Rhythmic Gymnastics has been traditionally considered to be women sport. However, it’s broadened its borders recently by welcoming representatives of the strong half of the mankind into the fold.
Ancestor of men’s rhythmic gymnastics is Japan. Perhaps, Japanese men saw the continuation of their national traditions in gymnastics exercise with apparatus (rope, clubs, hoop). Long before many kinds of sport developed in the world, exercises with various kinds of things, which help a Japanese man to perfect his body and spirit, were hugely popular in the country of a rising sun. Even some groups were organized where people since their early childhood were taught to develop their physical abilities – flexibility, smell and sense of touch. The most famous Japanese clan is Shinobi (ninja). People of this clan were so perfect at their body control that the ruling dynasty worried about its immunity, as a result, Shinobi were wiped out almost to the full in the middle of the 19th century.
It was the first time men have stepped on the carpet to demonstrate their art at the World Cup 1985 in Tokio. It was unusual show: young guys in tight-fitting costumes masterly curving their bodies to rhythmical music. European audience was displeased by the performance so much; they saw big difference between delicate flexibility of fragile ladies and acrobatic routine of men, throwing sticks up. The Japanese, on the contrary, were filled with admiration.
Those years sport society didn’t believe that it could result in something. Pragmatic European brains couldn’t accept the image of flexible man in tight costume. Moreover, first men’s performance showed that their skills remind of real rhythmic gymnastics only a little bit, because acrobatic elements dominated among emotions and flexibility, which are landmarks of rhythmic gymnastics.
However expert skepticism didn’t put the Japanese off developing their skills. A lot of schools all over the country were opened to gather boys for rhythmic gymnastics. Eventually methods were developed which helped to master acrobatics as well as choreography. Japanese coaches developed competition system adapted to men’s opportunities. First, tournaments were held only in sport schools, between the schools and later they achieved the international level. While the Japanese were developing this sport inside their own country, Korea and China also were interested in this idea.
Thus, slowly and surely men’s rhythmic gymnastics started conquering the world. Male gymnasts started to perform at World Cups and World Championships held in Japan. Moreover, Japan had established a special Men’s Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championship. First, representatives of Asian countries only took part in this tournament, later European and Russian gymnasts joined participation.
Today there are no general rules in men’s competition program. Apparatus that they use differ from the apparatus used by women: cane, ring, clubs and rope. And it’s not accidental, as it’s connected with Japanese tradition: cane is a pole that was used in ancient combats, ring and club are dome and dart. Rope, perhaps, the only apparatus that connects women’s and men’s rhythmic gymnastics. Obviously, these are two different kinds of competition – women’s gymnastics is more flexible, light and elegant, men’s gymnastics is athletic and martial, but still choreographically full.
International Gymnastic Federation hasn’t accepted this sport officially. However, some steps are made to “legalize” men’s rhythmic gymnastics. It was included in competitions list at the Olympic festival in Helsinki in 2009.
Men’s gymnastics is supported in Russia. And Irina Viner - head trainer of the Russian national team – is the main supporter. She took both her grandsons to rhythmic gymnastics (only one of them proceeds). Irina supposes that men’s rhythmic gymnastics has all the chances to be included in the Olympics, because it has a lot of opportunities for perfection. Moreover, Irina predicts the development of new method “Star children” according to which children from the age of 3 will go in for gymnastics, after that they will go in for rhythmic gymnastics. This method is supposed to increase the level of junior sportsmen training, because children will have one more opportunity to show who is better (girls or boys).
First Russian male gymnasts went to the World Championship in Tokio in 2005 – Aleksandr Buklov and Urii Denisov who spent 10 years for rhythmic gymnastics. Three months before the championship they started to attend rhythmic gymnastics classes held by the Japanese coach Ke Isida. Boys were going to the championship without any hope, they just wanted to watch their future competitors. However, they were coming back to their motherland with 5 medals. Aleksandr Buklov got 3 golden medals (1for individuals all-around, 2 for cane and hoop routine), one silver medal (for clubs) and one bronze medal. Urii Denisov got no medals, but he took the first place in all-around, it’s also great for the first time. Russia wasn’t represented in all-around as there were no team for competition.
This success meant that men have great opportunities, as 4 month was enough for the sportsmen to compete with those, whose training and competition experience was much more greater (12 countries took part in that World Championship).
Irina Viner reached her goal of including men’s rhythmic gymnastics to the Russian Federation Charter in 2009. Men’s rhythmic gymnastics schools are developing all over the world, there’s Event calendar for this sport. So, we can only wait only for the Olympic Games with men’s rhythmic gymnastics.
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