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.
TIME AND DEDICATION
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.