Finger fighting is a real sport in Germany. Here's how it works


Two competitors face off in the 55th German Finger Wrestling championships on Aug. 3, 2013 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.


Philipp Guelland

In Germany, finger fighting is a real thing.

And the sport’s practitioners — big, burly mountain men — take it very seriously.

It works like this: Two men of the same age and weight sit across from each other at a wooden table and use their middle finger to pull on a leather band.

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The player who pulls their opponent across the table, like this guy, is declared the winner. 

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The tradition, known as fingerhakeln in German, is said to have started in the 17th century in the Alpine region of southern Germany and Austria as a way to settle disputes. It went something like this:

"I’m right."

"No, I’m right."

"Ok, let’s finger fight this out."

At some point men decided there were more efficient ways to resolve arguments and finger pulling was reduced to a form of entertainment.

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The 55th German Finger Wrestling Championships were held in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen last weekend.

In keeping with the spirit of the tradition, players and spectators still wear lederhosen and hats. And drink beer. 

It goes without saying that heaving a hefty mountain man across a table using nothing more than a finger is hard work. Not surprisingly, injuries such as dislocated or broken fingers are common.

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While strength and technique are important, having a fat finger is key. "You have to have a fat finger, so that the strap has a good hold," Anton Utzschneider, a finger wrestler for 38 years, was quoted as saying.

The best part of the competition, at least for the winners, is drinking beer from the trophy. 

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