The history of gymnastics began in ancient Greece. Its actual inventor is a mystery, but it was very prevalent among Greeks. But it was the work of Friedrich Jahn in the early 1800s that led to the modern sport.
Gymnastics in Greece and Rome
In ancient Greece gymnastics encompassed many forms of athletic activity. This included running, wrestling and physical fitness routines. Each city had a gymnasium where these exercises took place.
Gymnastics also included discus throwing and hand to hand fighting. It wasn’t so much a sport as it was a fitness training program. Eventually some forms of gymnastics were incorporated in the Olympics.
The practice was continued by the Romans. The routines became more oriented towards preparing the individual for training as a soldier. The history of gymnastics shows that it was banned in 393 AD. This order was issued by Emperor Theodosius. By this time it had become a sport but getting corrupted and deteriorating.
This trend continued in the Medieval Ages. The church held the view that the body was corrupt and not as vital as the spirit. This led to its decline.
The 18th Century Resurgence
Its resurgence took place in the 18th century. It came courtesy of Johann Gutsmuth (1759-1839) and Friedrich Jahn (1778-1852) who started making devices for which young people could use for gymnastics. Jahn invented several of the apparatuses that would be the basis of modern equipment. Thus in the history of gymnastics, he is considered as its father.
Among these inventions were the ring, pommel horse, and the vault. The balance beam, the parallel bars and the horizontal bar were also developed along this period. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was still looked upon as a training exercise. But eventually it became more of a sport than a military training regime.
Gymnastics as a Sport
Gymnastics would prove popular across Europe. By 1896 it was already a part of the Olympics. However the early gymnastics featured events like jumping and running. As time went by, the events were narrowed down. By the 1920s, women’s gymnastics had become a fixture at the Olympics as well.
The history of gymnastics shows that combination exercises appeared in 1928. By the 1954 Olympics, the gymnastics routines as we know had been adapted. It was also in the 1950s that the 1 to 10 scoring system was adapted.
The Evolution of Gymnastics
During the early days, gymnastics for men focused on power. The women’s game concentrated on elegance. But over time both events would allow both men and women to display their elegance and power.
The sport became even more popular in 1976 when Romanian Nadia Comaneci attained the first perfect score in the sport’s history. As time went by, artistic gymnastics became part of the sport as well.
From its beginnings as a military training exercise, the history of gymnastics has evolved into a sport. Today it has become one of the main attractions in the Olympics, displaying an individual’s power and grace.