Not many of you non-Swiss will have heard about “Schwingen”. It`s one of the three Swiss National Sports and first records of the typical gripping technique date back to the 13th Century. It´s an interesting martial art to watch as two opponents face off in a ring of sawdust and the goal is to wrestle the opponent onto his back while having a firm grip on his wrestling pants. Needless to say my camera needed a good cleanse after this shoot.
Once again this Warriors shot has quite some importance to me. I went to Switzerland to visit family & friends in June this year but after one week my right lung collapsed and I found myself in hospital for 1 months plus I was not allowed to fly back to Australia for another three months after the operation. But it just so happened that the biggest Swiss Sports event – the Swiss Schwingen and Alpine Festival – was happening end of August. Due to the event, Schwingen was all over the news and I thought to myself – hold on a second, if there is a Swiss martial art and I´m stuck here anyway, I might as well include it in my Warriors Series. So about one month after my operation I went to watch and photograph a Schwingen training in Basel. Training takes place in a Schwingen-cellar as they need quite a big pit of sawdust to train in. Whoever walks in, shakes hands with whoever is there which already says a lot about the “etiquette” of this very grounded sport. Fellowship is very important. I thought the guys that walked in were huge but I was told they are actually quite small and light compared to the big guys (small and light meaning about 1m85 and +-90/100kg). There are no weight groups in this martial art so it makes sense that bigger and heavier does have some advantage. And then training begins and saw dust flies everywhere. On some of the training shots it looks like they are literally at war – or at least in a whole lot of pain. But even though it is quite a full on sport, they are very considerate and there is no aggressiveness at all. There is the odd swear word here and there but everyone is friendly, they are training together and having loads of fun.
The actual shoot was a bit of a challenge as there are heaps of techniques in Schwingen and they are not as apparent to the eye as a neat Kendo technique. My BJJ background helped me to understand and Michi Henzer was very patient and explaining as best he could. But most of the time I just asked them to show me the technique first, and then we did it again for camera. The main shoot was done after 1hour of training so I knew that the guys would not have hours of energy left. Plus one of the guys that was supposed to be in the shoot injured himself during training. Lucky for me that Florian jumped in. Once I had the lighting set the biggest challenge was picking the focal length. In the end I settled for a mix of 35mm and my 50mm fixed lens. Hitting the shutter at the exact right moment was crucial in this one and I am very happy with the few shots where everything came together.