Long ago, gymnastics was very different from what we know today. Gymnastics comes from the Greek prefix “gymno- or gymn-” which means, “to be naked”. The Greeks used gymnastics for entertainment, performing naked. When the Romans conquered Greece, they took over the sport. They used it for its functional uses. The used the wooden horses to practice the quick mounting and dismounting of their actual horses during battle. Which later became the men’s event that we know today as pommel horse. Awhile later, Roman Emperor Theodosius banned the sport. It was not seen or used again until the late eighteenth century.
Friedrich Ludwig Jahn is credited with starting gymnastics clubs in the late 1700s. Another physical educator, Johann Friedrich GutsMuths, influenced Jahn. Johann had been studying ancient gymnastics, and was interested in bringing it back and improving it to be compatible with the (then-current) culture. Jahn's contributions to gymnastics that we are familiar with today include the balance beam (a women’s only event, parallel bars (now known as the uneven parallel bars a women’s only event) and horizontal/high bar (a men’s only event).
In 1881 the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) was formed, later was renamed “Bureau of the European Gymnastics Federation”. This organization pioneered the international competition. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) was formed in United States in 1883. Along with other amateur sports in United States, this organization took over the control of gymnastics in the U.S. and "championships" started to develop by various clubs and organizations at about the same time during 1880s.
The first “large-scale” competition was the 1896 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Germany had been the dominant team sweeping almost every medal. Only five countries participated in the gymnastics portion. The first international event following the 1896 Olympics was held in 1903 in...