Arm wrestling in Winnipeg

To many people, the idea of arm wrestling conjures images of smoke-filled bars, muscular men and beer-fueled rivalry. Though arm wrestling still happens in this context — well, the men and beer part anyway — there is actually a much more organized arm wrestling network in Winnipeg and around the world.

Brian Kehler, vice-president of the Manitoba Arm Wrestling Association (MAWA) and one of Manitoba’s current number one ranked arm wrestlers, elaborates on this distinction: “People who have never seen the sport realize that there’s a difference between competition level arm wrestling and the bar kind. Everyone knows someone who’s ‘never lost a match,’ but if that guy shows up to a tournament, they likely won’t even win a match.”

Boasting close to 100 active pullers, MAWA runs eight tournaments a year at various venues such as festivals, gyms and expos. A handful of Winnipeg pullers are women who are national and world champions. The low number of female arm wrestlers in Canada and North America is drastically different from the scene in Europe, where Kehler claims there is much more extensive female involvement. He speculates this may be due to arm wrestling’s popularity abroad.

Preparation for competitions involves holding regular practices where participants get together to work on techniques, moves and transitions. “The days of just showing up to a competition and not training are gone. It’s a very serious sport — not the stereotypical bar room image that most people associate with it,” says Kehler. In addition to practices, pullers must strength train as well. This involves working on shoulder stability as well as hand and wrist strength. Kehler stresses that the mental aspects of arm wrestling also cannot be ignored. “It takes a lot of focus and very quick reaction time, as most matches only last a split second.”

There are a many exciting arm wrestling events happening over the next year. In May, the 2010 Manitoba Provincial Championships will be held in Winnipeg as well as the 2010 Canadian National Championships. The Nationals are expected to draw around 500 participants. Following the Nationals, MAWA will be preparing to send a very strong Team Canada to the World Championships in Las Vegas.

Kehler asserts that the camaraderie and close-knit community of arm wrestlers is one of the reasons he likes the sport so much. He also says fellow arm wrestlers are always willing to help you improve as an athlete. “I was ‘that guy’ when I showed up to my first tournament ever, and I lost. I started practicing and training regularly and it took a while, but the hard work made a difference.”

Another appealing aspect of arm wrestling is that young and old people can participate in it. “Unlike other sports, most people don’t peak in arm wrestling until their 30s and 40s, provided they haven’t had any serious injuries. Some of the best arm wrestlers in North America are 40-50 years old.”

This makes arm wrestling appealing to almost anyone. “It really is a sport that anyone can enjoy and take part in whether you aspire to be a world champion, or just win a local tournament. Newcomers are always welcome,” Kehler adds.

2 Comments on "Arm wrestling in Winnipeg"

  1. colin thompson | August 26, 2011 at 3:42 am |

    i have this buddy that wants to arm wrestle me on uneven tables, can you please let me know where i can arm wrestle him on a real table so he can accept his loses, and compete cause he pretty good…..please and thank you colin

  2. Glen Palahicky | January 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm |

    Hi, I am curious how old competitors are. I have a 13 yr old daughter who is an excellent wrestlers and I’m interested in her competing.


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