Most men are likely to have faced an arm wrestling challenge at least once in their life time. From schools to IT campuses, arm wrestling is arguably the most widely contested manly feat of strength, perhaps second only to “tug of war” in popular participation.
It is part of male horseplay and is accompanied by enthusiastic cheering and, sometimes, heavy betting.
Slowly, but steadily, the game is emerging from its traditional venues inside darkened bars, toddy shops, dingy hostel rooms and noisy college canteens to become an openly contested spectacle sport with its own set of star athletes, serious fan following and much sought after professional referees. For one, Ebin Kurien, a manual labourer hailing from Thrissur, rose from relative anonymity to become a near iconic symbol of the sport among enthusiasts, who have posted many of his winning bouts on the Internet.
The formidable looking body builders, G. Ajith and G. Rejith, both brothers, are training hard for similar stardom in the small world of professional arm wrestling in Kerala. At their gymnasium near Poojappura, they have erected an arm wrestling platform, “table”, to train for up coming competitions with other enthusiasts. The huge biceps and thick fore-arms of the wrestlers stand testimony to their years of rigorous strength training. They require a protein-rich diet, which includes a daily serving of several egg whites, few litres of milk and lean meat, to maintain top form.
Ajith and Rejith say strength alone will not ensure a win. Reflex, technique, speed and strategy play an equally important role in the game. On the cushioned “table”, young wrestlers grunt and grapple with each other to perfect their “snatches, top rolls and hooks”, arm wrestling phraseology for different techniques of the sport.
Lording over the proceedings in the tin-sheet covered roof top gym, is a faded poster of Sylvester Stallone in his role as a champion arm wrestler in the 1987 movie “Over the Top”, an action flick that has over the years gained almost cult status among arm wrestling fans the world over.