Finger wrestling, or “fingerhakeln”, used to be the way the men of Bavaria settled disputes back in the 17th century, but now it’s just an obscure sport that draws hundreds of strong men to the German region, for the annual Finger Wrestling Championship.
Now, I knew about thumb wrestling and toe wrestling, but I was totally oblivious to finger wrestling. That’s probably because it never caught on outside Bavaria, but the men there take it so seriously they even have a championship to determine which one has the strongest middle finger. The 35th edition of the annual Finger Wrestling Championship was held in Schnaitsee, Chiemgau, right in the heart of Bavaria, and brought together 156 competitors ready to snap their fingers for the title of champion.
The rules of finger wrestling are pretty simple. Two contestants, usually men, sit on opposite sides of a wooden table and thread one of their fingers into a strap. Once in position, they wait for the referee’s signal to pull with all their strength, hoping to pull the other person across the table and win the match. They can only use one of their fingers and most prefer the middle one, because of its size and strength. Although it seems like a silly game, contestants train hard to prepare their fingers for the annual event. Some prefer to squeeze tennis balls, while other choose to sustain their whole body weight with one finger, or do a crazy number of single-finger press-ups.
In the 2012 edition of the Bavarian Finger Wrestling Championship, contestants participated in nine different categories, dressed in Leiderhosen, the national dress of Germany. Like in most other competitive sports, it was the heavyweight category match-ups that sparked the interest of the over 400 spectators present in Schnaitsee. It was Josef Utzschneider, from Werdenfels, in southern Germany, who had the strongest finger this year, with Andreas Lindenthaler finishing as runner up.