Gymnastics in modern times

gymnastic history turnest Germany festival
Germany’s gymnastics festival continues to this day.

Modern gymnastics emerged in the eighteenth century with the Enlightenment. In 1762, the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), one of the leading representatives of the Enlightenment movement, published the pedagogical treatise Emile, in which he advocated physical activity as part of teaching. The work catalyzed a profound reform in European education at the time.

The influence of the ideas of Rousseau was significant in Germany, where schools called Philantropinum were opened and encouraged gymnastic activities in the open air. From one of them emerged what is considered the forerunner of modern gymnastics: Johann Christoph Friedrich Guts Muths (1759-1839), who directed one of these schools in Schnepfenthal.

Muth’s thinking is reflected in his 1793 book Gymnastik für die Jugend (“Gymnastics for Young People”), in which he classifies natural and artificial gymnastics, that is, utilitarian and non-utilitarian. The former focused on the health of the body, while the latter focused on the aesthetic aspect of gymnastics, similar to artistic gymnastics today.

Natural gymnastics was thoroughly developed by the Swedish Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839), founder of the Royal Gymnastics Central Institute in Stockholm, in 1813. But the father of modern gymnastics was the German Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852), founder of the Turnverein movement, a kind of association of gymnastics clubs in Berlin. John took the first steps in the systematization of artistic gymnastics.

His advanced conception of gymnastics was recorded in the book Die Deutsche Turnkunst (“The German Art of Gymnastics”), from 1816, whose authorship he shared with his assistant Ernst Eiselen. Germany’s first gymnastics festival (Turnfest) was held in Coburg in 1860, following the school of Jahn.

In 1881, the European Gymnastics Federation, the predecessor of the current International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), was founded in France to supervise the practices of this sport, which was included in the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The FIG organized the first international gymnastics competitions for men (1903) and women (1934); thus consecrated gymnastics as a competitive sport of worldwide scope.

History of gymnastics in Mexico

In Mexico, there is a history of gymnastics in pre-Hispanic times. Like many other ancient peoples, the cultures that inhabited the current territory of Mexico practiced physical activities for military, ritual, and recreational purposes.

Some sources testify to the gymnastic and acrobatic practices of the Aztecs. The acrobats, known as mayotuncuepani, performed various exercises of physical skill together.

Modern gymnastics developed in Mexico at the hands of European immigrants. Some of them were involved with pedagogical theories that promoted gymnastics as part of comprehensive education.

In 1848, the Frenchman Jean Chadafaut Turín (Juan Turín, in Spanish) opened the first gym in Mexico City. Turin, considered the introducer of modern gymnastics in the country, gave classes in some schools and incorporated gymnastics in the army, following the French military model.

The first attempts to incorporate gymnastics and other sports practices in education date back to 1861. However, it was not until 1888, when the Federal Law of Primary Instruction was passed, those gymnastics was made compulsory in all schools.

In 1890, the Great Central Circle of Mexican Gymnastics was created, the first physical education association in Mexico. A few years later, in 1902, the Gymnastics Academy of Mexico was founded, in which teachers were trained to teach gymnastics in schools.

Mexico officially participated in the Olympic competitions for the first time at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924. The previous year the Mexican Olympic Committee had been created. In 1933 the Mexican Sports Confederation and the National Council of Physical Culture were established.

These three institutions, together with the Federación Nacional de Gimnasia (now the Federación Mexicana de Gimnasia), founded in 1926, were essential for the development and dissemination of sport and competitive gymnastics in Mexico.

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