Kanako Funabashi and Tatsuro Kannan
Co-founders, Sky Pilates, Tokyo
Kanako Funabashi was a dancer. When a back injury took her off the stage, Kanako investigated the best options to support her rehabilitation. She discovered Pilates and fell in love with it immediately. For years, she dreamed of helping dancers with her knowledge of Pilates. Now, she and her business partner Tatsuro Kannan co-own Sky Pilates Tokyo, a boutique Pilates training center that supports athletes and dancers, who want to improve their performance, as well as clients who want to improve their overall health.
Here is how they did it.
Dancing is in Kanako's blood. Her mother was a dancer, and Kanako grew up around her mother’s ballet studio. But dancing can be hard on the body, and Kanako suffered a lower back injury that interrupted her dance training. On discovering Pilates, Kanako says, “I just loved it. Dancing was so much easier when doing Pilates. I wanted to continue with it for my entire life.”
Kanako researched Pilates education and discovered Merrithew™ and STOTT PILATES®. She started her Pilates education and enrolled for as many courses as possible, given her strong passion for learning and improvement. Even after becoming a fully Certified Instructor, Kanako still strove to improve. Her dream was to make Pilates popular and accessible to more people, and to further this dream, she set her goal of becoming an Instructor Trainer.
After Kanako had started teaching STOTT PILATES as an Instructor Trainer in Tokyo, she moved to Singapore to teach Pilates. She met her future business partner, Tatsuro Kannan, during her Pilates education and training. Tatsuro was a professional dancer who performed on stages in Singapore and throughout Europe. When he approached Kanako about starting a studio together, she said yes. “We wanted to educate and support more dancers,” she says.
Tatsuro returned to Tokyo to teach Pilates, and one and a half years later, Kanako joined him to open their studio in 2014. They chose to open Sky Pilates Tokyo in the prestigious neighborhood of Omotesando. “Everyone really likes the area, it has a great atmosphere and it’s famous for shopping and great restaurants,” says Kanako.
By 2017, Sky Pilates Tokyo was performing well and they took the opportunity to move to a larger space in the same neighborhood, with two floors, fully-equipped Reformer spaces and areas for Mat-based classes.
Sky Pilates Tokyo now supports over 700 clients, and employs 13 Instructors. Of course, managing such a fast-growing business is a challenge, says Kanako, but it is one she has enjoyed meeting. She loves seeing her studio flourish and continuing her dream of introducing Pilates to even more people.
As Sky Pilates Tokyo continues to grow, Kanako and Tatsuro are continually looking for opportunities to bring continuing education into the studio. “It is important for our studio to continue to deliver high-quality sessions based on the foundations of Pilates and its fundamentals, as well as programmes with the latest research-based education, such as the Fascial Movement Foundation Course. Merrithew provides a fantastic platform from which to provide these opportunities,” Kanako says. “Merrithew programs keep instructors and clients interested.”
Most recently, Sky Pilates Tokyo hosted Merrithew Master Instructor Trainer PJ O’Clair to teach ZEN•;GA® workshops and the Fascial Movement Foundation Course. “Fascial Movement is based on fascia, and there is a strong, increasing interest in fascia in Japan,” Kanako says. They are planning to run the Fascial Movement Foundation Course at Sky Pilates Tokyo during the summer.
Both Kanako and Tatsuro believe that teaching Pilates is a way of contributing positively to society. “A commitment to quality is important when you are responsible for somebody’s health,” says Kanako. Her advice for those considering opening their own studio? “First, love what you do.”