In full costume, the ladies of CLAW do battle in Charlottesville, Va.
A women's arm wrestling league that started in Virginia is spreading across the country. Now the national league is coming together for its first ever tournament.
This summer, a horde will descend on Charlottesville, Va. — a sort of fight club, but a superhero fight club. Among the attending will be The Homewrecker, Pain Fonda, the Dirty Butcher and many others, going head-to-head. Who are these superheroes? They are the lady arm wrestlers of CLAWUSA.
CLAW, which stands for the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers, started in early 2008 as a make-believe arm wrestling league in Charlottesville.
"There was no league to begin with, we just said there was," said Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell, one of the co-founders of the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers. You can tell she has fun with this, because she ends nearly every sentence with a laugh.
When the fake league became real, Jennifer and her friend Jody had stumbled on something big, and kind of absurd: it's part theater, part arm wrestling, and part philanthropy. Here's how it works: The theater takes the form of personae. All of the women wrestle as someone else. Jennifer is C-ville Knievel. There's Malice in Wonderland, June the Cleaver, Tragedy Ann, you get the idea.
"It's like Carnivale," explains Tidwell. "It's a time where you can try on anything and you cannot take things too seriously."
But don t let the theater mislead you. Part two is the arm wrestling, and women train for this stuff. Believe it or not, they've had two wrestlers break their arms during competition.
Then you add in the final piece of the CLAW puzzle: all of the profit from the event funds different causes in the community.
"We are activists," says Tidwell. "We are active using our full body and our minds and our mouths to get stuff done."
The first ever CLAW competition in Charlottesville raised about $500. The most recent competition raised over $3000, all of which went to VOCAL Virginia, an organization that aims to empower youth with mental health disabilities.
But CLAW hasn t just grown in Virginia — it's grown all over the country. Sian Richards has been involved since the beginning: "Like Johnny Appleseed, Charlottesvillians propagated the whole thing."
There are now eight full lady arm wrestling leagues that make up the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers.
"It's only called CLAW in Chicago, and they have two Ls," says Tidwell. "DC calls it DCLAW, Durham, North Carolina is LEWD, there's the Hudson Valley BRAWL, there's NOLAW in New Orleans, RAW in Portland, Oregon, SLAP in Portland, Maine."
They realized that together they had what Jennifer describes as, "potential fundraising amazingness." So CLAWUSA was founded and in downtown Charlottesville, on June 16, for the first time ever, they will face each other at SuperCLAW, head to head, arm to arm, and of course, wearing ridiculous costumes.