Armageddon Is Coming: Singapore’s First 'Live' Arm-Wrestling Show
They say, “never meet your heroes”. But YouTuber Jonathan Cheok aka cheokboardstudios must surely be glad he didn’t follow that advice when it came to arm-wrestling.
In Singapore, it's a sport that is closely (and almost immediately) associated with multi-award-winning professional arm-wrestler Valen Low, the founder and president of Singapore Armwrestling – an organisation registered under the International Federation of Armwrestling and the Ministry of Home Affair’s Registry of Societies.
“I saw some of Valen’s videos about arm-wrestling online, and was in awe of his achievements, and thought to myself, I wanna follow this guy – so strong, so cool!” says Jonathan, who connected with Valen on Instagram, and then met him for coffee.
Contrary to the oft-advised warning, this meeting with a “hero” concluded favourably. In fact, it resulted in the conceptualisation of Ultimate Armwrestling Championships (UAC) Armageddon.
We speak to Jonathan, 37, and Valen, 29 about Singapore’s first live arm-wrestling show, which will take place on 10 March in Oxley Tower; why they want to take the sport to the next level; and… arm-wrestling MRT train handles?
What prompted you to organise UAC Armageddon?
Jonathan: It was during the pandemic when I noticed arm-wrestling gaining popularity because everyone was stuck home with nowhere to go. I started to watch a lot of these videos online, namely, of Devon Larratt. I think he’s made arm-wrestling what it is today with his enigmatic charisma and high energy when he fights. So I reached out to Valen and said, I have this crazy idea and I think it would work. Let’s meet up for a coffee and try to get this off the ground.
Valen: During this discussion, I could feel his passion and drive towards this cause. Hence, it gave birth to UAC.
What can we expect from UAC Armageddon?
Jonathan: The most exciting thing to hit the our shores since the ONE FC! Stay tuned for an adrenaline pumping show that will showcase how professional, dedicated and strong our top, elite-level arm-wrestlers are! Also expect three celebrity matches from six influencers totalling 2,000,000+ reach across all social media:
- Cheokboarstudios (300k)
- Jaze Phua (1.7 mill)
- Kelly Kim (380k)
- Braven Yeo (350k)
- Jason Chee (60k)
- Danie Dharma (10k)
Valen: Get ready for an action-packed event which showcases top-tier national-ranked local arm-wrestlers going up against one another. Furthermore, the public can also expect a night of fun-filled activities with prizes to be won.
Valen, you’ve been spearheading arm-wrestling since your first competition in late 2010, and also founded, then registered the Singapore Armwrestling club. What’s been the biggest change you’ve noticed in the scene?
Valen: The biggest change I’ve seen is the awareness of the sport due to its coverage in popular online media. The public used to view arm-wrestling as a casual bar sport. Nowadays, that perspective has changed, and they view it as an organised and structured sport.
When you first started, the club drew a lot of NSFs and SAF regulars - what was the reason for that? Is it still the same demographic now?
Valen: I agree, it could be due to the competitive and adventurous nature of the sport which draws NSFs and regulars to it. Since then, the demographic has changed, and we are attracting countless young teens. The youngest in the society is 13, and the oldest, 50.
Haiz. We don’t really see women arm-wrestling hor?
Valen: Culturally in Singapore, professional sports has never been a major way of life. Narrowing it down further to females [who pursue sports professionally], it is almost close to 0. However, judging from overseas demographics, the potential is there for females to participate in the sport. It could be the aggressive and strong ideology of the sport which deters females. Nevertheless, with the growing interest, I am hopeful for females to [start arm-wrestling] and eventually compete in UAC!
Over the Top “Down Under” 2022 – Senior Left 70kg... Singapore Armwrestling National Championships 2021 – Senior Left Open and Senior Right Open... Shanghai Open 2019 (Autumn edition) – Senior Left 70 kg… these are some recent arm-wrestling events where you came in first place. In fact, you’ve emerged the champ over 40 times in more than 70 arm-wrestling events through the years! Ups lah, bro! Which arm-wrestling achievement are you most proud of and why?
Valen: The achievement that I am most proud of would be winning the WAF Asian Arm-wrestling Championships in 2014. I am the first ever Singaporean to do so. At that competition, many central-Asian powerhouses were present, such as those from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. However, a young adult from Singapore clinched the Asian title and it was an unforgettable moment hearing the national anthem at a world-level arm-wrestling event.
Jonathan, how did you get into the sport and what sparked your passion for it?
Jonathan: I saw a couple of videos about arm-wrestling maybe five or six years back, but it never caught my interest. Covid-19 gave me a sickening virus – the arm-wrestling virus. Now I am obsessed. I train specifically three to four times a week at the gym for arm-wrestling, I do weird arm-wrestling arm poses, I even try to arm-wrestle the MRT handles when I’m on the train.
So, it has pretty much consumed me and the fire is burning very passionately. My aim for UAC is to really grow the sport locally and bring it from the void decks where arm-wrestlers train, out into the mainstream media, through my extensive social media know-how, to the masses.
When people get into arm-wrestling, they will see that it is not only a strength sport, it is also an ego sport. So, when you lose, it trains you to be humble – it can break you and it can remake you, stronger and better than before. A Chinese idiom goes: 一山还有一山高, meaning "for every mountain, there’s one that's higher". Lol. Arm-wrestling is such an exciting combat sport and I really want the general public to see that, and follow us for that ride.
Valen: There’re always peaks and valleys during our course of life. To make full use it and find something to strive for, is what the individual yearns. Otherwise, life would be painted in black and white.
What are some of the biggest life lessons you’ve gleaned from arm-wrestling?
Valen: [Maintaining] the sport of arm-wrestling at a high level in Singapore is not easy. With day jobs and commitment outside of the sport, it has taught me how to persevere through unwavering and perilous times. It is never an overnight journey, it’s a journey of a lifetime.
Jonathan: There’s so much to learn about arm-wrestling and I think the community around it is very supportive. But the one lesson I have picked up is this: arm-wrestling training is very taxing on the tendons, ligaments and joints. Not like bodybuilding, where after building endurance, your muscles take two to three days to recover. The pain can last for weeks. And to me, it’s just like life. Pain and suffering will follow you everywhere in life. It’s how you look at it – if it drives you, keeps you motivated, and makes you happy, then you have to work through that pain to achieve your goals and dreams!
UAC Armageddon happens on 10 Mar 2023, 6-10pm at Mavericks Singapore, 138 Robinson Rd, #04-01, Lobby 2, Oxley Tower, Singapore 068906. A $30 ticket, which can be purchased here, includes one complimentary house pour.