Schwingen wrestling festivals
Originally, the Swiss mountain farmers, the "Sennen", measured their strength and skills by a traditional kind of wrestling called "Schwingen" (swings). Later, these "Sennen" were joined by tough and limber wrestlers - Turners (Gymnasts) from the flat lands of Switzerland. Until now the two styles are recognized -- the "Sennenschwinger" and the "Turnerschwinger" which probably distinct just by clothing color.
Traditionally, opponents are paired off by the judge's estimation of equivalent talent and size - there are no weight class divisions (so a strong woman may be paired with a smaller of younger guy). Each round is normally five minutes long. The wrestlers put on special knee-length cloth trousers, tighten their belts and roll up their pants legs. Then they go into a circular ring 30 feet (9m) in diameter called the "Platz" (square) covered with wood shavings, and assume the start position for wrestling. The start position is very important component of schwingen – nobody can start wrestling until the proper standing position has been set up and approved by a referee.
In the starting position the weight has to be evenly distributed on both legs to insure that neither wrestler has an advantage. Each participant must allow enough room for his or her opponent to obtain the proper grips. The starting position grips are taken in the following order. First, each wrestler places his or her right hand on the small of the back of his or her opponent and grips the belt where it exposes in the rear cutout of the trousers. Next, the left hand grips the bottom of the rolled up left pant leg. The thumb may not be "rolled up" into the material to help with gripping. According to the rules the fabric must be held with the fingers throughout the bout.
After both wrestlers have achieved the proper position, the referee announces "Gut", (Good) or "wrestle" and the wrestling begins. Wrestlers hold each other by the pants and the belt making swinging moves in attempts forcing the opponent to lose his or her balance. Each time wrestling is stopped (for instance, when one is forced out of the "Platz"), the wrestlers must return to this starting position. The contestant who pins the other on his or her back is considered as the victor.
Wrestling uniform is very important feature of Swiss style wrestling – it's recommended that the wrestlers wear proper clothing that is both clean and presentable. Individuals with the farm background, called "Senn", are expected to wear dark pants with colored (usually light-blue) shirts (but not "too" colorful). Wrestlers with the gymnast background, called "Turner", wear their traditional white gymnastic pants and white T-shirts. The belt tucked into the wrestling pants, is to be closed with the belt fastened, and the bottom of the pants rolled up. At the beginning of the match, the wrestlers shake hands as a sign that they will wrestle a fair and friendly match.
Swiss style wrestling is considered to be one of the oldest sports styles. How and when Swiss Style wrestling came to Switzerland is not known. It's known though that there have been Schwingfest (Swiss Style wrestling festivals) in the valleys of the Berner Oberland, Emmenthal, Entlebuch and in Central Switzerland for hundreds of years. The sport is exceptionally popular among Swiss people, so big crowds gather wherever Schwingen competitions occur. It is easily understandable why the Schwingen started in the Mountain Valleys: the Sennen were pretty much isolated and enjoyed determining who was the strongest within a group of mountain farmers. When a wrestler exhibits outstanding strength coupled with technical knowledge of many techniques, the crowd responds enthusiastically.
“Swiss-style wrestling is a typically Swiss sport, and has its origins in alpine culture,” explains Remy Lambelet, vice-president of the "Nyon 2001" organizing committee and president of canton Vaud’s Wrestling Association. “It is only practiced in Switzerland or by Swiss living abroad,” he said. In fact, wrestlers are coming to Nyon from as far away as the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
Traditionally, schwingen was practiced by big farm or shepherd boys, but nowadays, participants come from all walks of life. And while most of them are sturdy guys and girls, size is not everything. Technique is just as important as pure strength. Tremendous number of girls and women enjoy practicing this form of wrestling quite matching women's anatomy and physiology. Wrestling festivals are held all over Switzerland, especially in the German speaking cantons. Hundreds women gather to the festivals in order to test and demonstrate their strength, skills, bravado and beauty against other women (and sometimes against guys). Participation of numerous females has made schwingen more spectacular, attractive and exciting.
The Swiss wrestling Schwingen is definitely the most mass folk female combat style.
The following sources have been used for assembling this material:
Eidgenossischer Frauen-schwingverband (German - Friendly female swing wrestling)
Tandem-paragliding Photos were taken on June 6, 2004.
Schwingfest & Ranglisten
Girls in training. Videoclip