More than a test of strength


When Sarah Ro­bar was in high school in New Ger­many, N.S. she joined the school arm wrestling team in 1992. Perry Bruhm, a fu­ture world champion arm wrestler, set up a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween lo­cal schools and Ro­bar fin­ished with a first in ladies with both arms and third in a men’s com­pe­ti­tion with her left. Her school ended up win­ning the whole com­pe­ti­tion.

De­spite her nat­u­ral abil­i­ties, she didn’t con­tinue in the sport af­ter high school. But four years ago, a friend en­cour­aged her to come along to a prac­tice and she got hooked on arm wrestling again.

Arm wrestling is a sport be­tween two peo­ple where they place their el­bows on a ta­ble, grip hands and then try to pin their op­po­nent’s arm onto the sur­face. The first to do so is the win­ner. The rules may seem sim­ple, but the best ath­letes in the sport need to put in a lot of prac­tice to suc­ceed.

“I like the phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, the train­ing and it makes you a health­ier per­son,” says Ro­bar, who lives in Bed­ford now. “You train to be­come stronger.”

Com­pet­ing in arm wrestling has taken Ro­bar around the globe.

“I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to travel and have met peo­ple from all over the world,” says the Hal­i­fax Irv­ing Ship­yards metal fab­ri­ca­tor. “I’ve com­peted in Bu­da­pest, Ro­ma­nia, and Turkey for the World Arm Wrestling Fed­er­a­tion Com­pe­ti­tions.”

The num­ber of women in arm wrestling is steadily grow­ing but she’d love to see more fe­males en­ter the sport. Ro­bar says, as a woman, she finds it is a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment and ev­ery­one trains to­gether, re­gard­less of back­ground. She likes that the sport is made up of peo­ple from a wide range of life­styles and ages. She uses the ex­am­ple of a team mem­ber from New Brunswick who is in his 60s and re­cently placed first in world com­pe­ti­tion.


For Hal­i­fax, N.S. res­i­dent Trevor Sa­ni­pass, it’s all about the sense of com­mu­nity in the arm-wrestling com­mu­nity.

“All are very wel­com­ing to new arm wrestlers,” he says. “I love the ca­ma­raderie of the sport … We have many pro­fes­sional arm wrestlers in our prov­ince and many of these are na­tional and world cham­pi­ons and they are ea­ger to teach arm wrestlers, young and old.”

Sa­ni­pass, who is orig­i­nally from Eska­soni, N.S., has loved the sport since he was a child.

“I, like many other youths, wanted to test my strength and arm-wres­tled many kids just to see who was stronger,” he says, but adds that he had an ad­van­tage over his com­pe­ti­tion.

“I had broth­ers who were older than me and they were cham­pi­ons in arm wrestling so, of course, they showed me the tech­niques, forms and what it takes to be­come a champion when I was a young boy.”

His broth­ers and his late fa­ther were Sa­ni­pass’ role mod­els and in­spired him to pur­sue the sport. Now he has a sil­ver medal from na­tion­als, won nu­mer­ous Nova Sco­tia Mi’kmaw Sum­mer Games Arm Wrestling ti­tles and placed eighth in the worlds in Hun­gary in 2017.

Sa­ni­pass says peo­ple of­ten as­sume arm wrestling is only done in bars, that it’s for right-handed peo­ple or that there are only men in the sport, none of which is true.

“Most peo­ple get sur­prised when I in­form them that it’s for ev­ery­one and this in­cludes youth, boys, girls, men and women, and there are dif­fer­ent weight classes and di­vi­sions,” he ex­plains.

Sa­ni­pass is an ad­vo­cate of the sport and even co-cre­ated a 13-episode doc­u­men­tary called Arm Na­tion about arm wrestling, cur­rently air­ing on Ama­zon Prime Video. He also won the Mi’kmaw Coach of the Year award last year and is in­tro­duc­ing arm wrestling at this year’s North Amer­i­can In­dige­nous Games in Hal­i­fax.


The key to suc­cess in arm wrestling is the same key to suc­cess in any sport.

“It re­quires time and ded­i­ca­tion,” he says. “This in­cludes prac­tices, weight train­ing and lots of ta­ble time. Ta­ble time means prac­tic­ing with an­other ath­lete at an armwrestli­ng ta­ble. This doesn’t re­quire an all-out armwrestli­ng match but a prac­tice by both. Get­ting the arms warmed up be­fore any prac­tice or com­pe­ti­tion is im­por­tant, but prac­tic­ing dif­fer­ent moves and styles is im­por­tant, too.”

New­com­ers to the sport are al­ways wel­come, and Sa­ni­pass says in­ter­ested peo­ple should seek out a club to learn more about the sport. Nova Sco­tia is home to many clubs with lo­ca­tions in the Hal­i­fax Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, the Sipekne’katik First Na­tion com­mu­nity, Truro, the An­napo­lis Val­ley and two in Cape Bre­ton, in­clud­ing one at Sa­ni­pass’s own brother’s home in Eska­soni.

“I en­cour­age many to take up the sport and start slow, learn the ba­sic fun­da­men­tals of the sport and go light, don’t go all out in sev­eral of your prac­tices,” Sa­ni­pass says. “Ask what’s best for you and just go from there.”


Sarah Ro­bar would like to see more women and girls give arm-wrestling a try. The ac­tiv­ity has taken the Bed­ford, N.S. woman around the globe.

Trevor Sa­ni­pass, cen­tre, with two of his cousins, Dre Denny, left, and Liam John­son. Sa­ni­pass is an ad­vo­cate of arm-wrestling and co-cre­ated an arm-wrestling doc­u­men­tary called Arm Na­tion, cur­rently stream­ing on Ama­zon Prime Video.

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