7 Mar 2018

David Shead: "Disabled Armwrestling is now called Para Armwrestling"


Being active in the sport of armwrestling for over three decades David Shead is an excellent source of information when it comes to the history of this sport.

In an interview with an organizer of the Disabled World Cup - Poland, Anna Mazurenko, The Head Referee of the European Armwrestling Federation talks about the history of disabled armwrestling, and as well about the further development plans of the Para-Armwrestling.


Anna Mazurenko: Since when did we have disabled divison in armwrestling and what has changed?

David Shead: In England we started Disabled Armwrestling back in the early 1990’s, there was a National Championships called The British Wheelchair Championships, that had several sports like Bench Pressing, Fencing, Archery, a quite rough type of Basketball, Ping Pong, and more. All for people who were Wheelchair bound, so it was easy for us to go to a large organized event like that and add seated armwrestling to the list.

Back then and even up until 1993 the WAF World Championships for ordinary senior classes was seated, and even today Disabled Armwrestling uses the standard rules (Hearing Impaired and Visually Impaired have some different rules) but we did add a special class at this Championships because it was held at Stoke Mandeville Hospital where they specialized in spinal cord injuries, and one of the effects of this type of injury is that they cannot grip with their hands, now you might think how can 2 competitors who cannot grip with their hands arm wrestle? Well that is why we gave them their own class, all we needed to do was put them in the strap right from the start and this worked very well.

It also shows the tremendous versatility of armwrestling and how it can adapt around many disabilities.

The first Disabled World Championships was held in 1997 in Guwahati City, India.


Anna Mazurenko: What has changed in the rules of disabled division?

David Shead: The first obvious change is the name as Disabled Armwrestling is now called Para Armwrestling.

We do have a number of different classifications for the athletes now to take into consideration their different level of physical and mental abilities, the first obvious one being do they compete standing or seated? There were only seated classes until very recently. Of course there is a limit to what any form of rules can do towards making Disabled Armwrestling completely fair because of the endless different types and levels of disability athletes may have.

So back in the mid 90's I got included into the rules for all classes, senior as well as Disabled that a referee may give a disabled puller some allowances for their handicap, just to give the referees a little tolerance when making their judgments on Para arm wrestlers especially if they where pulling in the senior classes.

However when I last reviewed the Para Armwrestling Rules, other than the classification I did not think any rule changes were needed for the ordinary Para standing and seated classes, and I wanted to keep the rules so therefore the armwrestling is as close to the senior classes as possible. In view of this I did not recommend any changes, so the rules are the same as in they are in senior classes.

This means that there are only differences in the rules for the Hearing Impaired and Visually Impaired competitors, and these are in fact very minor differences.

The Visually Impaired has only one change and that is more for the referees than for the competitors, (the referees do not have to give a warning for a dangerous position they may just stop the match) this is because a referee could not indicate which wrestler he was giving the warning to in a Visually Impaired class.

The hearing impaired we had to make two-three changes, one is the same as for the Visually Impaired above, the other is because some wrestlers would have more hearing than others so would no be able to hear the referees directions in the set up and most importantly the "Ready Go!"

So it was decided to referee them in silence, I am very proud of the fact that the referee set up procedure that I developed in 1992 works perfectly well even in silence, but then there is still the start? Luckily this had already been solved in Russia where they have a large section of Hearing Impaired Wrestlers led by their referees who had already worked out a following start procedure.

To start the match the referee will take one hand off of the competitors grip and give them a thumbs up signal for approximately one or two seconds then take their other hand off the competitors grip at the same time as removing the thumbs up signal, this action indicating the start of the match, this will replace the words “ready go” and is done in silence.

This works very well and is unusual to watch as it is all being done in silence, but in using the silent procedure the referee must be very clear with their hands, and this is something I have been teaching referees for many years. The fact that this is not just for the wrestlers you are also giving directions to all of the spectators including those watching on the TV and very importantly the TV commentators, all who want to know what is happening. So when referees are learning I get them to practice setups in silence to make sure the competitors understand their hand signals.

And for those of you who may not have had the pleasure of seeing the Para-armwrestling classes I can tell you, you will see some of the best matches in armwrestling so don’t miss it.

But the best part for me when I do the Para-armwrestling is the camaraderie between these competitors, seeing them have a war on the table then be best of friends afterwards is heartwarming.


Anna Mazurenko: What for the future of the Para-armwrestling?

David Shead: There is a couple of tiny rule changes I am going to propose to Congress but it will not affect the armwrestling itself.

1. Seated armwrestling must use 4 referees.

2. Visually impaired classes must wear an eye mask or blind fold.

Other than that it is going to grow and grow and with that growth it will require more clarification classes and maybe some rule changes but not right now, now hopefully we are heading for the Para-Olympics in 2024.

Source: Disabled World Cup - Poland

/ Tomasz Wisniowski