you have any questions for Dave, new ideas, products you would like to see in the UK.  Contact him directly Dave Littman <dave@pilates.com

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