Monday, May 28, 2012

Oberaargauisch Schwingfeste

At 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, Rudy Bohren whisked me away to the booming metropolis of Koppigen to experience my first . . .


This is the very intense sport of Swiss wrestling that has its roots, as do most things in Switzerland, in the ancient Alpine farming and dairy industries.

This particular competition brought together the best Schwingeners from all over the canton of Bern as well as a few elite athletes from Schwingen clubs based in other Swiss cantons.

The prizes to the winners were of interest as instead of cash, almost every prize had something to do with life on a dairy farm.

Many of these prizes are on display here 

"If you can't find a partner,
use a wooden chair . . ."

I would be happy to win a huge wheel of
Mammut Cheese 

Of course, every farm could use

No, you don't win a picture of a cow,
you can win the real cow!

Other early arrivals getting some
much needed nourishment 

I opted for a special blend,
"Schwingerkaffe mit Amaretto" 

And SO good for me too!

This Milk Maid was passing out
free hats courtesy of Migros

Now, THAT'S a GREAT referee's outfit

Very natty attire indeed!

Milk Concession Stand

When was the last time you bought a glass of milk at a sporting event? I could not remember either, but I had one today from this stand when it opened. It was cold and quite good.

Later I would return for a great strawberry milkshake.

Or two.

Today's Schwingen Arena
up close

Of course it was in a cow pasture that had been groomed for the event. It was a great setting on a warm Spring day that was perfect for a little Schwingening.

This is the cow herd that was displaced
from its home pasture temporarily 

On the stump before the action starts 

Five Rings of Action

Two wrestlers at a time in each ring all day long. The rings are made out of fresh sawdust about one foot deep.

Alpine Yodelers

This is about as close to the National Anthem as the Swiss get to start a sporting event.

Time for some action!

The Starting Position 

The rules are fairly simple, the scoring system is not.

First, each wrestler must don a pair of special Schwingen wrestling shorts like you see here.

Then, both wrestlers must get their grip. This consists of the right hand gripping the back of the Schwingen shorts and the left hand grasping the legs of the opponent's shorts.

Once gripped properly, the wrestlers must both bring their backs parallel to the ground.

After all this happens, the sharp dressed referee gives them the command to start.

Hip Roll 

A match lasts six minutes unless there is a pin. A pin means that both of the opponent's shoulders touch the sawdust at the same time for the briefest of moments.

If he slams the opponent's shoulders down, the winner gets 10 points. If he rolls the opponent's shoulders over to the sawdust the winner earns only 9.75 points. In order to get an official pin, at least one of your hands has to still be gripping the opponent's Schwingen shorts.

If the bout goes the full six minutes, then both competitors are awarded points by the judges based on how hard they wrestled.

If you get pinned, maybe you can still earn some points but I'm not sure.

One other key rule, THERE ARE NO WEIGHT CLASSES!!!  That can become a real issue as the competition wears on.

All for one and one for all!

Air Born!

Every wrestler gets three bouts before the one hour lunch break. During that respite, the judges total up and re-check all of the points that each wrestler earned. The lower scoring 20% appoximately are excused from further competition. The remaining wrestlers then get two more afternoon bouts before partying until the wee hours of the morning.

Leg Lock

 Possible 10 Point Pin Slam

Uniforms are just everday working clothes 

Possible 9.75 Point Pin Roll

Taste good? 

Is that a punch below the belt?

Two BIG Boys 

Richter Scale Time 

I hope that's mud

They are in a cow pasture after all.

Cleaning the ring

After every few matches, workers come out to rake the ring or, like this fellow, sweep some sawdust off of the grass and back onto the ring.

What do you do with him now?

On the left is Christian Stucki

He is one of the premier Schwingen wrestlers in all of Switzerland and a GIANT of a man!

How did the Calanda Broncos miss signing him?

Stucki's smaller opponent is in trouble


Parading of the livestock prizes 

No, not the two Heidi Look-Alike Contest winners in the front, I mean that black and white cow behind them as well as . . .

This horse and two more cows 

Again, this sport has deep farming roots but nothing says that if you win livestock, or anything else for that matter, that you can't turn around and sell it for some quick cash.


Lilting music during
the mid-morning action

The Post-Pin Brush Off 

A tradition in Schwingen is that if you do pin an opponent, you must wipe the sawdust off of his back as soon as possible.

Sawdust Flying

Don't get on this referee's wrong side

Looks like he could still wrestle a few bouts without any problem to me.

I wonder if he would someday like to play in the OL for the Tigers?

Ten points on the horizon 

Head Stand

Swiss Milk Maids

Watch that knee!

Close your mouth! 

The team flag of the
sponsoring Schwingen Club 

Stucki the Giant at it again

I hope that sawdust is deep enough

Mid-Afternoon Parade

You HAVE to have a marching band

More Milk Maids 

Cool watering hole for the competitors 

Oh God, we're doing "The Wave"


Besides wanting to see Schwingen in general, I also was there to root for Rudy who is both the Tigers' Team President and the energizing soul of the team as a player.

Rudy donning the Schwingen shorts 

Rudy is 31 years old and considers himself old for Schwingen, since I am going to turn 65 in July, I felt like a museum piece. 

Given his age, Rudy stated that his goal today was simply to do well enough in the morning session to earn the two extra bouts in the afternnon.

Rudy's opponent looks young and big . . .

 But Rudy is a crafty veteran

Rudy by a PIN!!!

 Rudy brushing off his victim's back

Uh-Oh Rudy vs. another veteran wrestler

They battled to a draw

Our Warrior 

Rudy doing some heavy lifting

Rudy lifting and . . .


A good way to dislocate
a shoulder on landing

On the day, Rudy won two matches and tied two others after suffering a defeat in his first match. His goal of wrestling five times had been met but he was not happy with his performance.

Great Warriors rarely are.

As I said earlier, the post game festivities would last until 2:00 a.m. according to Rudy. I thus opted to take the bus and train combo back to Thun to get some rest before the U-19s game Sunday afternoon.

As I walked to the bus stop only a few hundred yards from the Schwingen stadioum, I discovered another poosible . . .

New car to buy when
I get back to California

It's a Qi, straight from "Words with Friends."

Sleek and it comes with a
Smiley Face

I also came across more wood pile art
for David Hicks' perusal

I don't think that she is a big Schwingen fan



David said...

Proving that it's like they slways say: It don't mean a thingin' if it ain't got that Schwingen.

Laurie said...

Oh, David . . .

George said...

David, David, David . . .

Ian Murphy said...

Schwingen Low Sweet Chariot (and by Sweet Chariot I mean that awesome "car").

David said...

By the way, how in the world do people transport their alphorns?

George said...

Actually the lead alphorn player was on the bus home with me. His alphorn unscrews into about 5 sections I would guess and fits nicely into a special, slightly oversized backpack he was carrying. I was surprised at how small the backpack was.