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History and origin of Arm Wrestling as a sport

Arm Wrestling can be traced back to ancient Egypt - approximately to 2000 BC, with a painting depicting the sport discovered from an Egyptian tomb.

History and origin of Arm Wrestling as a sport

The Bridge Desk

Updated: 11 Aug 2022 5:44 PM GMT

Arm Wrestling or Panja, as it is popularly known in India is a sport in which two competitors try to pin each other's arms down to register a win.

A game of arm wrestling begins with both players placing their arms on a flat surface with their elbows bent. The competitors then try to use all their strength to pin down the other's hand. The one who successfully pins down the opponent first is named the winner.

Though arm wrestling as an official organised sport came into existence only in the 1950s, it is said to have been played since centuries.

Ancient History of Arm Wrestling

Arm Wrestling can be traced back to ancient Egypt - approximately to 2000 BC, with a painting depicting the sport discovered from an Egyptian tomb. The first purported evidence of the same were 39 tombs in a cemetery site called Beni Hasan (somewhere in Middle Egypt), believes Oleg Stepanov - a Russian arm wrestling historian.

Stepanov further claims that the other disputed birthplace of arm wrestling includes Greece and Rome from where ceramic fragments have been discovered depicting people indulging in the sport.

Arm Wrestling as an organised sport

However, arm wrestling as an organised sport was started only in the year 1952 when a young journalist by the name of Bill Soberanes organised matches inside a saloon in Petaluma, California.

Soberanes is said to have been the inspiration for the yearly Petaluma, Northern California and later the California arm wrestling championships.

Almost a decade after he first introduced arm-wrestling as an organised sport, Soberanes joined hands with Dave Devoto to form the first Wristwrestling Championship in the world. By 1969, the Wristwrestling Championship grew widely popular and Devoto signed a broadcasting contract for the championship with the American Broadcasting Corporation.

Arm Wrestling in India

Arm Wrestling is first said to have been introduced in India during the 1970s. The Indians first took a liking towards the sport as just a fun, leisure activity but soon started developing themselves in a professional manner.

Arm Wrestling as a sport in India is currently governed by the Indian Arm Wrestling Association, which currently has 28 different state bodies affiliated to it.

Arm Wrestling in India is expected to reach the next level when the second edition of the Pro Panja League hits the floor later this year.

Having held the first edition of Pro Panja just before the covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Pravin Dabas - the founder of the league asserts that India has a rich history of amateur arm wrestling and that the league is just trying to professionalising the sport by giving a platform to the athletes to display their skills.

Pravin Dabas with Olympic medallist Vijender Singh at a Pro Panja League event.

"India has a rich history in amateur arm wrestling being one of the founding countries of the World Arm Wrestling Federation. The Pro Panja League now plans on extending that tradition to the professional side of Arm Wrestling or Panja by not just taking the lead in India by giving a platform for Indian athletes to raise their standards, but to also provide a platform which will be a magnet for the international Arm Wrestling community which will set the standards for production of professional Arm Wrestling tournament across the globe," Dabas says.

The second edition of the Pro Panja League is expected to begin by October. The Pro Panja League Ranking tournament will be held later this month in Gwalior from 22nd to 24th July.

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