The Evolution of Competitive Arm Wrestling
The modern rituals for the sport were formalized in 1962.
Though it may seem like something drunk guys do at bars or children do on the playground, arm wrestling dates back as far as ancient Egypt. Though modern rituals were formalized in 1962 with the founding of the World’s Wristwrestling Championship, there are tomb paintings that depict a primitive form of the game.
The sport is “competitive and technical” writes Narratively in a new profile about the game and one team, the High Rollers. The High Rollers are trying to show people the sport is real, and it is not just for “stereotypical strongmen” either. There are weight classes, prizes and titles, and it is slowly gaining mainstream exposure with the reality TV show “Game of Arms” airing on the AMC network.
There are tight-knight arm-wrestling communities in places like Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Narratively writes that every Wednesday at 6 pm, in a small gym in East Springfield, competitors grunt and laugh as they listen to hip-hop music and give each other feedback on their technique.
The High Rollers is made up of teammates ranging in age from 26 to 56. The team is made up of small business owners, a social worker, a brewery chef and a retired grocery store manager. Arm wrestling is a one-on-one sport though, so teams are formed primarily for practice.
There are three main arm-wrestling techniques, Narratively explains: The “top-roll,” “hook” and “press.” Main factors are body size, specific areas of strength, and intuition on what your opponent is going to do. Arm wrestling requires confidence and determination.
Mike Barrett, a retired grocery store manager and avid outdoorsman, told Narratively that he first competed back in the early ’90s. In 2016, he saw a flyer for a tournament, met the High Rollers, and started practicing with them. He sees the sport as a great mixture of personal competitiveness and club mentality, but also, as a way to stay healthy.
“I’ve got multiple sclerosis, and arm wrestling just keeps me active,” he says. “It forces me to go to the gym, to stay in shape. It keeps me moving and motivated to fight my disease.”
Read the full Narratively piece for more about each player and the evolution of arm wrestling.
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