Friedrich Jahn: Sometimes
Known as the Father of Gymnastics
In 1811 in Germany a man
named Friedrich Jahn opened his first gymnasium near
Berlin in the forest with the squirrels and the bunny
rabbits for neighbors. Jahnís gym had balance beams,
vaults and lots of dangling bars and good things to
climb. Anyone could go to Jahnís gym to play as long as
they followed the rules. Many more outdoor gyms opened
over the next seven years.
Jahn and his friend
Eiselen published a book called German Artistic
Gymnastics which became a basic source of
information about gymnastics.
Did you know that Jahn
invented the horizontal and parallel bars? And the bars
became super popular during Jahnís time. As we all know
here at Gymnastika these bars are still used today 197
The bad news is that at
the time the people in charge of Germany did not like or
agree with Jahnís ideas about who should be in charge of
Germany. So the people in charge threw poor Jahn in jail
and banned gymnastics!!!
The students of Jahn began
practicing in their own backyards and mostly practiced
on the bars and the vault or the horse as they used to
call it. Eventually, Jahn was let out of jail and people
could freely participate in gymnastics again.
Did you know that
gymnastics was an outdoor sport for more than 100 years?
The last outdoor
gymnastics competition took place at the 1960 Olympics
The first German
gymnastics gym opened in 1848 in America and by 1860
there were 70 gyms with over 7,000 athletes in the
United States. In 1926, Jahnís gymnastics came to
Harvard University. Eventually Jahnís book was
translated into English, so more people could understand
For more on Jahn including
pictures check out:
Kaimakamis, A., Kirialanis,
P., Albanidis, E. (2008). Gymnastics and the ideological
movement of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, Studies in
Physical Culture and Tourism, 15(1), 43-47.