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Lessons Learned From a Master

Pilates practitioners share what they gleaned from the multisensory teachings of Kathy Grant.

On May 27, 2010, Kathy Stanford Grant passed away at the age of 89. A dancer, choreographer and protégé of Joseph Pilates, Grant taught the Pilates method for over 50 years. On faculty in the dance department of Tisch School of the Arts at New York University from 1988, Grant taught a program of work that reflected her unique style, intuitive genius and intense precision. She shared her wealth of knowledge with numerous people and influenced countless lives. Her wisdom is the foundation of many programs and exercises being taught around the world today. If you experienced her, even for just one class, you could not help but be touched by her. Her lessons continue through the work of innumerable Pilates teachers. Here are a few lessons learned from Kathy Grant.

Full Sensory Programming

“Kathy had a picture-perfect, unflagging work ethic. With her laser vision and finely tuned instincts, she gave her students something of value to take away from every session. It did not matter if you were a prima ballerina performing at the White House or a grandmother recovering from a fall, you were treated the same. She used all of her senses to formulate your program. She listened to the springs and the rhythm they made. She listened very closely to your joints to help you develop your all-important core muscles. She taught you how to connect an external movement to an internal support system. She also listened to the tone of your voice and could read between the lines of the words you spoke. In the end, I learned that teaching is about empowering each individual who walks into your studio. Kathy Grant taught me to help my students really know the power that lies within their physical and mental bodies. This is what I most aspire toward.”

—Sarita Allen, Art of Movement, New York City

Think It

“Kathy would always tell me, especially when I was trying to make an adjustment on my scoliosis, ‘Think it, don’t do it—think it, don’t do it!’ It is a different thought process if you think it first—it’s more subtle. I’ve used it so many times, and it is so effective for people, so much more integrative.”

—Jillian Hessel, Jillian Hessel Pilates, Los Angeles

Always Be a Student

“What I learned, and what I hold dear to my heart, goes beyond the actual Pilates exercises and cues. By the time I started studying with Kathy, I had begun teaching privately out of my home. My studies with Kathy took on a deeper meaning. She continued to keep me humble in my knowledge. She loved to challenge and question me. I learned to ‘see’ the body—my own as well as others’—in a deeper way. Just watching Kathy teach anyone was a lesson. Kathy continued to see herself as a student as well. She was always open to any and all knowledge. So, most importantly, what I learned—and hope to continue—is to be the same way.”

—Roberta Rose Kirschenbaum, Rolates Pilates, New York City

The Constant Touch

“During the 10 years that I was Kathy Grant’s teaching assistant and student, I witnessed her quiet brilliance and listened to her firm yet nurturing voice. Kathy insisted on respect, excellence, honesty and hard work from herself and others. She never stopped inventing new exercises; she was curious and always learning. I know the spirit of Kathy Grant lives on through the many lives that she touched, and I strive to maintain the high quality of work Kathy instilled in me. She would say to me, ‘Sometimes I am hard on people so that they will remember my voice in their head when I am not there.’ Now that she is gone, I keep coming back to this thought, and it means so much more to me now.”

—Blossom Leilani Crawford, Bridge Pilates, New York City

How to “See”

“‘Put your shoulders down,’ Kathy Grant called from across the room. I was doing her strap work on the cadillac. But she was facing away from me and couldn’t possibly see my body position. ‘How do you know my shoulders are up?’ I asked. ‘Well they are, aren’t they?’ She replied. Of course they were and I adjusted them. “‘That’s better,’ she said without ever turning around.

That was one of my first lessons from Kathy—knowing the body and ‘seeing.’ ‘Seeing’ is not about looking at the movement of the exercises; it is about how the body moves from the inside out. ‘Seeing’ the body is an experience that deepens the relationship between student and teacher. It develops a sense of body knowledge of how each person individually performs movement. ‘Seeing’ transforms a good teacher into a great teacher. It takes time, patience and a willingness to explore your own relationship to your body and mind—to challenge what you know. It deepens your ability as a teacher and how you apply your skills. ‘Seeing’ is the most important lesson I learned, and I use it every day in my teaching and in my life. It is not just a lesson, it is a gift, and I am grateful to have received it from my teacher and dear friend, Kathy Grant.”

—Kathy Corey, Kathy Corey Pilates, San Diego


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Kathy Corey

Kathy Corey is the owner and director of West Coast Pilates. She has been a Pilates teacher and an active member and leader in the Pilates community for almost 30 years. Kathy serves on the advisory boards for Inner IDEA® and Pilates Style magazine. In addition, Kathy was selected by IDEA as one of 10 people in the world ÔÇ£Who Inspire the World to Fitness®ÔÇØ for 2007.

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