VIKING GRAPPLING by Andreas Sørensen - 3 x Norwegian Glima Champion 

Vikings fought with and without weapons, sometimes for fun and sometimes to survive. When Viking combatants ended up so close they could grab hold of each other, they often went into a clinch. When fights ended up in a clinch, opponents would grab each other and start grappling.

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Vikings had a sophisticated system of grappling techniques and maneuvers used to strike, improve position, submit or injure their opponent. The standard sport and combat glima grappling position starts in a regular glima stance, with a 'cupped' hand-grip on the back of an opponents neck with the right hand, whilst the right elbow presses into the opponents chest, and gripping the the meat of the opponents right forearm with the left hand.

This grappling position enables a combatant to control the head and neck of the opponent with the right hand, induce pain and control much of the opponents torso with the right elbow, and control an opponents right arm with the left hand grip. By holding an opponent’s neck, or arm, or piece of clothing, a fighter can manipulate the opponent into an angle that makes it easier to strike or choke. By grappling in a clinch, a fighter can also take an opponent off balance and throw them to the ground. In Løse-tak sport glima, grappling is done in an energetic and friendly way, but in combat glima, grappling is done to defeat an opponent as fast and as fierce as possible. 

During close quarter hand-to-hand combat when opponents end up in a clinch, even though it is a very tight situation, glima fighters can use a wide variety of grappling moveswhich include: takedowns, throws, foot sweeps, reversals, controls, chokes, locks, escapes, strikes and pain techniques.

Glima grappling is all about using strength with technique to manipulate an opponent into a weaker position. This can be a scary situation because there is little room to dodge a strike or move away from a throw. Being so close, fighters have to grapple for better grips, better balance and better opportunities, that only offer a very small range of motion. Strikes, chokes, locks, takedowns and throws are highly effective, but can be difficult to execute because they have to be done in using the tightest movements.

Grappling techniques happen fast, but because each fighter is holding the other, throws often end up with both opponents landing on the ground together and having to wrestle. This can happen no matter how effectively the grappling techniques are done. But when done correctly, a fighter will end up in the dominant position when ending up on the ground. 

Grappling in a clinch often leads to submission holds. From this extremely close position, it is easier for fighters to go after a choke technique, or a lock. In sport glima, grappling is done with maximum effort, whilst still respecting the opponent, and injury is not the aim. Grappling in combat glima is also done with maximum effort, but now the safety of an opponent isn’t a priority. In combat glima, if an opponent can’t escape from a choke, he or she can risk becoming unconscious or receiving injury.

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Grappling in a clinch is a fight for control. Fighters grapple non-stop for a better position of control, whether it is directly opposite an opponent, to the side of an opponent, or from the back of an opponent. Being behind an opponent in a clinch is an advantageous position since it is harder for an opponent to defend from that position.

Grappling techniques can be offensive or defensive. Sometimes the only grappling techniques that can be used are to escape, or to prevent an escape or attack. Getting out of danger in a clinch means working in a tight space whilst being held, or from a tightly held inferior position, and reversals range from quick movements, to hard fought inch by inch maneuvering. Glima pain techniques are very effective in these situations. 

Sometimes fighters grapple because they are unskilled, fatigued or in pain. This is a common reaction, and the aim is to slow down the conflict by holding an opponent in the hope of some relief by trying to keep the opponent still. Keeping safe in this type of clinch is difficult and a fighter has to be clever to keep protected and keep an opponent from striking or executing a takedown. 

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Strikes can be used to get into a grappling situation in combat glima and løse-tak sport glima, and grappling techniques can be used to set up strikes. In sport glima, this would mean open hand strikes used only for shock value in order to enable a takedown. In combat glima, these strikes can be for shock value or to inflict pain or damage. 

There are many striking techniques that can be used effectively from a grappling situation, especially in combat glima. Punches, elbows, headbutts, kneeing and foot stomps can be used effectively in a clinch. Kicks can be nullified to some extent because of the proximity of the opponents, but some kicks are still effective in a clinch. 

There are several types of grips or holds that are used to control the head or torso of an opponent in løse-tak sport glima, or in a self-defense situation. Strikes from this extremely close position can be difficult for the unskilled, but a skilled glima grappler can utilize a clinch with a variety of pain techniques, chokes, short, quick strikes, or takedowns. When done correctly, they are extremely effective, because the opponent has difficulty rolling with the strike whilst being held.

In combat glima or self-defense situation where sport glima is used in a grappling situation, the glima grip can be utilized on an opponent’s clothing to control their body. This grip on opponents clothing can lead to a choke, lock, throw or takedown. By keeping hold of the clothing from the clinch after a takedown or throw, the clothing can then be used to choke an opponent on the ground. 

Glima grappling is great for building balance,  strength, endurance, coordination and confidence. Glima grappling also provides the opportunity of controlling an opponent without injuring them. These techniques are invaluable to people working in law enforcement or safety and security work. 

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THE DEADLY MARTIAL ART OF THE VIKINGS by Tyr Neilsen

Combat Glima is a deadly martial art that works in real-world conflict situations. It was created during a time when Viking warriors faced each other both on and off the bloody fields of battle. This Viking martial art has been tried and tested over hundreds of years of life and death struggles, with warriors armed with razor sharp steel weapons, or unarmed against them. Over the centuries, as the weapons of modern warfare changed, combat glima has continued to be vital when the fighting ended up as hand to hand combat. 

Combat glima is a no-nonsense complete system that covers the use of easily available modern weapons such as knife, stick and axe, and defense against such weapons. Weapon training starts after students understand and can apply basic unarmed combat glima techniques. Working with simple modern weapons such as a stick and knife, not only teaches the mechanics and application of weapon use, it sharpens all unarmed techniques and reinforces coordination.

Weapon training with axe and machete starts when basic weapon techniques are understood and can be applied by a student. Historical weapon training is a specialized field taught in historical combat glima classes, as regular combat glima classes are geared towards realistic armed and unarmed conflict.  

Combat glima has hand, elbow and knee strikes, block and shock techniques, kicks, grappling, wrestling, throws, takedowns, groundwork, pain techniques, and locking and choking techniques. These techniques can be used seperately, or combined in fluid and lethal ways, from standing situations to fighting on the ground.  

Combat glima open hand strikes are devastating. They are fast and extremely powerful from all angles. A person can't punch a brick wall with force and expect the hand not to be damaged or broken,  but a person can hit a brick wall with force in an open hand strike without damage. The same is true in combat. After one or many punches, the punching hand can be damaged or swollen, making it useless, but an open hand strike is powerful, remains undamaged, and can quickly turn into a grappling or gouging technique. 

Combat glima elbow and knee strikes are fearsome and can be used from a variety of angles against a wide range of targets. Glima kicks are quick and destructive because they are anatomically proficient and are directed to specific targets that ensure maximum effect. All combat glima techniques are executed in such a way as to end a fight as quickly as possible. 

There is a big difference between martial arts geared towards sport, self-defense, and combat. All such training helps in conflict situations, but people who train in combat glima have an edge over someone trained not to inflict harm. Combat glima classes are divided between training techniques indoors with mats, and year round training outdoors on the hard ground, testing the techniques in combat situations. 

Most martial artists, who train for sport or self-defense, do so in a warm and safe environment. They usually train on thick mats that protect them from being hurt if they are thrown, grapple or wrestle. If a person is only trained in this way, the shock of fighting in a street, with cement or asphalt ground, can be massive. The fear of being hit by an opponent is almost as great as the fear of being slammed to the sidewalk. Making forceful contact with cement or stone can seriously injure a person, or scare the fight out of them, so the threat of hitting a cement paving stone can stop a person from fighting as they have been trained. 

Having skills is an advantage, but being great at ground techniques on fluffy mats does not necessarily convert to being great in a struggle on the street, where usual safe movements end up with bloody elbows, scraped backs, and damaged limbs. Point contact experts can fall short in a real situation after being trained for years to not connect. There are no rules on the street, which means people trained under strict rules where physical harm is avoided, are disadvantaged. 

Sport glima has advantages over similar martial arts and wrestling, because the premise, even as a sport, is to get up and away as fast as possible. This is because sport glima came directly from Viking combat situations, where a person did not want to stay long on the ground, enabling a second attacker to kill them. As it is vital to find out what works in reality, as opposed to demonstration, the last 15 minutes of every glima class is competition, where students fight to survive and check out their techniques. 

Most techniques, especially Katas, look wonderful in demonstrations, but often can’t be used in a street fight. Real fights are ugly and dangerous. An attacker might never have trained in a martial art, or have recognizable techniques, which makes such fighting unpredictable. If students never actually test their techniques in stressful and painful situations, they cannot know if their techniques work. Combat glima training creates well-rounded martial artists who understand the differences between sport, competition and real life conflict.

In all forms of glima glima training, opponents fight against all weight classes and ability levels, which leads to hard earned experience. Being used to pain, hitting hard ground, and struggling to win, is extremely important and a massive advantage in a conflict situation. By training outdoors on hard and sometimes icy ground, students quickly build a strong foundation based on reality, and learn why glima techniques have been developed and why they work. 

Year round training outdoors forces combat glima practitioners to disregard the fact that they are fighting on solid ground, and disregard the fact that there are people watching, which is also a massive advantage in a conflict situation. Having trained in stressful and often overwhelming situations, they have less likelihood of freezing up or freaking out, and have experience in dealing with their fear and other emotions.

Combat glima techniques are taught in such a way that understanding of the techniques is the prime focus. It is not repetition for repetitions sake, but rather internalizing the understanding, so that the body performs in a fluid and dynamic way as it adapts to each new movement and situation. It is combat glima principles, rather than indoctrination, that are essential, so that the practitioner understands what they can make work in a fight, and what to do next if it doesn’t work.

Training in combat glima ensures that the practitioner becomes steadily fitter and stronger, both physically and mentally. Year round outdoors training, on hard ground, and in all type of weather, makes combat glima practitioners really tough. Combat competition ends each training session, and through hundreds of such fights, practitioners create the will, ability and determination to dig deep and fight on, when most martial artists would give up. 

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Combat glima training produces fighters that are mentally and physically prepared for conflict, using lethal techniques that have been practiced and tested in hard won battles. They are trained in the use of a variety of weapons and trained to defend against armed attackers. Combat glima training gives a real understanding of appropriate techniques, timing, and correct tactics depending on the situation. This is tough reality-based training, that enhances the practitioner’s chances of surviving single or multiple attacker scenarios.

With and without weapons, combat glima is as deadly today as it ever was in the Viking Age.    

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VIKING SPIRIT by Tyr Neilsen

The people of Viking Age Scandinavia lived in a rugged enviroment with a harsh climate. In order to survive and thrive in these conditions, the Northmen and women became tough and resilient. It was imperative for Viking warriors to strengthen their mind, body and spirit. If they didn't, they became weak and would fall when things got tough.

A physical body is the easiest and quickest to strengthen, but if the spirit is not strong, the body can fail. After the body, the mind is the next thing to strengthen, but again, if the spirit is not strong, the mind will fail. The spirit is the last thing to develop, as it is the most difficult and time-consuming work, but when the spirit is strong, a determined will is built that keeps the mind and body going when they otherwise would have given up.

Having a strong spirit was a greatly prized quality for Viking men and women. It gave them the capacity to endure hardships, inconvieniences and tough times, and gave them the power and courage to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and achieve their goals. Only through struggling through challenge after challenge do we build the neccesary spirit to fight on. Only through this process are we secure in the knowledge that we will get up one more time than we are knocked down, and fight on. 

The Norse people believed they were a part of nature, not something living separately from nature. They understood that in nature there is a constant fight for survival. For the Norse people and Viking warriors, it was of utmost importance to cultivate a strong spirit, simply in order to survive. In order for us to achieve anything like this today, we train outdoors every week, all year round. This means training in rain, wind, snow, hail, and freezing temperatures, as well as in warm weather. As it is winter for 6 months out of the year in Norway, this type of training forces us to grow strong, tough and resilient. We grow stronger because we choose to train in these conditions.     

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Combat glima training builds the warrior spirit so that if techniques, strength, and endurance fail, there is still an indominatable will that cannot give in, and a resevoir of determination to overcome. Combat glima training builds a resiliant spirit by continually managing to get more push ups from a student after he or she have no more to give. Combat glima training builds a confident spirit, by getting a student to get up and fight on, after he or she felt there was no fight left in them.

Doing what it takes to build a Viking spirit is not for everyone. Many falter on the way. But those who train in combat glima and continually push through trials of combat and endurance, create a deep confidence based on the knowledge that they can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, whether it is a physical confrontation or life in general. 

It is the duty of a martial arts instructor to remind us of the importance of a strong fighting spirit. Training to develop a tough and resilient spirit creates other admirable values, such as courage, dependability and moral strength, which benefits not only the individual, but that persons family and society as a whole. This is major part of the foundation of glima. 

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Ósnjallr maðr
hyggsk munu ey lifa
ef hann við víg varask
en elli gefr
honum engi frið
þótt honum geirar gefi.        

Fools think
they will live forever
if they avoid conflict
but old age
gives them no peace
even if they are unharmed

Hávamál - verse 16

COMBAT GLIMA by Tyr Neilsen

Combat Glima was developed by Viking warriors who had to survive attacks from all kinds of weapons. It’s a no-nonsense way of fighting that has no unnecessary movements, and has been tried and tested in life and death situations, in single combat and on the battlefield.

In order to survive, Vikings developed a tough and brutal martial art system that could deal with any situation they came across. Over time, this system, called Glíma, developed to include striking, grappling, throwing, wrestling, and pain techniques. These techniques were used for self-defense, and formed the basis for Viking armed and unarmed combat.

Training in combat glima develops balance, strength, reflexes, speed, co-ordination, endurance and courage, the perfect foundation Viking warriors needed to survive in battle. Glima promotes strength with flexibility and speed, and glima in Old Norse means glimpse or flash, which describes how these techniques are meant to be performed.

In order to have a structured form of unarmed combatives against weapons, the Vikings had to know how to use a variety of weapons, such as sword, axe, spear, seax, stick and knife. Through combat glima, Vikings became experts in knife fighting, stick fighting, spear fighting, axe fighting and sword fighting.

Armed and unarmed Combat Glima training at the Academy focuses on training with modern weapons and equipment. Våpenkamp is the Norwegian name for combat with weapons. Våpenkamp at the Academy also includes working with historical weapons.

Knife fighting is an excellent way to sharpen existing unarmed martial arts techniques. Fighting with a knife is a developed skill which builds balance, coordination, focus and speed. It polishes technique and understanding of where you are in hand to hand combat. With a knife or unarmed against a knife, knife-fighting sharpens existing skills to the utmost. Knivkamp is the Norwegian name for knife fighting, and knivkamp training at the Academy includes working with modern and historical weapons.

Stick fighting is an integral part of glima, because once these principles are taken in, they can be used for any cutting weapon. A stick is a very versatile weapon, and there are things that can be done with a stick that can’t be done with cutting weapons, such as locks, chokes and takedowns. We don’t use a standard size stick in Combat glima, but rather train with different sized sticks, which develops adaptability and enables a combat glima combatant to be ready for any situation. 

Combat Glima as a self-defense system contains throws, blows, kicks, chokes, locks, pain techniques and weapon techniques, and is comparable with the best complete martial arts systems from around the world. 

Close combat glima includes short powerful strikes that flow between grappling and wrestling techniques. No move is superfluous or wasted, and there are no traces of unnecessary movement or unneeded style. Without exception, there are no decorative movements in Viking unarmed combat, and absolutely everything in Løse-tak combat glíma is functional and straight to the point. Within striking distance and grappling distance, hands, feet, and knees are used to their best effect.

Training in combat glima with and without weapons from an early age, gave the Vikings such a comprehensive combat foundation, that they had no problem adapting to the different styles of warfare, or other fighting styles they met on their travels. Viking warriors were renowned for their fighting abilities in raids and against larger and less mobile soldiers because glima, combined with forestry and hunting skills, made Vikings extremely dangerous in guerilla warfare.

Over the centuries, the nature of combat in war has changed due to the constant development of weapons, but when it comes down to hand to hand combat, glima is an extremely effective martial art. Since the Viking Age, glima has always been practiced for realistic combat situations in Scandinavia, and from historical documents, we can see that Viking fighting techniques were in use all the way to the 19th century, when combat glima was used as the foundation for bajonettkamp (bayonet fighting) by the Swedish and Norwegian military.

With the changing methods of warfare, where one on one combat on the battlefield began to disappear, combat glima also began to disappear. At the beginning of the 20th century, combat glima was even made illegal in some parts of Scandinavia, when all dangerous hand to hand combat techniques for the common man were banned. Combat glima survived only by keeping it a secret.

At the Academy we train combat glima indoors with mats and equipment, but we also train outdoors, every week, year round, in all weather. Not only is this very healthy, it reminds students why they don't want to fall, be thrown to, or wrestle on hard ground or ice. Training outdoors year round on all kinds of ground keeps footwork sharp and purposeful.

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Combat Glima targets the head for hand and elbow strikes from all angles. These strikes can be done from striking and grappling range. A closed fist where the knuckles hit is seldom used in combat glima, as hands are often injured this way, or the knuckles swell and become useless. A hammer fist, using the meaty part of a clenched fist, is used to good effect sideways and downwards. 

Most hand strikes in combat glima are done with an open hand. A palm strike is extremely powerful. It's harder than a punch and seldom injures the hand, (it's better to hit a brick wall with a palm strike than with the knuckles of a punch) and open handed strikes can also transfer immediately into grappling techniques.  

Vikings had two arms and two legs, just like their opponents. What set the Vikings apart from other warriors was how they used what they had. In Viking unarmed combat, every move is the most simple and effective possible. Quick and devastating kicks are sent from the basic Glima stance to specific targets for maximum effect. A hard kick to the knee or ankle can stop a fight, and kicks can be used to weaken an opponent's attack or defence, opening up possibilities for a successful finish.

Combat Glima kicks are quick and destructive. In combat, kicks are thrust kicks or snap kicks, aimed primarily below the waist at joints and pain centers. A kick to the area just above the groin, to the top of the thigh, to the knee, or to the ankle area, always have a painfull or breaking effect. Above the waist, kicks to the ribs area, spine, liver, kidney, middle of the solar plexus, and to the head - if the head is at waist height, are effective. In combat, glima kicks are seldom aimed at shoulder or head height, but training at such targets keeps the body in good shape and defensive moves sharp.

Specific targets take out the guesswork in combat. An elbow to the nose, a knee to the ribs or knee, a kick to the knee or ankle of an attacker, are specific and devastating. If a strike misses by a centimeter or two, it will still make an impact, so long as it was aimed at a specific target.

Use of the hips is extremely important in striking, kicking, grappling, throwing, and wrestling. Hip movement and pushing against the ground gives these techniques their power. 

Combat Glima has an arsenal of aggressive takedown techniques. These are  done from grappling distance and of course wrestling situations. These takedowns are brutal from the beginning of execution until forcefully making and opponent hit the ground.

Combat Glima has destructive throws. These are not just throwing techniques, they create pain and can injure an opponent before the opponent lands on the ground. There are foot sweep techniques and tripping techniques in Combat glima. Again, these are not just sweeps, they are destructive kicks to the limbs of an opponent on the way to becoming sweeps.

Combat Glima finishing techniques are precise and painful, from standing and grappling, to finishes on the ground with hands, elbows, knees and feet.

Groundwork is where Combat Glima excels. This is possibly the most continually painful part of a fight, with techniques that deliver unbearable agony.

 

COMBAT GLIMA DRILLS Combat Glima Drills are done fluidly to create understanding and coordination. Combinations of movements in these drills are never robotic, but allow a student to become efficient in putting techniques together that flow naturally and effectively. Sparring is a part of every training session,  and usually happens at the end of a class. Here students see how the their techniques work in reality, not just in theory or demonstrations.

The COMBAT GLIMA STANCE is a fantastic foundation that can be used equally effectivly for striking and grappling. Footwork is a major part of combat, and once this is understood and can be used, a fighter can concentrate on fighting techniques without distraction.

ADVANCED BASICS are practiced constantly. Basics are the fundement, and these fundements are understood at a deeper meaning at each stage of progression. Constantly perfecting basics improves all aspects of combat, and is incredibly important to understand the mechanics of offence, defence and surviving a fight. 

 

Combat glima is not just a great martial art for self-defense, it keeps you in shape and builds strength, stamina, flexibilty, balance, coordination, reflexes, awareness, confidence and spirit.

 

Til árs ok friðar

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Hunting was an essential part of life for our ancestors. The Norsemen were great hunters, and for them, the hunt was both a practical and spiritual endeavor. For hunting and combat training, Norsemen and Vikings used specialized clothing that would withstand the weather and the wear and tear of use in rough terrain.

Modern Norwegians also have specialized clothing for hunting and training. This clothing is called either 'Jaktklær' meaning hunting clothing, or ‘Skogsklær’ which simply means forest clothing. Just as our ancestors did, we use skogsklær for Combat Glima training. It is practical and tough, and exactly what we need for year round outdoor training.

THE VÍKING WARRIOR

                                                                                                         Årbogen, Buskerud County, Norway     Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

                                                                                                         Årbogen, Buskerud County, Norway     Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

History is made by people. If history is not observed by the people who create it, it is difficult to fully understand or accurately record it. A lot has been written about the Viking Age, by poets, academics, and historians, but very little by warriors, yet warriors have a special insight into the creation of history that even eager spectators can never obtain. 

Life is struggle, and violence is a part of human life today as it was in the past. It is only though our ancestors surviving childhood to an age when they could procreate, and living long enough to care for their children through childhood, that we are here today. They are the ones who have transmitted from generation to generation, the blood that runs through our veins. 

Warriors are our heritage. They are the ones who fought to protect their family, their homes, their countrymen, and their nation’s way of life and culture. Viking warriors fought for, and carved out kingdoms, paving the way for the world as we know it today. This makes Viking warriors an integral part of world history. 

Over the centuries there has been an amazing amount of historical and archaeological research regarding the Norse people and Vikings. Everything from who they were, to what they conquered, when the conquered, and where they conquered. But very little research has been done regarding how they fought and why they fought the way they did. Yet these questions are of equal importance in understanding the Viking age as any other question. The answer lies in the martial art of the Vikings, and how this helped make the Viking warrior so capable, feared and respected.

The image most people have been given of Viking warriors is of wild savages, screaming and waving swords of steel and axes in the air, as they jumped out of dragon ships to spread fear and terror throughout the known and unknown world. It’s a simple image that has prevailed for over a thousand years. But where did they come from and how did they become so fearsome?

Viking warriors hailed from the hard lands of the cold north that would later become Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. Life in Viking Age Scandinavia was tough, and if someone wanted something, they had to fight for it. From birth, the Norse people had everything they needed in order to grow up strong and self sufficient. Viking children started combat and sport glima training at the age of about 6 or 7. A boy of 12 years was regarded as a man, and as a man, he was able to hunt, farm, prepare food, build a home, provide for and defend his family. It was expected of Viking men, from the age of 12 to 60, to be fighting fit and capable of doing military service for their jarl or king. This they were able to do extremely well, according to historical scources, including one of the earliest documents about Vikings, written by Muslim diplomat Ibn Fadlan, in the year 922, who described Vikings as “The wildest warriors I have ever seen”. 

In the far North there was no flat land with warm year-round climate, but rather the rough terrain of forests and mountains, and the snow and ice of harsh winters that could last 6 months out of the year. These conditions and their combat training helped Norse men and women develop a resilient spirit and the capabilities needed to survive and thrive. 

The martial art that developed in Scandinavia reflects the rugged landscapes found there. It was such raw nature that sculpted the Viking warriors and how they fought. This tough environment forced the Norse people to be strong, yet felxible enough not to break, and their martial art reflects the people that created it; rough and vital, with no superfluous moves.

Because of the rough stony ground in summer, and dangerously icy ground in winter, the Viking warrior's combat footwork was super efficient. With such a core balance, grappling skills, wrestling skills  and striking techniques were devastatingly fast and effective. Exactly what Viking warriors needed in life and death struggles on the battlefield or onboard a ship.  

The Viking warriors way of fighting, as a group and individually, was good enough and adaptable enough, to tackle all styles of combat and all types of weapons. Vikings had two arms, two legs, and weapons, just as their adversaries had, and they were just as vulnerable as the warriors they came against, but what set the Viking warrior apart from everyone else, was how they used what they had. 

One of the Viking warrior’s greatest strengths was their willingness to learn from other cultures. Vikings were eclectic, and combined the knowledge and experience they gained from fighting a wide variety of enemy to their already impressive arsenal. Viking combat training, combined with their powerful mindset and spirit, created in the harsh lands of the North, is what lay behind how Vikings became the world’s best warriors of their time, and enabled them to achieve their goals.

The Viking martial art of glima involved unarmed close combat fighting, close combat fighting with weapons, such as a dagger, saex, spear, axe, sword and shield, and long range weapons such as bow and arrow, and spear and stone throwing. Viking warriors fought on land and at sea, and they fought with whatever they could afford, make, borrow or steal. Viking warriors could fight in all types of armor, ranging from leather to metal, and their Viking shield could be used for both defense and offense. 

In battlefield combat, a Viking warrior could grapple if he lost his weapon, or if everything else failed. Empty hand skills were more difficult to execute with armor, but still effective, and a warrior could strike, throw, or secure an opponent with a lock or grip. This would enable a Viking warrior to either finish an opponent with the hands or feet, or give him enough time to get out a short knife and thrust it into one of the unprotected open areas of the armor.

Two very significant things made the Viking successes possible. The first was that the Vikings were able to build the best ships in the world, allowing them to travel and explore. The second was that the Vikings created such an effective martial art, that they could successfully combat anyone that dared to oppose them when they got there.

Vikings were bold explorers and masters of the oceans. Their expeditions took them all over Europe, the Far East, Russia and North America. With just a ship and whatever they could carry, these fearless warriors dared to sail on stormy seas, and continue through dangerous lands. The fact that an ocean stopped at a country’s coast didn’t stop Vikings.

When Vikings couldn’t sail any further, they picked up their ships and carried them overland. In this manner they transported their ships over difficult and sometimes frozen terrain, until they found a river, where they sailed further inland to attack, or defend. Viking warriors fought bloody hand to hand fighting on ships at sea, and on rivers hundreds of miles inland. They opened up trade routes in Europe and Russia, and defended them successfully against warriors from other cultures and overwhelming odds. 

From the Norse landscape and culture, Vikings developed a resilient warrior spirit and the skill sets to survive in all conditions and situations. The combat training of the Viking warriors gave them the ability to fight against all kinds of weapons and all styles of warfare. Their combat training created such magnificent fighters that Viking warriors were not only able to travel to hostile and unexplored lands and live to tell the tale, but they became feared and admired in all the lands they traveled. 

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Whatever other label they might have been given, Vikings were warriors. And not just any warriors, they were the best in the world for three centuries. The impact these warriors had on the world is attested to by there being a 300 year period of history being named after them; the Viking Age. A thousand years later, Viking warriors are still revered for their fierce spirit, their combat skills, and what they achieved. 

 

Ár skal rísa
sá er annars vill
fé eða fjör hafa
sjaldan liggjandi úlfr
lær um getr
né sofandi maðr sigr

Get up early and fight
For what you want
Before others take it
A lazy wolf
Gets no meat
The sleeping get no victory

HÁVAMÁL – verse 58

 

GLÍMA - The Martial Art of the Vikings by Tyr Neilsen

Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

The Viking Age is the 300 year period of history between 790 - 1100 A.D. It is also the only period in history named after warriors.

Throughout Europe, Vikings were admired and feared as they opened up trade routes, fought to keep them open, and carved out kingdoms. In the East, Viking warriors were admired and feared as the elite fighting force called the Varangian Guard. In the Middle East in the year 922, Muslim diplomat Ibn Fadlan wrote that he had never seen more perfect physical specimens than Viking warriors, and that they were the fiercest fighters he had ever seen.

On land and at sea, Vikings had the skills to survive against the various forms of warfare they encountered in their travels around the world. The reason for the Viking warriors fighting prowess is found in the way they trained both with and without weapons. Although people all around the world have heard of Vikings, few have heard of the Viking martial art of Glíma.

In Old Norse, Glíma means ‘glimpse or flash’, which describes the techniques of this Viking martial art. Glima techniques include grappling, wrestling, throws, hand strikes, elbow strikes, kicks, chokes, locks, pain techniques and weapon techniques, and glima is comparable with the best complete martial arts systems from around the world. 

Glima was created and developed by warriors who had to survive attacks from all kinds of weapons. It is a no-nonsense way of fighting that cuts out all unnecessary movements, and has been tried and tested in single combat and on the battlefield, with life and death on the line.

The martial art of glima is separated into two categories, sport glima and a combat glima. Glima as a sport covers several types of Scandinavian folk wrestling; Lausatök is free-grip wrestling, Brokartök is trouser-grip wrestling, and Hryggspenna is back-hold wrestling.

Scandinavian children began training in these forms of glima at the age of 6 or 7, and glima was practiced by male and female alike. The people of Viking Age Scandinavia loved all forms of sport, but glima was by far the most widespread sport. Glima wrestling competitions were extremely popular and wherever the people of the north gathered, glima was a big part of the entertainment. Glima was so important for Viking society that their most popular god, Thor, was also the god of wrestling.

Viking Age children learned balance, grappling, wrestling, and pain techniques, from training in Lausatök sport glima. These techniques could be used for self-defense, and this training formed the basis for Viking armed and unarmed combat. Training in Lausatök glima also developed strength, reflexes, endurance and courage, the perfect foundation Viking warriors needed to survive in battle.

In order to have a structured form of unarmed combatives against weapons, the Vikings had to know how to use a variety of weapons, such as sword, axe, spear, seax, stick and knife. Through combat glima, Vikings became experts in knife fighting, stick fighting, spear fighting, axe fighting and sword fighting.

Training in glima with and without weapons from an early age, gave the Vikings such a comprehensive combat foundation, that they had no problem adapting to the different styles of warfare, or other fighting styles they met on their travels. Viking warriors were renowned for their fighting abilities in raids and against larger and less mobile soldiers because glima, combined with forestry and hunting skills, made Vikings extremely dangerous in guerilla warfare.

Over the centuries, the nature of combat in war has changed due to the constant development of weapons, but when it comes down to hand to hand combat, glima is an extremely effective martial art. Since the Viking Age, glima has always been practiced for realistic combat situations in Scandinavia. From historical documents, we can see that Viking fighting techniques were in use all the way to the 19th century, when combat glima was used as the foundation for bajonettkamp (bayonet fighting) by the Swedish and Norwegian military.

With the changing methods of warfare, where one on one combat on the battlefield began to disappear, combat glima also began to disappear. At the beginning of the 20th century, combat glima was even made illegal in some parts of Scandinavia, when all dangerous hand to hand combat techniques for the common man were banned. Combat glima survived only by keeping it a secret.

As a sport, glima not only survived, it became the national sport of Iceland, and there are now national championships in all forms of sport glima throughout Scandinavia. Thanks to the interest of Viking groups, Viking festivals, historical reenactment and martial artists, sports glima and combat glima are also gaining in popularity all over the world.

Just as was the case in the Viking Age when Norse warriors had to compete with different styles of fighting from around the world, modern combat glima has continued to develop so that it remains a relevant martial art in today’s world.

As a sport, glima builds flexibility, endurance and strength, as well as being energetic, effective, educational and fun. As a means of self-defense, combat glima is a martial art that is unrestricted by style, and can be used against any and all individual martial art techniques.

Glíma - the martial art of the Vikings

 

Þagalt og hugalt
skyldi þjóðans barn
og vígdjarft vera.
Glaður og reifur
skyli gumna hver
uns sinn bíður bana.

People should be
quiet and thoughtful
and brave in conflict
Each person should live
happy and joyful
until their last day.

 

Hávamál – Verse 15