I am passionate about ARMWRESTLING, photographing it since 2010. I was shooting
at several events, trainings and seminars. I had pleasure to photograph at such events like;
ARM WARS, Zloty Tur / Nemiroff World Cup, X-MEN or BAF Nationals.
ARM WRESTLING: THE DRAMA OF THE SPECTACLE
As Wikipedia defines, “Arm wrestling involves two participants. Each places one arm on a surface with their elbows bent and touching the surface, and they grip each other’s hand. The goal is to pin the other’s arm onto the surface, the winner’s arm over the loser’s arm”.
Arm wrestling is one of the oldest combat sports, which already existed in the times of the Pharaohs as entertainment for men, as a form of sporting competition to establish dominance between two fighting men, as evidenced by engravings on the walls of the Pyramids.
In this form, the sport existed until the twentieth century. As an organized sport, armwrestling occurred in the 50s of last century. In the city of Petaluma, California, USA, one of the first armwrestling tournaments was staged, to then later adopt the status of the World Championships.
By the end of the 1980s, events began to be organised in Europe. The popularity of the sport grew with national federations joining to form an official European body – the European Armwrestling Federation (EAF) – and world body – the World Armwrestling Federation (WAF).
Nowadays, top athletes also compete in professional leagues, such as Professional Armwrestling League (PAL), ARM WARS, World Armwrestling League (WAL), or Ultimate Armwrestling League (UAL), and in professional tournaments, where the most prestigious is Zloty Tur, which has status of World Cup.
Arm wrestling is a fierce and highly-addctive combat sport. Every angle of every joint in a competitor’s arm is significant. The sport is associated with raw, sharply-focused strength. The desire to defeat the opponent is more intense, due to the close proximity. Two men, hand in hand, eye contact, a table. Sounds. Sweat.
So many factors come into play in the drama: hand grip size, the length of an arm, animal speed, hunger to dominate, defeat. After so much self-sacrificice, an arm wrestling contest can be over in seconds, or it the struggle can stretch into painful minutes, in which every breath is gasped.
Arm wrestling is almost like a marathon on fast forward. After the split, matches are restarted in the ‘strap’. The most popular format is the double elimination approach, when a competitor’s second humiliating deafeat jettisons them from continuing. Events are divided into weight classes as well as left and right-handed divisions.
So much effort, training focus, to be decided in seconds, sometimes minutes. There is real drama in such staging, particularly in the diversity of facial expressions, snatches of piercing eye contact. As a photographer, my mission has been to capture the expression, sweat and tears of such a drama, where a man can become a mouse upon the victory of the brutish winner who has dominated, drained all energies.