On The Origins of Tumbling

Origins of tumbling

Though its extended definition of tumbling is outdated, Encyclopedia Britannica describes its basic principles well. I came across this definition when looking into the origins of tumbling. What I discovered is interesting, to say the least. 

I’ll give you a glimpse of my findings here.

On the origins of tumbling
From the Sokol Museum of History. https://sokolmuseum.org/history-of-gymnasts/

According to Britannica, “tumbling is the execution of acrobatic movements such as rolls, twists, handsprings, or somersaults on floor mats or on the ground. Unlike most other disciplines in gymnastics, tumbling does not involve the use of apparatuses.”

This definition seems to include what I like to call backyard or domestic tumbling, not the sport of tumbling as part of the Trampoline Gymnastics group. But the description of its mechanics is accurate. 

About the origins of tumbling, the Encyclopedia says that “The activity dates back to ancient China, Egypt, and Greece. Tumbling was performed by traveling bands of entertainers in the European Middle Ages and later by circus and stage performers.”

Tumbling in The Military

Tumbling in the military
Training warriors

Wikipedia also mentions the entertainment aspect of tumbling by pointing out that “During the Middle Ages, minstrels incorporated tumbling into their performances, and multiple records show tumblers performed for royal courts.”

That same source says that tumbling was part of the educational system of Ancient Greece and that it was used as military training by Ancient Romans.


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History of Tumbling

As I said, my findings are exciting and have sparked a different kind of curiosity in me. I believe understanding the past is crucial to grasp the present fully, and knowing how the discipline evolved into the complex sport it is today can help us become better at it. 

The use of tumbling in military training makes sense to me. The skills tumblers and gymnasts perform demand high levels of physical strength and mental acuity. It’s clear to see how these exercises make better warriors – it’s why I refer to my athletes as superheroes. It’s also true that many martial arts styles include tumbling-like movements in their training.

For personal development

I’ll write more about this last part soon; it requires further study and attention. 

Most people tend to think of gymnastics and tumbling as relatively modern sports, but consider that Power Tumbling has had US national championships as far back as 1986. 

Again, I’ll write more about this in the future. The realization is that our sport has an intriguing history full of concepts and notions that can help our personal development goals. 

Thank you for reading.

Coach José

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