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A trampoline is a device consisting of a piece of taut, strong fabric stretched between a steel frame using many coiled springs. Not all trampolines have springs, as the Springfree Trampoline uses glass-reinforced plastic rods. People bounce on trampolines for recreational and competitive purposes.
The fabric that users bounce on (commonly known as the "bounce mat" or "trampoline bed") is not elastic itself; the elasticity is provided by the springs that connect it to the frame, which store potential energy.
A game similar to trampolining was developed by the Inuit, who would toss blanket dancers into the air on a walrus skin one at a time (see Nalukataq) during a spring celebration of whale harvest. There is also some evidence of people in Europe having been tossed into the air by a number of people holding a blanket. Mak in the Wakefield Second Shepherds' Play and Sancho Panza in Don Quixote are both subjected to blanketing – however, these are clearly non-voluntary, non-recreational instances of quasi-judicial, mob-administered punishment. The trampoline-like life nets once used by firefighters to catch people jumping out of burning buildings were invented in 1887.
The 19th-century poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal refers to performance on trampoline. The device is thought to have been more like a springboard than the fabric-and-coiled-springs apparatus presently in use.
These may not be the true antecedents of the modern sport of trampolining, but indicate that the concept of bouncing off a fabric surface has been around for some time. In the early years of the 20th century, some acrobats used a "bouncing bed" on the stage to amuse audiences. The bouncing bed was a form of small trampoline covered by bedclothes, on which acrobats performed mostly comedy routines.According to circus folklore, the trampoline was supposedly first developed by an artiste named du Trampolin, who saw the possibility of using the trapeze safety net as a form of propulsion and landing device and experimented with different systems of suspension, eventually reducing the net to a practical size for separate performance. While trampoline-like devices were used for shows and in the circus, the story of du Trampolin is almost certainly apocryphal