|Originally, the Swiss mountain farmers, the "Sennen",
measured their strength and skills by a traditional kind of wrestling called "Schwingen".Later these "Sennen" were joined by tough and limber wrestlers from the Gymnastic clubs.
Today, we still recognize the "Sennenschwinger" at the competitions by their light blue milk shirts and dark grey farmer trousers, and the "Turnerschwinger" bytheir white dress. During the competition, the opponents are paired off by the judge's estimation of equivalent talent and size - there are no weight class divisions. Each round is normally five minutes long. The wrestlers put on their knee-length cloth trousers, tighten their beltsand roll up their pants legs. Then they go into a circular ring 30 feet in diameter called the "Platz", covered with wood shavings, and assume the start position for wrestling.
Swiss style wrestling
is considered to be one of the oldest sports. From history, we know that in early Greece long before the time of Christ there were wrestling competitions to test the capabilities of individuals. How and when Swiss Style wrestling came to Switzerland is not known. We do know that there have been Schwingfest (Swiss Style wrestling matches) in the valleys of the Berner Oberland, Emmenthal, Entlebuch and in Central Switzerland for hundreds of years. And wherever there is Swiss Style Wrestling, (Schwingen) , there are bound to be a larger number of Swiss in attendance to this day. It is easily understandable why the Schwingen started in the Mountain Valleys: the Sennen were pretty much in the their own element and enjoyed determining who was the strongest within a group of mountain farmers.
From these simple wrestling matches Schwingen evolved with its many traditional holds, moves and rules. Even today several of the moves have names from their points of origin such as "the Brienzer". Historical Schwingfest locations like Napf, Luedern, Rigi, Bruenig are still utilized.
The famous Easter Monday
Schwingfests in Bern began around 1750, and the best wrestlers from the Emmenthal, Oberland, Entlebuch and Central Switzerland (Innerschweiz) came to participate in these interesting matches to determine the champion : historical notes have given us insight into the importance of these matches.
Two historical Schwingfests occurred in the years 1805 and 1808 in Unspunnen by Interlaken. Representatives of foreign governments, kings, queens, writers and all types of important people were invited to participate in these celebrations of nascent Swiss nationalism, and they became a cornerstone of Switzerland's independence.
The use of the 167 Pfund (367.4 Pound) Unspunnenstein (Rock)
still used at all Eidgenoessischen Schwing- and Aelpler-fests dates from these festivals.
In the year 1864, the first Swiss Style Wrestling teaching book was published. With this book, the Turners (Gymnasts) in the flat lands of Switzerland began to participate in the National sport. Soon the Turners were as proficient as the Sennen (Farmers). Without a doubt, Swiss style wrestling has benefited from this expansion.
When a wrestler exhibits outstanding sportsmanship coupled with technical knowledge of the many moves, tricks and defenses of the sport, the crowd responds enthusiastically. It is the responsibility of each wrestler as a representative of one of the oldest and most loved national games to act in a sportsmanlike manner with regards to all aspects of traditional clothing and competitive behavior.
For Swiss style wrestling it is 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 shirts ( but not "too" colorful ) . Wrestlers with the gymnast background, called "Turner", wear their traditional white gymnastic pants and white T-shirts. At the beginning of the match, the wrestlers shake hands as a sign that they will fight a fair and friendly match.The wrestling pant belt is to be closed with the belt fastened, and the bottom of the pants rolled up. The starting position grips are taken in the following order. First each wrestler places his right hand on the small of the back of his opponent : only the thumb, index finger and middle finger may hold on to the material of the traditional clothing, however the entire hand has to be in the rear cutout of the opponent's belt. 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, but as mentioned before the fabric must be held with the fingers throught the bout.
In this 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 opponent to obtain the proper grips.
After both wrestlers have achieved the proper position, the referee announces "Gut", (Good) or "wrestle" and the wrestling begins. Each time wrestling is stopped ( for instance, when one is forced out of the "Platz"), the wrestlers must return to this starting position.When one of the contestants pins the other on his back, he is the victor.