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Local Ladies Will Bare Arms for a Good Cause

Madame Jillotine. The Ohio Hacksaw. CoCo the Killer Clown.

These aren’t characters in a horror movie, or even competitors in the increasingly revivified sport of roller derby.

These are arm wrestlers in the District’s Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers, or D/CLAW. And on Saturday, they will be competing at Post 8 of the American Legion on Capitol Hill.

According to its organizers, the event will consist of three rounds, each of which will narrow the field from eight wrestlers to one champion. For these events, competitors don costumes, gather entourages and adopt personas, such as Kentucky Dirty and the Ohio Hacksaw. 

Spectators can buy D/CLAW Bucks, worth a dollar, to place bets on their favorite wrestlers. Winners are eligible for donated prizes including Redskins tickets, a holiday basket and personal training sessions.

“Obviously the ladies are there for the competition and the camaraderie,” Post 8 Commander Kathryn Stillman said. “But it’s a show, and it’s a very fun show.”

All proceeds from the event, including the $5 admission fee and placed bets, will go to improving accessibility at Post 8.

“Our next big project is to make ourselves even more accessible to our veterans that have mobility issues and concerns,” Stillman said. “We can get them in the building, but we can’t always get them in our bathrooms.”

Stillman explained that volunteers at Post 8 have been working on minor improvements to mobility, but she said projects such as widening door frames are “minimal compared to what some persons might actually need.”

She is optimistic that the arm-wrestling event will help. 

“Every time that they’ve had an event, it’s always gotten bigger and better,” Stillman said, explaining that as much as $5,000 is often raised at these competitions. “We hope it’s standing room only.”

According to Andrea Kavanagh, chairwoman of the National Board of CLAW-USA, Post 8 is the kind of group the ladies want to raise money for, especially because Post 8 has hosted D/CLAW competitions in the past.

“We’re looking for people who really need smaller scale donations, or any donations,” she said, explaining that the dozen or so core members of D/CLAW vote on which groups to support.

According to the event’s press release, D/CLAW has hosted bouts in the past to benefit groups including House of Ruth, Service Women’s Action Network, Fisher House Foundation and N Street Village.

D/CLAW was founded after a few District residents read about the Virginia-based Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers league in the Washington Post, Kavanagh said. The participants found each other on Facebook and launched the D.C. league — one of 11 active leagues across the country.

Most women instantly and instinctively know if arm wrestling is for them, Kavanagh said. 

“We all read that article and said, ‘Oh my God, we have to do this,’” she explained. “It either appeals to your personality or it doesn’t.”

Once in the league, wrestlers have to decide on a character. 

“It really is all about what feels like your alter ego,” she said. “Some people know right away what their persona is going to be, and some people have no idea.” Kavanagh said the league helps new members create personas, often trying out many until they find one that fits.

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