Schwingen (from German schwingen "to swing"), also known as Swiss wrestling (French lutte Suisse) and natively (and colloquially) as Hosenlupf (Swiss German for "breeches-lifting"), is a style of folk wrestling native to Switzerland, more specifically the pre-alpine parts of German-speaking Switzerland. Wrestlers wear Schwingerhosen ("wrestling breeches") with belts that are used for taking holds. Throws and trips are common because the first person to pin his or her opponent's shoulders to the ground wins the bout.
Schwingen is considered a "national sport" of Switzerland, alongside Hornussen and Steinstossen. Schwingen and Steinstossen were included as Nationalturnen ("national gymnastics") in the Eidgenössisches Turnfest at Lausanne in 1855.
As with other types of folk wrestling, the roots of Schwingen in Switzerland cannot be determined exactly. The modern sport was institutionalized in the 19th century out of older, regional traditions.
There are records of wrestling in Switzerland from the medieval period.
Schwingen as a special form of grappling in Alpine culture can be traced to the early, 17th century. This form of grappling is preserved during the 17th and 18th century in the Emmental, Haslital and Entlebuch regions specifically. In 18th century travel literature, Schwingen figures as part of the stereotypes of Swiss alpine culture. The Entlebuch pastor Franz Josef Stalder in 1797 records a set of rules in his Fragmente über Entlebuch.
The modern history of the sport begins during the period of Mediation, with the Unspunnenfest of 1805. In the late 19th century, memorable Schwing festivals and a lively activity of educated gymnastics teachers brought Schwingen to the big cities. Thus the original fight of the herders and farmers became a national sport that reached all social levels. The associations, headed by the Eidgenössischer Schwingerverband (national federation, founded 1895), organized the sport by integrating regional peculiarities, improving the abilities of the fighters with teaching books and practices, and creating modern tournament rules.
The match takes place in a ring, a circular area with a diameter of 12 meters that is covered with sawdust.
The match is judged by three referees, one of whom stands in the ring. The referees give points, with a maximum of ten points for a winning throw. If the match ends without a clear win, the more active Schwinger is awarded the higher number of points.
At a Schwing festival, every Schwinger wrestles six opponents, or eight at the Eidgenössische.
There are no weight classes nor any other categories.
Regional and cantonal Schwing festivals are held outdoors, between early summer and autumn.
The most important Schwing festival is the Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest, which takes place every three years. The winner of this tournament is proclaimed Schwingerkönig and receives a bull as his prize.
A list of Eidgenössische tournaments with Schwingerkönig:
- 2019 (23-25 August), Zug: Christian Stucki
- 2016 (26-28 August), Broye District: Matthias Glarner
- 2013 (1. September), Burgdorf, Switzerland: Matthias Sempach
- 2010 (20–22 August), Frauenfeld: Kilian Wenger
- 2007 (24–26 August), Aarau: Jörg Abderhalden
- 2004 (20–22 August), Lucerne: Jörg Abderhalden
- 2001 Arnold Forrer
- 1998 Jörg Abderhalden
- 1995 Thomas Sutter
- 1992 Silvio Rüfenacht
- 1989 Adrian Käser
- 1986 Harry Knüsel
- 1983 Ernst Schläpfer
- 1980 Ernst Schläpfer
- 1977 Arnold Ehrensberger
- 1974 Rudolf Hunsperger
- 1972 David Roschi
Traditionally, Schwingen is a male sport.
Members of a pure Schwingen club are called Sennenschwinger and wear dark trousers and a colored shirt, usually bright blue. Members of a broader sports club with a Schwingen section are called Turnerschwinger, and wear white pants and a white T-shirt.
Advertising and sponsoring are shunned at Schwingen.
The best Schwingers at a festival are awarded a wreath.
A winner of the Eidgenössische is given the lifetime title of Schwingerkönig (Schwinger king), which includes some privileges such as being a guest of honor at every Eidgenössische.