Sports events that take place in bars include wet t-shirt contests, women’s mud wrestling, chug-a-lug contests, belch offs and arm wrestling. What makes them different from normal sports is their spirit of bawdy, drunken democracy. Anyone can join in.
Arm wrestling has long been a favorite way for men to match strength since big muscles came into vogue at the turn of the century, but until fairly recently, it was sheer anarchy with the guys going against each other anytime, hell-bent on destroying each other or at least trying to break an opponent’s arm. There is no regard for rules, sportsmanship or the other namby-pamby moral implications of the game.
A man can come into a bar, sit and drink like a gentleman, and the minute he starts getting in his cups, here comes the challenge, “Let’s arm wrestle!”
Now there is a higher standard. The American Arm Wrestling Association sponsors matches in the swankiest casinos in Las Vegas. They even have a team of chiropractic and medical doctors on hand for injuries.
While not yet as refined as golf, bowling, or even semi-pro tobacco spitting, the arm wrestling association is trying to find some respect.
Like chess, it demands such concentration that it sucks a contestant dry. Whereas chess players use brains in putting their opponent in check, arm wrestlers must use muscle to achieve their goal of defeating an opponent and in neither sport do brains or muscle alone make the winners. The winners are the ones who have mastered the psychological edge that it takes to beat their opponents. Which in arm wrestling is to force the other guy’s arm down on the table before he forces your own arm down.
To gain an edge, arm wrestlers make themselves as repugnant as possible. They may grow a Fu-Man-Chu mustache or shave their heads or perhaps grow a full beard. Or they may adopt a fearsome nickname such as the Hulbert Maniac or Bonecrusher. They might drool, bark or even go so far as to start speaking in tongues as they approach the table where the match occurs.
Bill “the animal” Brewski is said to drink motor oil straight from the can and eat fistfuls of live cockroaches to gather his superhuman strength. Most competitors are manual laborers with huge arms, the kind of man who uses Lava and Borax to get their hands clean after work, the kind of man who will order beer by the pitcher when he’s drinking by himself.
But good technique will beat raw strength any time, aside from the psychological games already mentioned. Good technique means knowing how to curl an opponent’s wrist after “lock up” (the initial coupling of hands with the first thumb knuckle visible). This way the opponent is not ready for a surprise slam. One slim kid that I knew from Hobbs, New Mexico used this tactic. He would stand stock still after lock up, offering only enough resistance to stay motionless, all the while pumping blood into his arm readying himself for the kill while his opponent grunted and strained and generally exhausted himself.
There are two ways to arm wrestle, standing up and sitting down. AAA rules specify that when standing, a contestant must keep one foot on the floor at all times (the other may be wrapped around a table leg), and it is a foul to use any other part of the body other than the forearm to try to pin an opponent. During a seated match kicking under the table is forbidden, and you are required to keep one buttock in contact with the seat at all times. competitions take place in weight categories that range from 0-135 pounds to 242 pounds and over for men, while the women go in the 0-120 and 140 pounds and over.
Arm wrestlers are looking at the sport being in the International Olympic games soon.
written by Bob Briggs