Having come from the most rural parts of Switzerland, this sport stopped being just the fight of shepherds and farmers a long time ago. Today Schwingen is an official national sport, it requires considerable physical training, it has a huge number of fans who love the Schwingers more than football stars. But what is Swiss wrestling, actually?
The name of the sport comes from the German word schwingen – to swing. The battle takes place on a circle-shaped arena covered with sawdust. The opponents wear shorts made of jute by which the wrestlers hold each other during the fight. The wrestler who throws the opponent on to his back so that both shoulders touch the ground is the winner of the duel. Originally only a few types of throws existed but nowadays the wrestling manual introduces about 100 throws! The essential ones are «Kurz», «Übersprung», «Brienzer», «Hüfter», «Buur», «Wyberhaagge». But don’t you think this sport breeds aggressiveness – according to the rules every battle starts and finishes with a handshake and the winner must wipe the sawdust off the loser’s back in order to show his respect.
Nobody knows exactly when the history of Schwingen began. One of the first pictures showing such type of wrestling dates back to the 13th century and can be seen in the Cathedral of Lausanne. In the 17th and 18th century martial arts develop in the regions of Emmental, Haslital and Entlebuch. In 1805 the first Schwingen tournament takes place on the Unsuppenfest and since that date the sport starts gaining national popularity. A curious fact: in the 16th and 17th centuries schwingen was prohibited! The wrestling competitions were often held on the same day with religious holidays. The authorities feared that people would stop coming to church due to schwingen and started to fine the wrestlers.
Even though Schwingen is traditionally a male sport, it stopped being “men only” in 1992 – that year Women’s Schwingen Association was founded. In fact, 30-40% of Schwingen audience are women! The most important Schwingen tournament, Eidgenössiches Schwing- und Älplerfest, takes place every three years. The winner of the festival is awarded a wreath and a lifetime title of Schwinger King. Schwingers do not receive money as prizes! They are given souvenirs such as cowbells, furniture and livestock. The best wrestlers are called Bad Guys (Die Bösen) and are greatly respected by the Swiss people.
After all, Schwingen is so much more than just two men wrestling in sawdust to show their physical power. It’s the spiritual brace of Switzerland, the tradition that raises the unity of the Swiss nation.
Fantastic brotherhood in Fantastic Switzerland!