MEET JAMES BATTLES
PHOTO TAKEN BY CHRIST WEST
AT AAA NATIONALS
How long have you been in the sport?
I initially trained for it as a sport and competed on the state level as far
back as 1982. so officially going 25 years.
How did you find armwrestling?
It was the late 70's and I worked on a fishing boat taking 90 people a day
fishing in the gulf each day. I had this friend who was older and the
engineer of the boat. He had an extrordinary ability to do a sit up with 90
pounds of window weights strapped and held behind his head. Later I found
out this ability came as a result of recovering from a broken back . He had
fallen from a bridge almost 100 feet onto a frozen pile of sand at a
glancing angle. he was Norwegian and named Knute Harsdvedt but we called him
Gus. He was kind of my brother's and my beginning to the strength thing.
Anyway we would work hard and then have these contests and being young and
full of well something
, I was a cocky kid. One day we had a full boatload of mininites and the
head of the group had this son of his and they directly approached me about
armwrestling. To this day I do not know who this kid was but he was skilled
and trained and he didnt moosh me but it was clear I stood no chance with
him. I knew there was more to it than just toughness but it would be a long
time before I actually grasped just what it was going to take. My brother
was obsessed with it and always wanting to test me out. He was 15 -16 at the
time and our matches became a painful thing ending in a tie most of the
time. I went to work in the Oil Fields in Louisiana and My brother and
parents made a temporary move to Cocoa Beach where he finished his High
School and trained with the Football Team . That year he obtained alot of
help with the coaching staff and was turned his natural strength into
something pretty amazing. He weighed like 165 and was a bulldozer. I came
down after his graduation and he was activiley training and had come leaps
and bounds ahead of me . It was a big time for me to grow up in life in my
early 20's and I made active decsions to pursue a little cleaner way of life
than I had been and start training as well.
First tournament experience?
In 1981 I was working but my brother attended the Nationals and did well
although these guys and their technique plus familiarity with the rules and
how to use them was the only thing that stopped him from doing much better.
He was 4th I think but he caught Jimmy Fitzsimmons and Davey Patton both by
surprise and almost put them in a bind . So when he came back from that we
activley pursued tournaments around the stateof Florida involving Bobby
Hopkins and a guy named Tim Riley. I was terrible and in 10 tourneys in a
year I was 2 and out until the last one where I placed 3rd finally. Then in
1982 ? we drove to Burlington Vermont and wrestled in the seated Nationals.
It was an even bigger disaster because every fishing season "summer" I would
fish for a living and I had this makerel back fin stuck in my index knuckle.
I went two and out there as well but when I returned home the darn thing
came out. It was 5/16 of an inch long and when I tried to toproll or
sidepressure it would stick deep in the knuckle. I did much better in 1983
in Houston and just kept going from there. Houston is where I met Norm Devio
and many other people including John Brzenk . There are so many it is
impossible to name them all. Lets just say the numbers were scary. The 165
class had close to 30 entires with Burt Whitfield winning it.
Favorite armwrestling experience?
I will answer this first by simply saying My Next One
Now I will also answer with my best experience with Armwrestlers was being
elected Armwrestler of the year in 2003 by so many friends . I am kind of
simple but when everyone shows the love it strikes a place that never goes
As far as what I like it has got to be the Worlds. Man you know what I mean
Gary. Everybody from everywhere in a foreign place and competing and having
fun. It should be the sport of peace just from that . Heck in 1998 we even
had a Palestinians and an Israelis putting aside differences to compete even
though they were a little anal during the process. It's the stories that are
What are your goals with armwrestling?
This is a very hard question. I am not sure I know the answer to it other
than to say I haven't reached it whatever it yet. I want to be noticed sure
but I feel I am still getting better albeit late in life.
Here I have the answer . My goal is to do as much of it as humanly possible
and be competative as long as possible.
Best training tip?
As Mr. Brzenk pointed out some time back though we have to get plenty of
Who is your favorite armwrestler?
besides literally every old armwrestler which includes that relic John B.
The list is long and they are all my favorites.
I guess my answer would be a many guys. Bobby Hopkins ,Frank Bean , Norm
Devio , Burt Whitfield and ........more from my time but there are many that
you guys probably wouldnt even recognize their names. The skills that make
up some of the best armwresters and wrestling have been practiced since the
beginning. In the old days it was hard to get any solid information from
many so my answer would be based on the people who were open and sharing.
You Guys know Who You are.
(add any other information about James Battles that the world doesn't
know but would like to)
I have always believed since a very young age that you are only as good as
your reputation and word. This means I live with the christian beliefs as my
guide . I started at a young age by lending aid to people in need. I didnt
mesh well with the other kids. They would call people names and be cruel
,but that to me was only a reflection of their own upbringing or lack
thereof. I saved some girls from drowning once and was awarded Humanitarian
awards with a friend who helped . I was 16 at the time. My friend is now a
civil lawyer and I am a Bail Agent . Go figure.
I learned at a very young age that friendship had no strings attached to it.
You might not see a friend for years but its like they never were gone when
you do and no one owes anyone or expects anything out of it. It can be rare.
I am probably richer in that department than many.
I don't know if the world would really like to know all this about me but it
encompasses really who I am. It may not be popular or warranted but it
covers things people might not know that are good points about myself. I see
so many people along the way clearly distrustful to lend their friendship
which tells me they have seen many things as well but I have had so much
contact with so many people in my life sometimes I can see immediatley who
these people are in terms of their humanitarian traits. It was in 1973 when
I began taking people fishing at the rate of 90 per day for 6 months out of
the year every year. My day started at 330am and ended at about 10pm for
that 6months. I did that from 1973 until 1977 when I moved to a smaller more
cutthroat business involving Charters of 6 to 15 people on a more personal
basis with the customers but worse conditions with the competition and
backstabbing between the boats. You had to fight for positions as deckhand
and things could be rough . For instance you could lose your job to someone
whom they deemed to have a better skill level simply for that reason. My
faith got me through that time being complicated on who was the best deep
sea fisherman versus the best sportsfisherman. I was fired once due to the
reputation of a guy that just resturned to town. I was offered my job back 5
days later when he didnt show up to work being drunk two days in a row. I
declined and these were character building times. I worked in a place called
the front line in Destin Florida. This is where I learned to deal and
recognize the better qualities in people. I settled in with jobs working for
only the good people from 1976 until 1979 when I obtained my first Captians
Licence. I have been Licenced ever since. I have a 500 ton Masters Licence
through the USCG. I went to the oil field to work in 1979 in the winter and
did so for the next 8 years but in the summers I returned and fished with
which also included running some private yachts for the beautiful people
that had infected Destin. Most of the ones I worked with were also hand
picked in my path. My reputation preceeded me and the good ones found me.
During the summer times I fished charters with a man named John Cox who was
probably one of the best natural fishermen I ever knew. We won the October
Rodeo for largest Blue Marlin and in the spring the cobia tournament. We
caught extraordinary fish all during my 4 years with him. I fished the
Billfish Circuit after that until 1987 working for several rich folks and we
won a little money during that time but I dont recommend it unless you get
an owner that is willing to put his soul into it and has alot of money. The
billfish circuit was sickeningly corrupt . I dont know if any of you have
seen the shark hunter tournament series on TV but I have been there only in
here is a link for you. They weighed this fish first calling 475 pounds and
then winks later and himhawing around it went to 350 and then 300 and then
it settled at 273 and 1/2 pounds which was 1/4 a pound out of the money. I
wouldnt stand for it and they loaded my fish on a tournament director boat
at which time I told them I didnt buy it and when they got to the fuel dock
I wanted to re-weigh it with some certified scales there. I met them at the
other dock and to my disappointment they had already cut the head off and
gutted the fish and cut off its tail to prevent it from being weighed. I was
Look for yourselves. the boat was 13 '9 " inside rail to inside rail
wanna see some guys thinking BS when they called the changes in the weight?
yeah the guy picking his teeth didnt go on the trip and I was told later
that it was his tell playing poker or gambling on anything. He was
responsible and his motive from the way I was told was vanity. He didnt want
his partner who is in the photo to get into the money because he wasnt on
the boat when we caught the fish. What is even sadder is we broke the line
on a fish that day that was maybe 4 times bigger than that one. I doubt
there would have been any questions if the line had held up.
On the flip side I was a handsome youngster huh!
here is the main page for just a select few pics of fishing trips
and a main link to the boat we own now. It is more my brothers . I have been
there and done that so much I just fish when he comes to town and wants to.
my main page
At the end of 1987 I went into the bonding business and over the last 18
years or so we have bonded somewhere over 5000 people out of the
correctional center and guarenteed their appearance in court through
disposition of the cases. I guess we havent done too bad. We are still in
business. I have carried on wrestling on the side with only a short time off
before about 1990.
I had a gap in there from 88 through like 90.
thanks Mr. Battles,
James will also have the distinction of being
the very first contender for the RULER OF THE NATION. Impressive history. I
also learned something about not giving up. I am not sure how many people
last in this sport going 2 and out for an entire year. Many would have given
up by then.