Where Did Trampolining Originate?

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As may well be expected from such a unique and colorful sport, the origins of trampolining as we understand it today are long, varied and packed full of conjecture! The good news is that the story of the sport’s development is fascinating and encompasses a real spirit of human ingenuity, imagination and flair that helps even further separate it from other more ‘mainstream’ pursuits. While open to dispute depending on quite what we consider trampolining to be, here follows a guide to the origins of modern trampolining as the majority of sporting historians currently agree.

Early Examples Of Trampolining

The furthest evidence of a form of trampolining having existed trace back to ancient Eskimo culture and unspecified times in Renaissance era England. The Eskimo example is a good place to start as their culture is very unique in the sense that even today it still represents unchanged traditions and practices that have been in place for many hundreds of years. In regards to trampolining, a popular game enjoyed especially among Eskimo children was their using a Walrus skin as a form of mat, held taught by others at all sides and corners while someone was bounced up and down on the flexible surface. However, strictly speaking this really involved throwing the individual rather than their jumping – so whether it counts as trampolining is open to debate.

The English example was perhaps more of an an example of people self propelling themselves from a bouncy surface, and was used mainly as a feature of stage performances and comic routines. This often took the form of a pile of clothing under which was a small yet very taught trampoline, helping add an unexpected twist as the story developed. While technically this was a form of trampolining, it wasn’t trampolining for it’s own sake – rather just a casual aid used to accentuate another pursuit.

The Circus & The Trampoline

Most historians concur that the origins of trampolining as a unique spectacle of itself stem from the circus, where many acrobats used their safety nets as a form of propulsion when preparing for their acts. Over time it was noted that trapeze artists would incorporate casual tricks into their bounces from the net, such as somersaults and twists – from where the unique act of the trampoline artist was eventually born. The man credited with evolving this routine is where the name originates – a certain Mr. Du Trampolin.

Modern Emergence Of Organized Trampolining

It’s perfectly possible that trampolining may well have developed no more than being an occasional circus sideshow had it not been for the American George Nissen, who is generally accredited with being the real father of the modern day sport. Fascinated with the athletic potential offered by the trampoline and assisted by the development of superior canvas that offered strength allied with far greater elasticity than that offered by rope stringed nets, throughout the 1930s Nissen developed the trampoline, naming and describing many tricks and routines that are still in use today.

Unlike the vast majority of garage enthusiasts, the genuine potential of Nissen’s trampoline was noticed by a number of powerful government departments, successfully marketed and rolled out in schools, gymnasiums and military training facilities across the world. By the 1960’s trampolining was recognized as a global sport with it’s own international regulatory committee, finally culminating in the adoption of the sport as a unique discipline with it’s admittance into the 2000 Olympic Games.

So despite it’s fascinating pedigree it’s fairly safe to say that the art and sport of trampolining as a modern athletic pursuits was formalized and fully developed in the USA, yet with a necessary nod to the Eskimos, English peasants and circus acrobats who played a sizable role in helping it along it’s way.

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