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Arm-wrestling brotherhood

Singapore's first arm-wrestling club was set up two years ago and holds training sessions two to three times weekly. -My Paper
Jacqueline Woo

Fri, Nov 02, 2012
my paper

SINGAPORE - The five-room flat in Woodlands hardly resembles any state-of- the-art gymnasium, even though trophies adorn one side of the living room and laminated posters of well-built men are plastered on the walls.

Only a specially-built table, complete with pads and grips, gives away the fact that the flat is the humble training premises of Singapore's first and only arm-wrestling club.

House-owner Dave Hum, 46, is one of the 10 regular members of the club, which was set up two years ago.

The club holds training sessions two to three times weekly, alternating between Hum's home and founder Valen Low's. They are the only two members of the club who have the tables needed for training.

The tables contain four pads and two grips to support the wrestlers during practice.

Valen, 18, set up the club after meeting Hum, who was then in the process of buying the tables for proper training.

He compared arm-wrestling to a marathon, in that both require technique, strategy and repeated training, and said: "You can't get good at it overnight."

Tracing the roots of his interest in arm-wrestling back to his secondary-school days, he said: "I went round the entire level looking for people to arm-wrestle with. My teacher tried to ban me from arm-wrestling in class, saying it disrupted her lessons."

After taking his O levels, Valen took part in his first competition - the Malacca Open in December 2010.

Although he lost in the quarter-finals, he was not discouraged and continued taking part in competitions. Last year, he was crowned champion of the junior category in the Malaysian National Arm-Wrestling Competition.

Indeed, there are winners aplenty in the club.

One of them is Desmond Lau, 24, who emerged tops in his weight category at Shin Min Daily's annual arm-wrestling competition last year, the very first arm-wrestling event he entered.

Lau's clubmates call him a "natural", someone who is "genetically suited for arm-wrestling", yet the National University of Singapore undergraduate revealed that he used to fail his pull-ups back in his secondary-school days.

He subsequently got over the problem by training at the gym at least four times a week.

Other winners include Sergey Kardash, 25, a Russian doctorate student at Nanyang Technological University who also won in his weight category at last year's Shin Min's arm-wrestling competition, and Melvin Loh, 19, who has won local junior-category titles at the Singapore Strongman Challenge for the past two years.

During training, they exchange ideas and advice, learn from one another, and even take frequent jibes at one another, all in good humour. A common battle cry in the room is, "If Dave can do it, you can do it too", alluding to Hum's seniority.

The club members constantly seek to improve by learning from arm-wrestling communities online, and training with fellow arm-wrestlers from countries like Japan and Latvia.

It is no surprise that the members have formed a tight bond, frequently calling themselves "the brotherhood".

The club plans to move forward to compete with stronger counterparts in Thailand and Australia, and hopes to contend in the Asian and World championships someday.

And, while many do not view arm-wrestling as a proper sport, the club members think otherwise.

Said Valen: "Arm-wrestling has been around since 2,000 years ago, when military forces in Greece and Russia used it to determine their commanders."

Added Hum: "The beauty of arm-wrestling is that it requires determination and builds character."

Arm-wrestling enthusiasts may look up Valen Low at www. to join the Arm-Wrestling Club.

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