Devon Larratt did not immediately support his wife, Jodi, when she showed interest in competitive arm wrestling in 2012. "I thought, Are you f------ crazy?" Larratt says. Now 40 and a recruiter for the Canadian Special Forces, he knew the sport's bare-knuckle scene as well as anyone.
His first opponent had been his grandmother, a farmworker who claimed to be "the best arm-wrestling woman in Alberta." From there, he progressed to competing on the oil fields of western Canada and in the Special Forces. By 2008 the 6'5" 225-pounder was the right-armed super heavyweight world champion. In '12 he won with his left. He earned about $75,000 in tournament prizes last year and gives seminars for $1,000 a day, but he knows well the wages his pursuit extracts. The rare combat sport that can boast zero concussions, arm wrestling still inflicts "a ridiculous amount of pain," says Larratt. He has seen a biceps tear and a humerus break (there is nothing funny about it), and he himself has had elbow surgery. After 20 years in the game, Larratt describes the aftermath of a weekend tournament as feeling as if he's been "run over by a tractor." He adds, "Your body will scream at you."
But no matter what Larratt said four years ago, Jodi was undeterred, and soon after they started training, she was hooked. "What I love about arm wrestling is, from a woman's perspective, it gives us this opportunity to step outside the box of what's societally expected for a female," she says. "You can tap into some serious primal aggression at the arm-wrestling table, and it's O.K."
Now, Devon says, there is little else he can teach Jodi, an actress who finished second in the lefthand bracket of the World Armwrestling League championship last year. She is training to better that result this season, which starts in earnest in May, while her husband is aiming for the ultimate achievement: an undefeated season with both hands. Their Ottawa home has become a destination for the balloon-armed, replete with a basement gym, a garage full of tables, and their three kids, who are being schooled in their parents' avocation. Among it all, Devon looks back on his attempt to dissuade Jodi in 2012 as the rare clash he is glad he lost.
Learn to arm-wrestle from a pro
Last fall Devon Larratt gained fame after flattening Hafthór Björnsson, aka the Mountain from Game of Thrones, at the arm-wrestling< table. Below, he shares a few tips.
At the start, lift your hand as if performing a reverse karate chop. This allows you to find the weakness in your opponent's hand.
Curl your wrist inward. You can't access all your strength until your wrist is flexed. Then engage your biceps.
Believe you are the king—belief alone can break your opponent. If the urge strikes, let out a scream.