Glíma is the Icelandic national style of amateur Folk wrestling.

There are four points that differentiate it from other forms of wrestling:

Glima remains, as it always has been, friendly recreation and a gentleman's sport, but as the lösatags version (described below) shows it also has a rougher side.

The core of the system are eight main bragd (techniques), which form the basic training for approximately 50 ways to execute a throw or takedown. Glima is a very old combative style. Certain evidence of glima dates back to the 12th century but some descriptions of wrestling in the Icelandic sagas and the Younger Edda makes it reasonable to believe that the system is much older.

Surrounding glima is a code of honour called Drengskapur that calls for fairness, respect for and caring about the security of one's training partners.


The Berserkers

Demonstrating the fury of the Berserker.
Note how the throat and the eyes become naturally protected in this state of mind.

It is not only the technical fighting skills that makes the Viking warriors so efficient and superior to others, they also has the advantage of being able to bring forth the rage of the mighty bear and the deadly wolf. This inhuman state of mind is regarded as being given from the warrior-god and magician Óđinn or “the one that is inspired by rage” and is called Berserksgangr or “to go berserk”. The warriors who are able to go into this god-given state of mind is known as the Berserkers.

Please note that we are talking about the old meaning of the expression “to go berserk” and not the modern way of describing a crazy person who runs amok – even if there are at lot similarities between them. The Viking Berserker is on a much higher level as he/she enriches his body with powers making him/her insensible to pain and enters a state of mind that can conquer all his/her enemies.

The attitude of the Berserker can be used efficiently in Glima, but it should be mentioned that this force should only be used in earnest in fights against more than one opponent or in cases where the opponent is stronger than you. Beware of the fact that the fury of the Berserker can only be upheld for a fairly short time-period – so use it with caution. You will be totally drained of energy when the power of the rage runs out and then you will also feel all the pains and injuries that your opponents have inflicted on you. If you want to learn and master the attitude of the wild beast, the best way is to try it in the opening stage of a fight in Combat Glima.

To find the Berserker within you must let go of your mind and act with the determination of a predator that has already conquered his/her prey before the attack has started.


The 3 Traditional Styles of Glima

Glima is practised with fixed grips or with free gripping. The fixed grip is taken either behind the opponent’s back (Back-hold) or at the opponent’s belt and trousers (Trouser-grip). To make the fight as fair as possible both wrestlers have the same hold with one arm under and one arm over the opponent’s arms. The aim in Back-hold Glima and in Trouser-grip Glima is to make the opponent lose his/her balance, to trip or throw him/her to the ground. No wrestling on the ground is allowed or necessary in the fixed grip Glima.

An intense situation in Back-hold Glima.
Note that the fighters are wrestling with fixed grips.

In Hryggspennu-tök or “Back-hold” the person who first touches the ground with anything other than the feet or who lets go of his/her hold has lost the game. It is regarded as honourable behaviour if a fighter lets go of his/her grip if the opponent falls backwards. This is due to the possibility that he/she can get his/her spine injured by the attacker’s knuckles.

The oldest know photo of Trouser-grip Glima – photographed in the 1870s.

The Brokar-tök or “Trouser-grip” is the most advanced style in Glima and is therefore very difficult to master. In this style both wrestlers must be in constant movement in a slow or a fast circular dance. The wrestlers must also be in an upright body-position and stand fairly close to each other. You are not allowed to fall on the person that is thrown down in this style of Glima and therefore the victorious attacker must always take a ritual step over the conquered opponent to show that he/she had the opportunity to injure the opponent – but chose not to do it.

The Trouser-grip that has been practised with a specially designed leather belt since the beginning of the 20th century is the fastest and most technical of all Glima styles and is regarded as an excellent way to learn the dynamics of balance and the art of tripping in a playful manner. It is also by far the best way to learn evasive manoeuvres with a relaxed but high spirited fighting attitude.

A situation in Loose-grip Glima from 1908.
Note that both the attacker and the defender are doing offensive techniques.

The Glima style that allows the use of all the grips you can take is called Lausa-tök or “Free gripping” and is very similar to Combat Glima. The only difference is that it is less violent than the style prepared for fighting in earnest. This means that only techniques that do not aim to inflict pain are allowed in this style of Glima.

Remember that in Glima all attack techniques should be done with control whether it is by foot, leg, hip, hand or arm. No hitting, kicking, gouging, biting or head-butting is allowed.