Some of Japan’s strongest “arm sumo” competitors show us how it’s done.

The team at SoraNews24 walked a lot of different paths before we found our way here, and for our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma that included working in a company that had a lot of drinking parties. That’s not so unusual in Japan, but what was weird was that one of his coworkers, after a few beers, would start challenging everyone to arm wrestling matches.

The guy would knock back a beer with his left hand, then immediately plant his right elbow on the table and take on any challenger. Masanuki lost to him time and time again, and it wasn’t until after a few years of hitting the gym that he could put up anything close to a good fight.

That memory still stings a little, which is why on a Tuesday night Masanuki found himself at Hitotsubashi-gakuen Station in Tokyo. His destination: the city’s premier arm wrestling dojo, to meet with the members of the USK Arm Wrestling Club. The club’s members include the Japanese national champion as well as several regional tournament winners, and they’d offered to give Masanuki a lesson in arm wrestling technique.

Not to brag, but Masanuki considers himself a pretty fit guy these days, so he was looking forward to maybe taking a few of the junior members down a peg or two. That confidence quickly deflated, though, as he strolled up to the entrance at a little before 9 p.m.

Inside the first-floor dojo he could see several members waiting for them with their arms crossed, showing their beefy musculature.

▼ It almost felt more like he was meeting a group of Dragon Ball characters than regular human beings.

The men of USK Arm Wrestling Club, as you might expect, are men of action, and rather than the long and flowery exchange of greetings that usually accompanies a first-time face-to-face meeting in Japan, Masanuki was quickly ushered over to one of the arm wrestling tables, where a senior member wanted to give our reporter a special hello.

▼ That’s Masanuki in the gray shirt.

They linked hands, another member came over to act as the starter, and…

Masanuki’s brain barely had time to register what happened. Obviously, he’d expected his opponent to be strong, but he was amazed by how blindingly quick he was too. In Japanese, arm wrestling is called udezumo, or “arm sumo,” but his utter defeat proved it’s a contest of speed too.

Weight training is, of course, part of the serious arm wrestler’s regimen, but there’s a lot of science and technique involved also. Right away, the club started working on improving Masanuki’s form over the course of the next 90 minutes.

First, they explained that even though the sport is called arm wrestling, you’re not going to get very far if all you’re focusing on is your arm. You need to keep proper tension in everything from your fingers to the back of your shoulder, including all the little muscles in your elbow and around your armpit, if you want to win.

Once it’s go time, you want to keep your eyes on your hand, so that it stays centered directly in front of you and you maintain the same arm angle as you go over the top and towards the victory position. Some advanced arm wrestlers have a slightly different technique, but for beginners, this is the best form, they said.

They also helped Masanuki correct a common mistake inexperienced arm wrestlers make, which is unconsciously bring your shoulder forward during the match. This actually robs you of power by weakening your posture and linkage between your hand and shoulder, so that you’re left only with the arm muscles trying to do everything, and can even lead to injuries.

It’s a habit that competitors grow out of eventually, but to combat the tendency in beginners, USK recommends purposely moving your shoulder back just a little bit while you’re in the pre-match ready position. That way if you inadvertently move it forward once the contest starts, it’ll be right where it should be.

They also gave him a few grip pointers. You want to slide your thumb in deep where it locks with your opponent’s, then wrap your other fingers around and put power into your pinkie.

So after all his coaching, how was Masanuki doing at the end of the night?

Much improved!

While one training session isn’t enough to become an expert, he learned a lot, and could really feel the difference when he put everything into practice. He’s actually a little disappointed that we don’t have a SoraNews24 arm wrestling tournament planned in the near future, but he’ll have to be patient, as we’re still recovering from the pro wrestling match we had in the office a while back.

Location information
USK Arm Wrestling Club / USKアームレスリングクラブ
Address: Tokyo-to, Kodaira-shi, Gakuen Nishimachi 1-19-13

Photos: ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]