In Eindhoven, strong men meet every Wednesday evening to arm-wrestle. At association Kei Sterk*, they learn techniques from Dutch arm wrestling champion Jeffrey Schenkels.
Two years ago, Jeffrey Schelnkels and Mart Peters got together with a small group in an attic to practise arm wrestling. After a while, they had to move because the group got too big. Now, they are at location three and are more short of tables than people. The sport is booming in Eindhoven. “It is wonderful to see that so many people have joined,” says Schenkels. According to him, the sport is popular mainly because it is accessible; it is not just about strength, but also about technique.
“The nice thing about arm wrestling is that someone of seventy kilos with experience can easily take on someone of two hundred kilos without experience,” says Dries Feremans, a member of the association and national champion in Belgium. You do not only use your strength. Different techniques can also determine the outcome of a game. Like the toproll, where the wrestlers lean back, gaining the upper hand with their feet tactically placed against the table. It is a sport that uses the whole body, not just the biceps.
From father to son
Schenkels learnt these techniques at an early age. His father used to arm-wrestle. He finished third in the world, second in Europe and became Dutch champion several times. When his father became seriously ill, Jeffrey started arm-wrestling himself. “It was a way to relive memories with him”, he explains. His father suffers from Huntington’s disease, a brain disorder. “I notice that my arm-wrestling actually gives him energy. That makes me proud”. In April, Schenkels won the Dutch Arm Wrestling Championship. “My father was there, which only added to the joy. He gave me the thumbs-up and then you feel what you’re doing it for.”
*’Kei’is the typically Brabants prefix used as an intensifyer. Keileuk, keimoe, keigezellig. (ed. Greta)