Schwingen – an especially Swiss sport

Painting of Schwingers

Painting of Schwingers, photo (c)S.Yates

Schwingen can be translated as ‘swinging’ and is a deeply Swiss sport, a kind of outdoor Sumo in clothes 😉 It is also known as ‘Swiss wrestling’ or ‘Hoselupf’ which translates to ‘trouser pick up’ or ‘trouser gripping/ lifting’. The earliest picture of this peculiar kind of sport can be seen in the Cathedral of Lausanne (of all places!) and dates from the 13th century. Schwingen is typical for the Deutschschweiz, the German speaking part of Switzerland. It was originally a sport amongst farmers, shepherds and other country folk, but has, since the early 19th century, also found its following amongst the town folk. Since the 19th century so-called ‘Schwing festivals’ have been held and nowadays there is even a national competion for the title of ‘Schwingerkönig’ (Schwing King).

A ‘Schwinger Kampf’ (Schwinging tournament) takes place in a circular, sawdust covered, arena with a diameter of 7-12 meters. Both participants wear short jute pants over their traditional combat outfit, long trousers and shirt. These jute pants serve as the ‘grips’ for the opponents that try to throw each other on the back. This is the aim of the game 😉 The winner has to have at least one hand on the opponents pants and both the loser’s shoulders have to touch the ground. Three referees are judging the match and are giving points depending on the kind of swings and their outcome. It is a serious sport, at least for Swiss people!

At a Schwing festival, each participants has to fight against 6-8 opponents, the two with the highest points at the end will fight against each other for the main prize in the last round. The most important Schwing festival is the ‘Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest’, a major national event that takes place only every three years and gets broadcast nationwide. Basically the whole ‘Deutschschweiz’ is sitting during this time before the TV. The overall winner of this festival is proclaimed to be the ‘Schwingerkönig’ (Schwing King) and receives as a prize a bull. Yes, a living one!

Traditionally, Schwingen has been always a male sport, but in 1992 the first female Schwingers association was founded and the Swiss ladies now also try to lay each other on the back 😉

There is no advertising, sponsoring or cash prices for the winners, but the prizes, such as livestock, cow bells, furniture and other goodies can be sold after the festival for cash! If you are in Switzerland during the ‘swinging season’ (from early summer to autumn/fall), it is a good idea to go to one of these festivals. Not only are there the fights, they are often combined with traditional music, food and drink fairs 😉

Schwinger Trainings Hut Adelboden

Schwinger Trainings Hut Adelboden (c) S.Yates

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8 comments to Schwingen – an especially Swiss sport

  • How to kiteboard

    Cool! Actually it’s my first time to hear about this Schwingen but i think it’s interesting.

    “The secret of success is constancy to purpose.”

  • hospitalera

    @How to kiteboard
    It is a very peculiar Swiss thing 😉 SY

  • How to kiteboard

    I think Schwingen is an interesting sport. I never seen it before but i think it’s nice.

    “The good way to test the experience is to commit the same mistake twice.”

  • Rob

    This sounds like a lot of fun. My brothers and I used to have similar competitions as youngsters. Major differences: Ours were indoors more often than not, and the prizes were usually broken furniture and a weekend of being grounded.

  • hospitalera

    @Rob
    Seems you and your brother were born in the wrong country! In Switzerland you could have made a career out of this ability 😉 SY

  • smith

    Nice game, I didn’t know previously about this. I would love to enjoy this game when I visit Switzerland next year.

  • hospitalera

    @smith
    Look out for it, but I doubt that they would let a “foreigner” participate, it is a very national thing 😉 SY

  • dlf

    Alpine wrestling embodies Swiss tradition. It’s a very dynamic sport and it’s an expression of Swiss identity. No other sport has boosted its image more in the past couple of years than the folkloristic “Schwingen”, also known as Swiss wrestling. Today, well-toned athletes have taken the place of the often ridiculed alpine herdsmen and overweight dairymen. The kings and wreath winners of the “Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest” are amongst the most well-known and popular personalities across all levels of society. And all this despite the fact that it is not rock music that fills the air in the add-free sawdust-arena, but the sound of traditional alphorns and yodelling.