How Bavarians and Austrians use their middle finger – Fingerhakeln: a men-only sport (did Arnold Schwarzenegger start training this way?)

It is quite likely that the International Olympic Committee were rather confused when they learned that the number of Germans (especially in the South) watching the Olympic closing ceremony was considerably lower than they had predictedWell I have to say it was pretty short-sighted of the Olympic organisers to schedule their closing ceremony to coincide with one of the cultural and sporting highlights of the Alpine calendar. On Sunday 12th August 2012 the Bavarian Championship in Fingerhakeln (Sports involving your Middle Finger) took place in the town of Lenggries, Upper Bavaria.

In case you are not familiar with middle finger wrestling let me explain what this major Alpine sporting event involves. Two gentlemen in traditional Alpine dress (Lederhosen and Alpine felt hat) sit facing one another over a table. The manner in which the table is attached to the floor is specified in the rules for the sport. A line is drawn in the middle of the table and the two gentlemen insert their middle fingers (one each) into a leather ring.

The objective of the sport is to pull your opponent over the table using only your middle finger. Perhaps the best way for me to describe the wild excitement which accompanies these events is by sharing a couple of videos with you. Please, however, be warned: there is a lot of blood and some of the spectators can get a bit carried away with their passion for the sport.

Video 1 from Bavaria (Local Fingerhakeln event in Bavarian Schnaitsee)

Video 2 from St. Koloman near Salzburg (Alpine International Championships in Austria featuring Josef Utzschneider from Bavaria – Heavy Weight Alpine Fingerhakeln Champion 2011. If you learned Hochdeutsch at school now is the chance to test it! )

For such an important sport there are some very precise rules. The leather ring is clearly defined and the only material the Alpine wrestlers can use on their hands is magnesium powder which facilitates finger grip. It is also laid down in the rules how the opponents can brace themselves against the table to try to resist being pulled over it. The two people standing behind the ‘Haklers‘ are there to help them when they fall backwards. The man in the middle is the referee and ensures the leather ring is exactly in the centre of the table before allowing the bout to commence.

The sport has an interesting history. Originally Finger Hakeln was introduced as a way of settling local disputes. If two farmers felt strong affection for the same lady they could determine who is the most appropriate partner by finger wrestling. This may explain why the idea of ladies participating in the sport is for Alpine gentlemen a strict no-no. Maybe we need to bring Nicola Adams over to the Alps to show them a thing or two about how Yorkshire ladies perform in the big ring. I certainly wouldn’t advise an Alpine gentleman to try to challenge this lady to a friendly bout with his middle finger.

A historical understanding of the origins of finger wrestling throws light on that quaint custom in the Alps of raising one’s middle finger when one is angry with someone. Traditionally this was a way of inviting the opposing person to a finger hakeln bout in order to settle the issue in a gentlemanly way. Therefore my advice to visitors is to use the raised middle finger gesture sparingly when travelling through this region (and if you are considering using the gesture it would be advisable to do some weight training with the finger in question – this is one of the ways that the local champions train).

As far as I am aware there have been no instances of doping in Finger Hakeln apart from the consumption of copious quantities of beer, which in Bavaria is considered to be a form of nutrition (if you would like to read more about german beer and its history please see my article on this subject by clicking here). Middle finger wrestling is a ‘clean’ sport (apart from the blood, magnesium and occasionally some spilled beer). It would make an ideal candidate for future olympics. In fact the Munich Beer Festival (Oktoberfest) would make an excellent permanent venue for the Finger Hakeln Olympics. If you are considering visiting the Oktoberfest and you see men in felt hats and lederhosen with their middle fingers inserted into their rings it would not be a bad idea to be friendly and offer them a beer! Certainly do not show them your middle finger! They are probably training for the Finger Hakeln Olympics

Happy Finger Hakeln,

Chris Duggleby

If you are interested in reading my other health focused articles try the following

Torture In The Shower – Face and Body Soap Allergies – Main Suspect: Pears Transparent Soap

Poison in your Washing Machine: Allergic Contact Dermatitis from Laundry Detergents, Softeners, Conditioners and Whiteners

Is Alzheimer’s caused by the Gum Disease Bacterium P. Gingivalis – A Dementia Prevention/Treatment Breakthrough?

Toxic Chemicals in Sex Toys – 18 Vibrators, Cock Rings, Love Balls Tested – Only 3 Get All Clear

My T-shirt Made Me Sick – Textile Allergies – Sinusitis From Your Underwear

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