Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Urezumo, Baby! It's My Party And I'll Brag If I Want To...

Tomorrow (today?) is my 44th birthday. Woohoohoo! And like most aloof Aquarians, I am particularly nonplussed by the whole incidental nature of the event. Perhaps even a little dismissive. Maybe a tad scornful?

Nonchalant, at any rate…

But since it IS MY SPECIAL DAY, I am going to utilize the slack people cut each other on their special days and brag brag brag up a storm.

I mean, why not? It’s my birthday and you can’t deny me my special day, can you?

Urezumo is the Japanese word for arm wrestling.

I am good at urezumo, even though I don’t urezumo anymore.

In fact, I am so good at it, I haven’t lost since I was a kid.

I mean that. The back of my hand has never touched the table. In TWENTY YEARS.

And it isn’t because I haven’t been wrestling either. In my twenties, I used to challenge anybody and everybody in a pub or bar for a go. In my twenties, I made beer and traveling money wrestling anybody and everybody, the bigger the better. The big Samoan and Hawaiin dudes were the best. Big Aussie blokes with biceps like basketballs were pretty good too…

I used to let three Japanese dudes wrestle me all at the same time.

Hey. Money is money.

And the reason I would win and not lose are two-fold, I mean, it is sort of a natural skill I was born with-- like a musicians only with more grunts and funny faces

Reason number one-- I am really really strong. That helps. You can’t take on a Samoan Monster dude without some strength. For some reason, I am stronger than my size by quite a bit, a fact that just happens to be a fact. Ever see those wiry skinny dudes who seem to be really really strong? I see them in the trades all the time. Plumbers especially. Little thin arms and yet they crank out some torque. Well, I am like one of them only bigger.

I have what they call natural strength. The right combinations of chemicals working in the muscles. I don’t know... I don’t understand... But I know that’s what I got. At 240 pounds I used to be able to do one armed pull-ups. Like nine or ten of them. That’s unusual. One armed push-ups too. Easy peesy. How many do you want? Strength wise, at 44, I can still do some of each, but I won’t, because I can feel my joints complaining that they just weren’t built for those types of strains and so I won’t do them anymore out of respect for my sixties. Same reason I quit making money arm-wrestling. It now hurts in ways that worry me for later.

And the second reason I haven’t lost arm-wrestling, is because my arms are actually broken. They are. They are deformed from birth. I was born deformed in a way that helps me win in arm wrestling. Even against monster dudes who are way stronger than me.

You see, I have extra large bone “stops” on my elbows. The bone ends that keep your joint from looking like an ostrich leg hanging off your shoulder. Your funny bone, for one. Mine are extra large and they don’t allow my arms to open to a full 180 degrees, meaning flat out. Mine open to about 165 degrees, and that is all. I also cannot physically touch the back of my hand down in loser fashion to a table. The bone stops prevent this from happening. What that means is, you have to break my bones to beat me in arm wrestling. It also means I can wear people stronger than me out, resting on my bone stops while they attempt to beat me. The really strong ones I have to make sure I take away much of their force by trying some, or they would indeed break those bone stops (and those matches would usually go on for about fifteen minutes before my opponent was exhausted and I could muster up the effort to pin them).

Are you getting all of this?

To recap. Stronger than I should be. Broken elbows.

Got it?

So this next tale is how all of that really settled into my brain and made me realize I had something special. A gift, if you will, that turned into a way to get good food and good beer for FREE. I mean, how cool is that?

I was in my early twenties somewhere, and I had a job at a ski resort lodge in Hakuba Japan. The hows and why’s of how I came to be there are amusing, but not relevant, so they’ll be for another day. Let’s just say I worked for a man named “Owner-san” (that is what he was called, I swear to god!) at a lodge called Tinkerbell (I TOLD owner-san it was a gay name), and along with skiing and working and trying to drink beer and learn Japanese I was asked to perform a few circus stunts for the young Japanese guys who had spent their entire lives developing their brains and not their brawn. A one armed pull-up? Suggoi!

Word got out and an invitation arrived. Gin-san wanted to challenge me to an arm-wrestling match.


It was all very ceremonial and the look on the Japanese guys’ faces around me was very telling.

Gin-san was SERIOUS. And Gin-San had never been beaten in his entire life.


I was just here for the skiing, the beer and the girls!


I had arm wrestled my older brother Steve the whole time we were growing up. I was fifteen and still waiting to grow when he was almost seventeen and had just had a big spurt. That was the last time I had ever been beaten by anyone up until and through today, but I didn’t take it seriously and it hurt my elbows like hell (back when there was still some pliability in the bones). After that, I armed wrested very seldom for fun with friends, and never found it difficult to win, but I was a kid and I never thought much about it.

And then this invitation arrives in Tinkerbell’s mail. A handwritten challenge by the legendary Gin-san. I had different people translate it for me because I wanted to get the best feeling for the meaning of the invite. The basic gist turned out to be -- “It would be an honor and a pleasure for you to come to my restaurant, so I can whup your ass…” Something like that. I thought, “huh?”

The challenge became the talk o f the town. Well, not THE talk, but one of them. Small tourist towns have a core of locals who love each other and gossip like crazy. So the challenge was talked about as if I had cheated on someone and I was whisked up into the talk like a cat toy in a hoover and the whole hype thing grew exponentially and the next thing you know I had an entourage of supporters like Mike Tyson following me into a nightclub/restaurant in the small resort town of Hakuba, to meet the legendary arm-wrestling Gin-san and be the next notch on his butcher block marked on three sides and starting on the fourth...

“So what’s in it for me if I win?” I asked nervously.

Gin-san had to think on that. I don’t think the thought ever occurred to him.

“Hmmmm. Free food and drink for all of your friends?”

“Deal,” I said. “ALL of my friends, right?”

“Hai” said Gin-san….

There were ove ninety people watching this event. I figured I’d give my best shot, lose gracefully, then go back to beer and girls and skiing. I mean, I tried, right? And this Gin-san guy was a Sumo wrestler who never Sumo’ed. I mean, he was huge in the square and stocky way that some guys are. Way bigger and thicker than the average Japanese guy. A true anomaly. And to top it all off, he even LOOKED STRONG.

There was no way my young and skinny ass was going to beat this guy. This guy was a Japanese monster.

Gin-san had a butcher block table he brought out to the center of his establishment. There were two holes threaded (wood threads) and two dowels that threaded into these holes. The table was a perfect height for him, but a little short for me. We grabbed pegs, gripped hands tightly, and I could feel an ass whipping coming in front of ninety people as I looked at a bicep that had anaconda veins snaking through the Andes mountains of his biceps..

Oh Jeez…

Someone said “ready, go!” in Japanese and I went but I didn‘t go far. In fact, I went backward about four inches. I was already losing, down four inches over center in about two seconds. Holy Sumo this guy was strong!

But I didn’t go any further. I just stayed there, locked in a losing position but not lost, Gin-san blowing gaskets inside of his body trying to finish me off and showing the frustration of his inability in the short spurts of air he sucked through his nostrils. I struggled and fought and pressed and then got tired and vaguely gave up, but my arm did not move. Gin-san pushed everything he had against my bone stops, and I felt the pain in them rise as I gave in, but they did not give up. At that moment, I realized what I had-- the gift I was born with-- and I gave enough effort to stop the elbow bone stop pain, and there we locked, the butcher block table up in the air by two or three inches because we had lifted it with our straining other hands, both of us locked in and Gin-san spending all of his energy fighting against immovable bone stops and running out of gas while I gave two-thirds effort and saved up a little bit of gas for a big finish that came almost fifteen minutes into the battle.

As I felt the pressure of Gin-san wane, I waited and waited and then made my push to get the back of his hand down to the table. Gin-san was strong, but he was human, and I got him to collapse and his knuckles rapped on wood in one late push and a silence came over the cheering bar like someone had just died.

The place had stopped living altogether.

It was one of those silences where everyone was waiting for permission to breath. Permission to breath from Gin-san himself, the urezumo champion of Japan who had just lost his very first match. Ever. And all I could do while we were all waiting was grab my sharply pained elbow and wait too.

It was a long wait, as Gin-san struggled in his own mind with all of the ramifications and realizations of what just happened. HE LOST!

I found myself holding my breath. Breathing seemed inappropriate for this moment. Heck, even "happy I won" seemed inappropriate!


Gin-san smiled a great big smile. He grabbed my arm and raised it in the air.

“Drinks and food for all Scott’s friends!” he yelled.

The crowd erupted like a badly written movie.

I pigged out and had the best night ever.

And my arm wrestling career was born!

Since today is my birthday, I get to post THIS picture too. My perfect woman. Woohoohoo!


CapricornCringe said...

How did you get that picture of me? Paul promised me he wouldn't let anyone see it, ever. Besides, the left tap is off center.

Happy birthday, you arm-wrestling sumo master!

Maggie said...

Happy Birthday Scott, happy birthday Mr. Sco-ott...

Jeannie said...

Happy Birthday! I know what you mean about natural strength. I'm not real sure where we get it but my one brother and I are both strong. My other brother always looked strong but he had to work at it. Although I was not large as a teen, I could whoop the guys at arm wrestling usually until they got that big dose of testosterone at 17 or 18. Tell me their egos weren't bruised. I also gained the respect of my oldest and his friends because I could whoop them too when they were that age. I was still not large (I'm only 5'3") - they were bigger. One poor kid was straining for a couple minutes and couldn't budge me from centre. I asked him then if we could start and dropped him. The look on his face!
Unfortunately, I am not nearly as strong as I used to be - age is catching up.

nevins manafe said...

Happy bday! :)
look up

Nikky said...

Have a happy birthday Scott, you big strong hairy guy!

Cheesy said...

Xcelnt B~day tale!

Happy birthday Scott... Here's to many more winning matches in your life [maybe the matched set you have pictured above??]
I won at arm wrestling just a few weeks ago.. but by accident... reached under the table to pull his leg hair but OOPS.. grabbed his nut~sack.. oh well I WIN!

Shirley said...

Happy birthday, Scott. I hope your friends treat you to a great dinner and drinks.

Scott from Oregon said...

My dog out did all of ya'll by somehow writing Happy Bday! on my banner while I slept!

But ya'll are great too!


(Now I gotta go work...)

Allie D. said...

Happy Birthday, Scotty!!!

Hot pics, btw. Especially the one of the arm wrestler. Rawr!

Oh -- your interview questions are up. :)

Lizza said...

Happy, happy birthday!

Arm wrestling is a popular thing here, too. Sounds like your experiences in Japan were quite memorable! You sure do have a nose for adventure. :-)

ammogirl said...

Happy birthday! 44...pshh! I spit in the face of 44.

I would probably beat you arm wrestling, because I'm so tuff.

Hammer said...

I used to arm wrestle buff lesbians for beer at a local bar.

Sometimes I let them win when their pretty girlfriends were watching.

Happy B day, What a coincidence My wife just turned 44 a week ago.

Kris, Seattle said...

Have a great birthday celebration.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

happy birthday scott! nice banner, smiles, bee

ScaramoucheX said...

This is the first time I have checked your blog and I am very glad I did. I find your stories and your writing style tyo be very engaging, really creating a felt sense that actual individual revelations are occurring to you as you write...thanks.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Bone stops??

In all of the anatomy and physiology lectures I have had to sit through in my life, I have never once heard the term 'bone stop' being bandied about.

Anyhoo - irrespective of a fictional anatomical term that you just made up, I hope you have a really great birthday.

I'll even have a beer for you.


Nancy Dancehall said...

Surprise, Birthday Boy! Here's your Birthday Tiara. (Yes, you have to wear it).

Stop by my blog for the party. And that goes for anyone here who wants to help celebrate!