What is Arm Wrestling?

Arm wrestling began in a saloon.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 21 March 2014
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Arm wrestling is a type of athletic contest. In an arm wrestling contest, there are two competitors. Each competitor positions one elbow on a table or flat surface, then grasps the hand of his or her opponent and attempts to force it back to connect with the table.

Many people don’t think of arm wrestling as a sport. They don’t consider that arm wrestling requires many things used in other sports, including physical strength, stamina, and skill. A good deal of perceptiveness is also necessary for success in arm wrestling.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to enjoy their first experiences with arm wrestling at parties or in bars. However, arm wrestling exists as more than just a Saturday night past time. Competitive arm wrestling is an organized sport with very specific rules, techniques, and divisions.

The American Armsport Association (AAA) promotes the sport of arm wrestling. Sanctioned by AAA, organized arm wrestling involves two competitors, each standing at a table referred to as a tournament table. There are strict rules involved, fouls, and certain actions that lead to penalties. Some moves can even lead to forfeiture of a match. For example, breaking the hand grasp with an opponent in order to avoid an arm pin typically leads to forfeiture.


Arm wrestling has a very long history. As an organized sport, it has been around since 1952. The very first matches took place in Petaluma, California, in a saloon. A journalist named Bill Soberanes is credited with founding the sport.

Like many other sports, there are different classes in arm wrestling. For tournaments, contestants are divided into classes by weight. There are separate divisions for those who wrestle using their right hand, as opposed to those who favor their left hand.

There are many organizations that strive to support and promote competitive arm wrestling. Some organizations are local, representing certain regions, while others seek to promote the sport on an international level. Many devote much time and effort to improving the image people have of arm wrestling, encouraging its recognition as a legitimate sport.

Arm wrestling appeals to a wide range of individuals, of all ages and backgrounds. It can be as exciting for women as it is for men. Many individuals enjoy the sport purely for fun, while others approach it with the type of dedication and tenacity common in true competitors.


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