You don’t need to twist Aron Innes’ arm to pin someone else’s to the table.
The 26-year-old physiotherapist has a firm grip on the world of arm wrestling, and has no plans to loosen it any time soon.
He recently won second place on his right arm and third on his left at the New Zealand Fitness Expo in Auckland – his second competition – and he’s now in training for his next tournament in March next year.
Aron says: “Every time you tell someone you’re into arm wrestling, they say ‘oh yeah, I’m pretty strong, wanna give me an arm wrestle?’
“But they’re not even going to come close, because they don’t know the techniques.”
Arm Wrestling is a sport that is reliant on tactics as much as strength. During his training, Aron will lift weights in the gym six days a week, as well as practising on an arm wrestling table at the Bay of Plenty Arm Wrestling Club.
“A couple of the guys at the club have arm wrestling tables, which are a standard measurement,” he says. “You put your elbows on the pad, and with your other arm you hold a bar.”
The competition has three categories: under 100 kilograms, under 85 kilograms and Aron’s grade - the over 100 kilogram division.
Referees start both athletes in a neutral position, and as long as their elbows stay on the pad and their other hands are holding the bar, they can twist their bodies and fingers in any way to gain further movement.
“It’s all about leverage,” says Aron. “It’s like judo, but with your hands. You practice finger movements and wrist movements to get leverage and gain an advantage.”
Despite having an immense drive to be the strongest guy on the block, Aron says it wasn’t always easy.
When he was four-years-old he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, making him what he calls the “scrawny one of the bunch”.
After fighting off cancer he started playing football to improve his fitness, and by 16 he had started body building after entering a competition at Tauranga Boys’ High School.
“They have a competition called Bench for Life, which is a bench press competition that takes place every year amongst the students. I won that, and that’s what kind of started it.”
After throwing in the towel with soccer he started going to the gym regularly, and in his first year gained 25kgs. He then decided to begin competing, and joined various body building competitions before eventually wining Mr Bay at the age of 18.
“From there I changed into strongman, which involves truck pulling and tier lifting,” says Aron. “I won the Northshore strongest man in the lightweight division, which is anyone under 105kgs.
“I then moved into a bit of powerlifting and bench pressing, but the strongman stuff and deadlifting wasn’t too hot on my back, so I had to throw that all in.”
After he stopped competing, he lost motivation at the gym, and once again looked for something he could work towards.
“One of my mates joked that my arms were the only thing left on me not broken yet, so I should give arm wrestling a nudge.”
Aron didn’t even realise it was a sport, but after doing his research he found the Bay of Plenty Arm Wrestling Club.
“I like finding something that is difficult and chipping away at it, smashing it and then ticking it off the list.
“Arm wrestling is great. I’ve now got a place to channel my strength and I’m learning more and more, because there’s a lot more to it than it looks.”Lessons learned? “Well there’s an old saying about never working with children and animals.
“I don’t know a whole lot about working with animals, but working with children is not as hard as people think.
“There’s no way I would open a restaurant. It is too much hard work. Teaching is easy money compared with a restaurant.”
Ngaru turned over more than $3000 during the week-long operation, and made a net profit of $2800. That’s means 150 kids from Greenpark School will be getting a very Kiwi experience – surfing lessons at the end of the term.
“Even though we live very close to the water, we have many kids who’ve never been to the beach and many more who’ve never been surfing,” says Ben.
The trip would normally cost $25, but now all parents will have to stump up is just $5 for the bus.
And there will be another restaurant next year. “We have still got places to go with this. I want to introduce technology, where kids are ordering things on iPads directly to the kitchen.”
But a few local celebs won’t cut it next year. “We’re going to ask Jacinda Ardern,” says Ben. She was running a country and couldn’t make it this year, so an early invitation is going out next year.
The teacher also wants to give a “shout-out” to some Greenpark colleagues: Michelle Clarkin, an amazing baker responsible for the lemon curd cake, Cath Thompson, who worked very hard to ensure the main courses were cultural, tasty and healthy, Paul Sutherland, the breadmaker, and Kyla Boyle and Jo Gilpin with their art skills.