Tumbling is a form of gymnastics which is performed without the assistance of props; you may also hear it referred to as floor gymnastics. Like other forms of gymnastics, tumbling requires immense physical strength, flexibility, and stamina, and tumblers typically endure grueling training programs to condition themselves. Several forms of tumbling are considered Olympic sports, and these events are often quite popular with spectators.
The history of tumbling is ancient. The Ancient Greeks certainly performed several forms of tumbling, valuing physical fitness and demonstrations of skill, as did the Romans. With the rise of Christianity, tumbling may have faded briefly from the public eye, due to changing views about the human body, but it never vanished entirely.
Medieval tumblers performed during plays, as part of circuses, and on their own, and tumblers were also popular in the courts of many royal figures. Along with clowns and other entertainers, tumblers brightened royal courts, and some even became favored figures at court, bedecked in fine garments and jewelry when they weren't performing. In the 1800s, tumbling experienced a resurgence, along with a variety of other sports, thanks to the natural hygiene movement, and by the time tumbling became an Olympic sport, it had become widely accepted in society.
Tumblers flip, roll, jump, perform somersaults, and demonstrate handsprings during their routine. Most tumblers have extremely dynamic routines, propelling themselves across the mat with the force of inertia, and routines are commonly coordinated to music to make them into artistic performances as well as demonstrations of physical skill. Tumbling today is typically performed on specially designed mats which provide firm support to the tumblers.
People who want to become tumblers typically start early, as the groundwork for physical prowess in gymnastics is laid early. While older people can take up tumbling, they may never be as limber and skilled as younger tumblers. Tumbling performances can be seen at the Olympics and many sports events; cheerleaders often demonstrate tumbling as part of their floor routine, for example.
Tumblers can also be hired for public events, along with other acrobats and people trained in the circus arts. Some people like to include circus arts demonstrations at events to keep them interesting and engaging, and to give attendees something to focus on.