Understanding Schwingen

Schwingen is a typical Swiss sport and is a form of wrestling, if you have ever watch it you will probably have recognised some similarities with Sumo Wrestling or Judo. Basically the match takes place in a ring, a circular area with a diameter of 12 meters that is covered with sawdust. two big men (usually over 1m80 and weighing in excess of 100 kilos) will grasps each other by the belt of their jute shorts (which they wear over their clothing) and try to topple their opponent over. There are several main throws, with names like “kurz”, “übersprung” and “wyberhaagge”. The winner is the person who manages to get their opponent to fall onto their back and have both shoulders touch the ground, whilst keeping ahold of the belt with at least one hand. By tradition the winner brushes the sawdust off the loser’s back after the match.

Although this may sound relatively simple a lot of practice and strategy as well as pure brute force is needed for being any good at this sport. It usually is practiced by people who are in jobs that require a lot of strength like lumberjacks, farmers, carpenters etc…

There are records dating back to the 13th century mentioning wrestling competitions in the area, and schwinger illustrations are found in the whole region fron the 17th century onwards.

At a Schwing festival, every Schwinger wrestles six opponents, or eight at the Eidgenössische. The two Schwingers with the highest number of points after five (seven at the Eidgenössische) matches get to the Schlussgang (last round). The matching of the Schwingers is done by the fight court according to arcane rules.

Tournaments take place through out the summer and this week-end the Nordwestschweizer Schwingen Tournament will be taking place in Jonen, Argau.

The festival will begin tonight with a concert, tomorrow there will be a Schwinger demonstration and a friendly musical party tomorrow night, but the proper competition will begin on Sunday. If you are can get up early enough you can have a Schwinger breakfast at 6 a.m. the tournament will begin at 8.30 and continue throughout the day with the closing ceremony taking place at 17.30. The full programme is here.

Tickets for the tournament on Sunday begin at CHF 20.- and you can buy yours here and you can find directions to go there here.

A schwingen tournament wouldn’t be complete without traditional music, costumes, food & drinks. So if you feel like having a total immersion experience into traditional Swiss Alpine culture you know where to go this week-end.


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