IP MAN, BRUCE LEE, DAN INOSANTO and the VIKING MARTIAL ARTS by Tyr Neilsen

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Grandmaster and legend Ip Man was the main martial arts instructor of legend Bruce Lee, who was the main martial arts instructor of legend Dan Inosanto, who was one of my main martial arts instructors. Ip Man, Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto have been legends in their own lifetime, and their legacy only grows stronger with each year.

I am incredibly fortunate to have been trained in armed and unarmed combat by legend Dan Inosanto. Dan passed on the information from his teacher, and his teacher’s teacher, and from him I was given a fantastic foundation and understanding on which to build.

That martial arts foundation started in 1973, when I was 13 years old. Shortly after beginning training in Ju Jitsu, I found out about Bruce Lee. He exploded onto the scene at a time when Kung Fu and many other martial arts from around the world were still being kept secret from the west. In the early 1970’s in the North of England, it was possible to train in a few Asian martial arts, such as Japanese Ju Jitsu, Judo and Karate. Kung Fu was not being taught to foreigners, and the multitude of martial arts that the average person has heard of today, was unknown to most people who trained martial arts at that time. In the early 70’s, only people who read Black Belt magazine knew that such exotic martial arts as Arnis,  Muay Thai, Capoeira, Pencak Silat or Savate, existed. 

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As a young man, I was inspired by Bruce to create the best version of myself that I could. It was not only the amazing physical attributes of Bruce Lee that were inspiring, it was also his keen interest in philosophy. I saw that it was not enough just to be strong and be able to fight, there had to be a deeper understanding of life and values. I bought Black Belt magazine each month and devoured the articles. I took special note of any articles regarding Bruce lee, his training methods, and Jeet Kune Do, the martial art he created. From one of these articles I learned of Bruce’s teacher, Grandmaster Ip Man.   

In the extensive history of martial arts, there have been many great fighters, but only a few have earned the title Grandmaster. A grandmaster had to have certain qualities, such as performing at an excellent standard, understanding to an excellent standard and sharing this information. A grandmaster understands that it is a duty to share the skills with the next generation.

                                           IP MAN AND BRUCE LEE

                                          IP MAN AND BRUCE LEE

Ip Man, also known as Yip Man (1893 – 1972) was a Chinese master teacher of Wing Chun Kung Fu. At 7 years old, Ip Man started learning Wing Chun from Chan Wah-shun. Chan was 64 at the time and Ip Man became Chan's last student. At 24, Ip Man became a policeman and taught Wing Chun to several of his fellow policemen, friends and relatives.

This was a very turbulent time in China's history, especially for a Kung Fu teacher, but in 1949, after the Chinese Civil War, Ip Man opened a Wing Chun school. Many of his students later opened their own schools and promoted Wing Chun around the world. 

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Several of Ip Man’s students became martial arts masters in their own right, but of all of Ip Man’s students, his most famous was by far, Bruce Lee. It was not an easy thing for Ip Man to teach Bruce, because the Chinese were against teaching their martial arts techniques to non-Asians. When most of Ip Man's students refused to train with Bruce after learning of his mixed ancestry, Ip Man began giving Bruce private tuition.

Bruce Lee, also known as Lee Jun-fan (1940 – 1973), was a Chinese-American actorfilm director and martial artist, who created the martial art of Jeet Kune Do. Bruce was born in San Francisco, but while he was still a baby, his parents moved back to Hong Kong, which is where Bruce grew up. As a teenager, Bruce was involved in many street fights, due to gang rivalries and refugees fleeing communist China for Hong Kong. Bruce's parents decided that he needed to be trained in the martial arts, so when he was 16, Bruce started training in Wing Chun Kung Fu under Ip Man. Bruce’s training with Ip Man was interrupted when Bruce had to leave Hong Kong due to street fights against teenagers who came from organized crime families.

At 18, Bruce moved to California and settled in Seattle where he went to college. Bruce left college to start teaching Kung Fu to non-Chinese, which caused problems with the Chinese community who issued an ultimatum to Bruce. Because he didn't stop teaching non-Chinese people, Bruce was challenged to a combat match with the Chinese community's champion. The deal was that if Lee lost, he would have to shut down his school, but if he won, Bruce would be free to teach white people, or anyone else. Bruce won the fight and continued to teach to non-Chinese.

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Soon after, Bruce Lee became an iconic figure known throughout the world because of his martial art, his physique, his dynamic personality and his films. In the late 1960’s Bruce starred in TV shows such as The Green Hornet which became a sensation, especially in Hong Kong. In the 1970’s, Bruce exploded onto the world stage with the box office blockbuster films; The Big Boss, Fists of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon and Game of Death.

Bruce Lee changed popular culture, revolutionized the way people looked at unarmed combat, became the most famous martial artist in the world, the biggest movie star, and influenced people of every race, creed and color. But just 7 months after his teacher Ip Man died of throat cancer, Bruce Lee died under mysterious circumstances on July 20, 1973. He was only 32. 

                                                         DAN INOSANTO AND BRUCE LEE

                                                        DAN INOSANTO AND BRUCE LEE

Bruce Lee's best known training partner is Filipino-American martial arts legend Dan Inosanto ( 1936 - ).  A former student of Ed Parker, Dan started training Kung Fu with Bruce in the late 60’s. The men became fast friends and Dan was instrumental when Bruce started developing his own martial art called Jeet Kune Do (Way of the Intercepting Fist). Dan introduced Bruce to several types of weapons, and Bruce used Dan as his opponent in an exciting fight scene with weapons in the film Game of Death.

Dan is an authority on Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Martial Arts, as well as holding Instructor or black belt level ranks in several other martial arts including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. With the loss of Bruce, Dan took over the teaching of Jun Fan Kung Fu and Jeet Kune Do, at the “Kali-Jun Fan" Academy he started in California in 1974.

       BRUCE AND DAN ON THE FILM SET OF GAME OF DEATH

      BRUCE AND DAN ON THE FILM SET OF GAME OF DEATH

That year I read a Black Belt article about Bruce Lee’s training partner and student Dan Inosanto running a martial arts school in California and teaching Bruce Lee’s techniques of Jeet Kune Do. The article made a massive impact on me. California was the other side of the world, but at 14 years of age, I thought to myself, “Someday I’m going to train there.” For the next years I continued training in diverse styles of martial arts so that one day I might be able to train at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts.

In my teens I trained regularly in Ju Jitsu, Judo, Jiu Te Do, Lancashire wrestling and boxing. I also got to train Shotokan Karate with the very tough Sensei Terry O’Neill, and attended seminars and classes from Sensei Keinosuke Enoeda and Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa. After graduating from Art College and doing basic training in the British army, I worked in the building industry, mainly in the family business. After saving up some money, I traveled around Europe and worked for nearly a year in the South of France, where I trained in Savate, the French form of kickboxing.

                                      RELAXING AFTER TRAINING WITH NINO BERNARDO - BOTTOM RIGHT

                                     RELAXING AFTER TRAINING WITH NINO BERNARDO - BOTTOM RIGHT

Living in France created my first connection to Grandmaster Ip Man, after meeting Sifu Nino Bernardo in Bonporteau. Nino had been a student of Wong Shun Leung in Hong Kong, who himself had been a student of Ip Man. Before leaving for the UK, Nino invited me to train Wing Chun Kung Fu in London where he taught. Some months later I moved to London and trained with him. Nino was incredibly generous with his time and gave me private tuition in his home after regular classes.

I moved back to Liverpool to help with the family business as a carpenter and painter/decorator. This served me well when at 22 years of age I bought a house that needed a lot of renovation. I had never given up on my dream and figured if I could fix up the place, maybe I could sell it at a profit and have enough money to get me to the Inosanto Academy. After three solid years of working after regular work and every weekend, I turned the shell of a building into a nice place to live and sold it at a good profit.

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On selling my house, I traveled to the East Coast of America and got my first taste of Jeet Kune Do from seminars and private lessons with Guru Rick Tucci and John Johnston. Whilst training with John, I was invited to a Dan Inosanto - Jeet Kune Do summer camp in Michigan, where Nino Bernardo was guest instructor. For a glorious week I got to train Kung Fu with my old teacher, as well as Jeet Kune Do and Kali with Guru Dan Inosanto, Grappling with Sifu Larry Hartsell and Savate with Proffeseur Salem Assli.

                             DAN INOSANTO - LARRY HARTSELL - TYR NEILSEN - NINO BERNARDO - SALEM ASSLI

                            DAN INOSANTO - LARRY HARTSELL - TYR NEILSEN - NINO BERNARDO - SALEM ASSLI

Nino used me in some of the Kung Fu demonstrations at the camp, introduced me to Dan, and made sure I ate dinner and hung out with these legendary instructors. This introduction by Nino opened the doors of the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts which Dan had started in 1983. Not long after the summer camp, I traveled to Los Angeles, and in 1988 and 89, I trained at the Inosanto Academy, where there were classes in Jeet Kune Do, Kali-Silat, Savate, Ju Jitsu, Thai Boxing, Pentjak Silat, Kung Fu and Boxing, with some of the best martial artists in the world.

                                                    DAN INOSANTO - TYR NEILSEN - LARRY HARTSELL

                                                   DAN INOSANTO - TYR NEILSEN - LARRY HARTSELL

A normal week night at the Academy would last 4 to 5 hours of training, made up of Savate with Salem, an hour and a half of Jeet Kune Do with Dan or another Academy instructor, and an hour and a half of Kali with Dan or another instructor. Very often there were also seminar/workshops on the weekend with the best martial artists in their fields. Every now and then I would also drive to the IMB (Inosanto, Martinez, Bustillo) Academy in Carson C.A. to train grappling with Larry Hartsell when he was there.

I trained several hours each night, but those Inosanto classes were tough. We were given non-stop information which we had to immediately put into practice. Each class was 90 minutes, and every blister and callous was well earned. I have never met another instructor who had so much information about such a variety of martial arts at such a high level as Dan. What is more amazing is that Dan was so incredibly eager to share this information and make sure his students understood.

This was an exciting time in my life and I could have continued training there for many more years, but on the way to California, I had met a beautiful Norwegian woman. When I told my instructors at the Academy that I was moving to Norway to get married, they wished me good luck and told me to keep in touch. As a parting gift, Salem gave me his pair of Savate gloves and Dan told me to “Go and learn as much as you can about the indigenous Norwegian forms of combat and share that knowledge.” This struck me as a little strange and I told Dan that I had been to Norway several times, trained there with other martial artists, and never heard of any Norwegian martial art. I said that I didn't think that there was a Norwegian martial art. Dan told me "Of course there is. All cultures have their own martial art and martial sport. The Vikings must have had a system of combat."  

I arrived in Norway a few weeks before Christmas 1989 and was given an early gift by my future wife. It was a hardbound copy of Snorri Sturluson’s Saga of the Norse Kings, an account of the kings of Viking Age Norway. I knew that I was marrying into a family that took pride in preserving their cultural heritage, but what I couldn't know was to what degree. From my mother in-law Gudlaug Foss Svendsen I learned about Norse Mythology, history and culture, and from my father in-law Odd Svendsen I learned about Glíma – the martial art of the Vikings.

Because Norway has been ruled over by foreign countries, was occupied by Germany in the Second World War, and has had its sacred cultural symbols used for negative purposes, Norwegians have been reluctant to share their cultural inheritance, such as their martial art. It was only after it was clear that I would be part of their family that my parents in-law started to share their cultural knowledge. Fortunately for me, I came to them with a degree of martial and philosophical competance that made it possible to absorb and understand this information quickly.    

In the mid 90's I started teaching Glima in southern Norway and in 2009 I created the Academy of Viking Martial Arts. Hardly anyone knew about glima when I arrived in Norway, but slowly and surely the word has spread, and the amount of people training in glima around the world has grown. At seminars and workshops in Scandinavia and Europe I have been doing exactly what Dan Inosanto told me to do: “Go and learn as much as you can about the indigenous Norwegian forms of combat and share that knowledge.”

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Ip Man, Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto taught their cultural martial arts to those who wanted to learn it, and made them accessible to the rest of the world. Dan is especially responsible for bringing obscure forms of the martial arts into the public eye. This is something he inspired me to do with glima.  

I have thought a lot about my journey, the dedicated teachers I have encountered, and the circumstances which have led me to where I am today. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of this legacy and to be part of an unbroken line of martial artists from the Viking Age. Just as glima was passed down from generation to generation, from my father in-law to me, and from me to my son, I will continue to pass it on to future generations.   

I would like to thank all of my martial arts instructors, who for over 4 decades, have given so generously of their knowledge and continue to inspire. Thank you for the foundation you helped create and your words of encouragement that continue to resonate. 

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ROBERT LOW - Author of the Oathsworn Novels by Tyr Neilsen

Robert Low, a burly man with steely eyes, pushed a Viking sword in my hand, a rusted Gjermundbu helmet  on my head, and said with a rich Highland brogue "Consider yourself volunteered". As I fastened my gear, he slapped my shoulder with a big calloused hand and led me towards a hundred or so battle ready warriors who were working themselves up into a frenzy. With a cheer they greeted their fighting companion, then with flags held high and robust singing, we marched to the battlefield to defend Scotland against the invading army from the far north.

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I had travelled to Largs to meet this celebrated Scottish journalist, author and Viking re-enactor, to ask him about his much acclaimed Oathsworn novels, and now I literally had to fight for the interview.

Police and health and safety workers ensured the thousand or more eager spectators were safely behind a large roped off area. The spectators cheered as we aproached the battlefield where the oppposing army waited, ready with swords, shields, axes and taunts. An announcer's voice came over the loud speaker to repeat what Robert had told me just a few hours earlier, that this was to be a reenactment of the Battle of Largs, which took place on the 2nd of October in 1263, between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland. This battle was part of the Norwegian expedition against Scotland, in which King Haakon Haakonarson of Norway attempted to reassert Norwegian sovereignty over the western part of Scotland.

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After some fanfare, the two armies collided with ferocity. Skilled reenactors yelled and swung their weapons at each other with flare, much to the appreciation of the audience. Fist one side won, then the opposite side, then the first side again. At the end of the final clash, all reeanactors were brought back to life in the name of Odin so they could wave to the cheering spectators.

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It was beginning to get dark, and as all the warriors sat down, Robert led me to a taped off area near an old boat that had been fixed up to look like a Viking Longship. Someone hoisted a striped square sail on the boat, then several archers appeared, lit their arrows, fit them to their longbows, took aim and fired. The flaming arrows arched through the air then struck the boat. Within minutes it was engulfed in flames. 

As we sat on the grass, watching the boat burn, I asked Robert about the historical accuracy, level of detail and graphic fight scenes in his Oathsworn novels. His answers were as compelling as the books themselves.

When he was still a teenager, Robert was a war correspondent in Vietnam. Later he covered the fighting in Sarajevo, Romania and Kosova. After his stint as war correspondant, Robert moved to an area rich in Viking tradition, started riding, taught himself horse archery, took up re-enactment and joined The Vikings group. After witnessing and reporting real warfare from the trenches, and then immersing himself in everything Viking, Robert had the ability to write about Viking life and battles with gritty understanding.

There is an assured and convincing tone to Robert's writing, and there is a rough realism to his rousing Oathsworn Saga that reveals much of the Viking Age and how Vikings lived that history books never could. In book one, Robert transports the reader on to a raiding Viking Longship, with a sense of realism that keeps the reader hooked to the end of the engaging, authentic, violent and extremely readable adventures, as his accolades attest:

"A company of warriors, desperate battles – an enthralling read" ~ Bernard Cornwell

"A fantastic book, one of the best I have read for years. There’s a wonderful earthiness to proceedings and Robert creates a tangible sense of being there” ~ Simon Scarrow

"No modern novelist knows more about the Vikings than Robert Low” ~ Harry Sidebottom  

“I’ve read all Oathsworn books and I loved them all – but The Prow Beast is, I think, the best of them all: poignant, muscular, magical and impossible to put down.” ~ Angus Donald

                                                       Tyr and robert low in largs, scotland

                                                     Tyr and robert low in largs, scotland

Robert was a fantastic host who enriched my stay in Largs immensely. He conveyed much about the viking legacy of Largs, and of Sotland's history in a fascinating and witty way. Robert's latest work, The Kingdom Series, that deals with the Scottish Wars of Independence - the era of Wallace, Bruce and Edward Longshanks, are gripping novels that have been very well recieved.  When Robert isn't writing or giving talks, you can still find him with sword and shield in hand, participating in steel weapon battles at festivals.

 

For more info about Robert Low and his work: http://www.robert-low.com/index2.htm

GLIMA MJÖLNIR by Tyr Neilsen

When the Norwegian Glima Association decided on making the ultimate glima trophy, it was agreed that it should be the symbol of Mjölnir, the hammer of Thor, the god of Viking wrestling. Mjölnir, from the Old Norse - Mjǫllnir, meaning to "grind" or "crush", is the most powerful Viking sacred symbol. As a symbol, it was used in sacred Norse and Viking ceremonies, weddings, and as a protective amulet.

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The Association has used Mjölnir as its symbol for Glima - Viking wrestling from the start, and in 2015 it was decided to create the ultimate Glima Mjölnir.

Tyr Neilsen, president of the Norwegian Glima Association, together with Håkon Neil, designed the hammer based on several Mjölnir amulets from the Viking Age. The Association then took the design to Arkadiusz Gawecki, an acclaimed blacksmith with a smithy in Åmot, Buskerud.

 After talking about the reasons behind the Mjölnir design, and the sacred Norse symetry and symbols associated with it, Arkadiusz began working on this prestigious hammer in the same way as iron and steel equipment and weapons were made in the Viking Age.

When finished, the Glima hammer weighed 3.5 kilos and looked amazing. It is one of the very few large Mjölnir hammers made in Norway since the Viking Age. Arkadiusz said it was a pleasure to work on the trophy and felt that it was an important piece of art. 

At the 2015 Norwegian Glima Championship, the Glima Mjölnir was presented to the public for the first time. The Norwegian Glima Association and the Academy of Martial Arts believes this piece of art would be worthy of Thor, the Viking God of wrestling.

  

For more info about Mjölnir, check out:

http://www.vikingmartialarts.com/training/2016/12/31/the-viking-by-tyr-neilsen  

  

  

ROBERT FERGUSON – Author of the book THE VIKINGS  by Tyr Neilsen

One of the absolute best reads about the Viking Age is the book “THE VIKINGS” (also called “The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings” in the UK) written by author Robert Ferguson. 

I was very pleased to find this well-documented book that put the Viking Age in perspective, especially after reading book after book that seemed more like anti-Viking propaganda than realistic historical accounts of this exciting period of history. A major strength of this account of Vikings and the Viking Age, is that Robert writes about the incredible history of the Vikings, the many cultural, political and religious reasons for the emergence of the Viking Age, and the world wide effects of the Vikings, in such a way that is not only easy to understand, but also an exciting read. 

Most people have had a limited picture of Vikings, who for several centuries were described as savage brutes, raiding and raping their way across Europe. This is not surprising, as the only accounts of Vikings were written by members of the church. What set Robert’s book apart from most, is that he gives us an understanding of how rich the Viking / Norse culture was, and how much of other cultures were influenced and enriched by the Vikings. Not only does Robert give an impressive overview of the Viking Age, he tells the histories of great warriors and kings and provides faultless accounts of Viking battles without romanticizing or de-emphasizing the violence.

A few years ago I had the pleasure to interview Robert Ferguson at Frogner Park in Oslo. As we walked in this park full of amazing statues, Robert answered unhesitatingly all of my questions long after the allotted time we had agreed on. He told me that whilst doing research on the Viking period for his book Siste kjærlighet, he inversed himself into Viking history, which led to him wanting to tell the story of the Viking Age as a continuous narrative. With the book “Vikings”, Robert manages to satisfy the curiosity of the smart general reader and place the Viking Age in the scale of European history with grand style. 

I highly recommend Robert’s book, which is so good and has been so well received, that the producers of the TV series “VIKINGS” used it when developing the series and in pre-production. The series creator used Robert’s narrative structure, particularly in the first series, and recommends this book for anyone with a further interest in the Vikings. The Vikings TV series logo is printed on US paperback editions of Robert’s book, along with this endorsement: 'A comprehensive and thrilling history of the Vikings for fans of the History Channel series, now on its fourth season'. 

Robert had never any other ambition than that of being a writer, and after emigrating to Norway from the UK, his first book, a biography of the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun, was published. Since then, Robert has written biographies about Henrik Ibsen and T.E.Hulme, the novels “Siste kjærlighet” (Last love) based on the Saga of Hallfred the Troublesome Poet, and “Fleetwood”, about fatherhood in England in the late 1960s. Robert has also written plays for Norwegian radio, RTE Dublin and the BBC, as well as translations and adaptations.

Robert has a new book out called “Scandinavians: in search of the soul of the north” (on sale in the US this summer). “Scandinavians” is a sort of personal memoir, among other things, and I look forward to reading it at a cottage in the Norwegian Alps next week. As I’ll be going to Oslo soon, I’ll try and get Robert to sign the book for me over a coffee.

For more info about Robert Ferguson and his work: http://robertferguson.org/

Robert Ferguson was gracious enough to write the foreword to the HÁVAMÁL book I co-authored:

 Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

THE VIKING by Tyr Neilsen

 Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

No other word in Scandinavian history has imprinted itself so deeply into human consciousness as the word Viking. The term ‘Viking’ conjures up images of resilient men and women of honor, who are tough, fit and virile, and has become a Nordic trademark of independence, strength and quality.

The people who lived in Scandinavia during the 8th to 11th century weren't Vikings. Viking was a profession, and Vikings made up a very small part of the population. Calling everyone from Scandinavia in this period of history a ‘Viking’, is like calling everyone in California a Navy Seal.

The origin of the word Viking comes from the Old Norse Vikingr, meaning Scandinavian seafarer. A ‘Viking’ was a part time farmer-hunter-warrior, who traveled to other lands and traded, raided, became sword for hire or conquered lands. In the sagas, the phrase "to go a Viking" was used to describe the people from the north who went on voyages of discovery. These farmer-hunter-warriors were so successful in their part time profession in the late 8th to late 11th centuries that this period of history became known as the Viking Age.

For hundreds of years before the Viking Age, the people from the lands that would later become Norway, Sweden and Denmark, had been trading around Europe. With the introduction of the Viking longship, the people of the North became a force to be reckoned with. As daring explorers, Vikings became masters of the stormy seas, and their expeditions took them to countries all over Europe, the Far East, Russia and even North America 500 years before Columbus.

Vikings traveled to and through dangerous lands, opened up trade routes, fought to keep them open, and became feared and admired as great warriors in all the lands they travelled. One of the earliest documents about Vikings was written by a Muslim diplomat called Ibn Fadlan, in 922 A.D, who described Vikings as “The wildest warriors I have ever seen”.

What these part time warriors did, was no different than what people from many other countries did, Vikings were just better and more successful than the rest. Vikings fought for, and carved out kingdoms, around the world. They are an integral part of the world’s history, and the Viking warriors who created the Viking Age, paved the way for the world as we know it today.

Much historical and archaeological research has been done over the centuries concerning the Vikings, from their diet to their shipbuilding. There has been much written about Vikings, by poets, academics, and historians, but very little by warriors, martial artists or elite soldiers. Yet warriors, martial artists and elite soldiers have a special insight into what being a Viking really means.

Being a Viking meant being tough, smart and well rounded. A Viking could farm and hunt and live off the land and sea. A Viking could build a house and repair it. A Viking could sail a ship and repair it. A Viking could make weapons and armor and repair them. A Viking could also fight with and without weapons against all enemies and their different forms of fighting techniques.

Growing up in the hard lands of the cold north meant growing up tough. Children were expected to help with chores in and around the home and farm, hunt and help with providing food and materials for the family, and learn how to be a benefit to their society. In the Viking Age, a boy was considered a man, and a girl was considered a woman, at the age of 12. At this age, everyone was expected to survive and thrive without help.

Many men and women today call themselves Vikings because they are reenactors, put on a show fight, dress in Viking clothes, or simply take part of a Viking market or festival. These are worthy activities that create awareness regarding the Norse people of the Viking Age, but they are not representative of what it was like to be a Viking.

A Viking was self-reliant, had a particular set of values, and had a heightened sense of spirituality that few modern people can understand, let alone live by. Only by living like a Viking can a person understand how it was to be a ‘Viking’. If a person can’t hunt, fish, farm, build or repair a house, ship or equipment, or have competence in  glima, they aren’t anything like a Viking.

Vikings were independent, strong, resilient, tough, fit and virile men and women of honor. Are modern day children, youths or adults anything like this? Are you? If you want to be anything like a Viking, read the Hávamál, learn some handcrafts, train in glima, travel, take some wilderness survival courses, take responsibility for yourself, become independent, and build a strong body, mind and spirit.  

Mildir frœknir
menn bazt lifa
sjaldan sút ala
en ósnjallr maðr
uggir hotvetna
sýtir æ gløggr við gjöfum

The generous and brave
live best
and rarely nourish sorrow
The cowardly fear everything
and the greedy
dread giving

 HÁVAMÁL – verse 48

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VIKINGS and KINGS

                                                Tyr Neilsen - viking fighting on travel channel series follow your past episode vikings and kings      Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

                                              Tyr Neilsen - viking fighting on travel channel series follow your past episode vikings and kings     Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

Travel Channel series FOLLOW YOUR PAST     Episode 1 - Vikings and Kings

Senior instructor with the AVK, Tyr Neilsen (57) demonstrated Viking fighting with weapons at Borre feast hall in Norway for the Travel Channel episode "Vikings and Kings". 

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The episode is about the exciting heritage of two midwestern brothers who discover their past is filled with Viking warriors and royalty. In the show, Tyr demonstrated armed and unarmed Glima to the brothers, quickly taught some basics, then let the brothers fight each other using the Viking combat techniques they had learned.     

This episode first aired on the Travel Channel in 2016.

                           http://www.travelchannel.com/shows/follow-your-past/episodes/vikings-and-kings                                                                             

Academy instructor teaches balance, strength and Viking wrestling.

                     Academy Instructor Tyr Neilsen took time out to teach balance, strength and Viking wrestling principles in Drammen.        Photo: B. Wemundstad

                   Academy Instructor Tyr Neilsen took time out to teach balance, strength and Viking wrestling principles in Drammen.       Photo: B. Wemundstad

Former top Norwegian sports athlete in spear throwing and handball, Anette Skistad, holds weekly training for people who have difficulty getting back into shape, including some who have physical or psychological problems. To help get people going and build condition, Anette has training indoors, as well as taking the group hiking out in nature. 

Anette took contact with the Academy of Viking Martial Arts, asked if they could demonstrate glima for her group, and maybe get the group to do a little Viking wrestling. Tyr Neilsen tought the group basic balance, strength and Viking wrestling principles, and after a short time, short, thin women were able to lift tall heavy men by using the correct grips.

There was much laughter and sweat, as Anette and the group learned how effective glima principles were to implement. Glima training was challenging and fun, and the group have invited Tyr back for more glima.   

Edited Article by Bente Wemundstad: http://www.byavisadrammen.no/utgaver/320-2016/#16/z

Article in 'NA Weekly' about GLIMA

''Viking-age wrestling is becoming increasingly popular as a martial art or recreational sport''

Article written by M. Michael Brady for the 'Norwegian American Weekly' about for the Glima.

  ADMIN    http://www.na-weekly.com/sports/glima-wrestling-renaissance-in-norway/
Photo: Egil Scott Synnestvedt / courtesy of Norwegian Glima Association
One wrestler defeats another in a match in the Norwegian Championships, November 2015.

Glima wrestling renaissance in Norway

BY M. Michael Brady  · PUBLISHED JANUARY 15, 2016 · UPDATED JANUARY 13, 2016

Viking-age wrestling is becoming increasingly popular as a martial art or recreational sport

Glima is a form of Scandinavian folk wrestling dating from the Viking Age. It classifies both as a martial art and as a recreational sport, and is most popular in Iceland, where annual national championships have been held since 1906. Glima now is enjoying a renaissance in Norway, where national championships have been held since 2009.

The word Glima is Old Norse for “brilliant flash,” which implies speed of movement. Glima is entwined in myth, being first mentioned in ninth-century poetry recounting a wrestling match in which an aged goddess, Elli, defeats Thor, the god of thunder and strength. Some three centuries later, Glima is mentioned in the Prose Edda, also known as Snorri’s Edda, the principal work of pagan Scandinavian mythology assumed to have been written by Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson circa 1220.

In modern times, Glima wrestling was a demonstration sport in the 1912 Olympic Games held in Stockholm. Unlike Greco-Roman wrestling, contested in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and incorporated in the Games program from 1908 on, Glima did not become an Olympic sport. There are three forms of Glima wrestling: Brokartök, Hryggspenna, and Lausaatök.

Brokartök (“Trouser-and-belt grip”) is the most widespread form in Sweden and in Iceland. It favors technique over strength, and opponents wear special belts. The two opponents stand erect and step clockwise around each other, as if waltzing, each attempting to trip or throw the other.

Hyrggspenna (“Backhold grip”) resembles other forms of wrestling that emphasize strength over technique. Opponents grasp each other’s upper bodies, and the one who touches the ground or floor with any part of the body except the feet has lost.

Lausatök (“Free-grip”) is the most widespread form in Norway and is practiced in two varieties, as a martial art of self-defense or combat, and as a recreational sport. The opponents may use any holds they wish. The winner is the one still standing while the loser is the one lying on the ground. Matches usually are held outdoors or indoors on a wooden floor, so hard throws are discouraged.

Viking Glima now is increasingly popular outside Iceland. The Viking Glima community in Norway is an example. Norges Glima Forbund (“Norwegian Glima Association”) was established in 2013 by Tyr Neilsen, who despite his Icelandic-sounding name was born in Liverpool in 1959. He began practicing martial arts as a teenager and settled in Norway in the mid 1980s to delve into Viking mythology and lifestyles. Today he is a senior instructor at the Academy of Viking Martial Arts and is involved in promoting Viking culture.

In 2014 Tyr joined with editor and photojournalist Bente Wemundstad in compiling Viking Wisdom: Hávamál, the Sayings of Odin, a large-format illustrated book published by Nova Forlag.

Further reading and viewing:

• History of Martial Arts in Iceland and their Image in Media, by Jóhann Ingi Bjarnason, 2012 thesis, University of Akureyri, Iceland, 40 pages including 6 pages of references, link: skemman.is/stream/get/1946/12161/28907/1/History_of_martial_arts_in_Iceland_and_their_image_in_Icelandic_media.pdf

• British Pathe 1931 Glima-Iceland Wrestling film now on YouTube, link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVGB1Z3btIY

• The International Glima Association promotes Glima wrestling outside Iceland, link: internationalglima.com

• The Viking Glima Federation with information and a directory of instructors in Scandinavia, link: www.viking-glima.com

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 15, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Training Rune Temte in Viking Fighting for his role on The LAST KINGDOM

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Norwegian actor Rune Temte plays Viking cheiftan Ubba in the BBC TV series The Last Kingdom.

In preperation for his role, Rune trained in the authentic Viking fighting art of Glima at the Academy of Viking Martial Arts in Buskerud, Norway. For several months Rune trained by Tyr Neilsen in Viking sword, axe and shield fighting, as well as Viking wrestling.

Throughout training Rune showed true Viking Spirit. He was always ready to train, whether it was rain or snow, and always gave 100%.

"Tyr Neilsen, you are the best, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn Viking fighting from you !!! You made me into a Viking for the Last Kingdom." - Rune Temte

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Photos: Rune Temte training Viking Fighting with and without weapons with Tyr Neilsen at the academy and article by Ingun Wiborg Gislerud on Rune, his training and his role as a viking chieftan in the BBC tv series The Last Kingdom - Based on the bestselling novel by Bernard Cornwell.
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The Academy at Jorvik Viking Festival

Tyr Neilsen is the first Norwegian to be invited to demonstrate the Viking martial art of Glima at the biggest Viking Festival in Europe!

                                                         Tyr Neilsen - the first Norwegian to demonstrate the Viking martial art of Glima at jorvik Viking Festival

                                                        Tyr Neilsen - the first Norwegian to demonstrate the Viking martial art of Glima at jorvik Viking Festival

Instructors from the Academy of Viking Martial Arts in Norway are the first Norwegians to be invited to Europe's largest viking festival to demonstrate Glima - The Martial Arts system of the Vikings! 

"I traveled down to the Jorvik Viking Festival to seek inspiration , get ideas and talk to the people behind the festival. So it was great that Jorvik Viking Festival had invited Tyr Neilsen as the first Norwegian to actively participate in the festival, both in combat and in the academic program." says Ole Harald Flåten of the Saga Oseberg project, and Project Manager at Tønsberg Viking Festival. 

http://www.byavisatonsberg.no/utgaver/492-2015/#6

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The Academy would like to give a big thanks to Andy Mckie, Jarl of the Volsung Viking group in York, for his invitation to the Academy of Viking Martial Arts, so we could demonstrate the art of Glíma at the 31st Jorvik Viking Festival in febuary 2015. 

It was an honor for us to be able to participate in this great event, the largest Viking festival in Europe. We would also like to thank all of the Volsung Vikings, the English Vikings at the central camp, and the Jorvik arrangers, for their generous hospitality and warmth and for making the festival so memorable. 

                                                                                                    

The Academy in TV commercial with Andre Villa

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 Write here...

Write here...

Above: Filming with a green screen       Below: With the digital background added

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Here's some links you can click to the facebook videos posted by Andre Villa and the newspaper article online in Norwegian.

News Article: HTTP://WWW.BYAVISADRAMMEN.NO/UTGAVER/279-2015/#10/Z

Videos: https://www.facebook.com/villa.andre/videos/807524399303335/?pnref=story

https://www.facebook.com/villa.andre/videos/795624090493366/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_xfvzLTTLs

 

Viking Wisdom - Hávamál - the Sayings of Odin by Academy Senior Instructor Tyr Neilsen

Hávamál is one of the most important documents from Viking Age Scandinavia, and is well described as the Wisdom of the North. This collection of ancient sayings attributed to Odin, is to Scandinavian culture as the Tao is to China, the Vedas to India and the Iliad to Greece.

Havamal means "the high one’s speech", or Odin's speech, and Havamal is a collection of wisdom and guidlines for living, written as a poem and attributed to the Norse God Odin. Havamal is both practical and supernatural in content, and expresses highly valued ideals such as wisdom, friendship, morality, caution, courage, and commonsense. No one knows who wrote the Havamal manuscript, or if it originated in Norway or Iceland, but Odin’s advice for living is believed to be based on a source from around the 9th century, and reference to Hávamál is found in the 10th century Hákonarmál by Eyvindr skáldaspillir.

Havamal is the most famous poem from the Elder Edda manuscript, (also called the Poetic Edda), written around the year 1270. The Elder Edda consists of 32 poems in all, written on 45 pages of vellum, or calfskin parchment. The Elder Edda manuscript is beautifully made and stunning to look at, with ornate letters and decorated capitals to each paragraph. The term Edda was originally the name for Snorri Sturlason's book on poetry from around 1220, and the word Edda is believed to be related to the word meaning grandmother, which means stories from grandma's time, a derivation of óðr, which means writing. Together with Snorri's Edda, the Elder Edda is the most important surviving source on Norse mythology and heroic legends.

In the first part of the Elder Edda, there are three poems by Odin as protagonist, of which the first is Havamal. Havamal is presented as a single poem in the Elder Edda, but its 164 verses make Havamal the longest of all edda poems. Havamal itself consist of at least five independent parts:

Verses 1-80 are known as Gestaþáttr, Havamal guidelines for living, or the ‘Havamal proper’.

Verses 81-102 are about women, love and Odin.

Verses 103-110 are about how Odin got the mead of poetry.

Verses 111-138 are called Loddfáfnismál, a collection of gnomic verses similar to Gestaþáttr.

Verses 139-146 are called Rúnatal, an account of how Odin won the runes.

Verses 147-165 are called Ljóðatal, which is a collection of spells.

 

Although the Elder Edda was written in the 13th century, we know nothing about its whereabouts until it was found in Iceland in 1643 by the Icelandic bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson. In 1662, almost 20 years after it was found, the Bishop sent the manuscript to Denmark as a gift to King Frederik III of Denmark and Norway. The manuscript was named Codex Regius, or Konungsbók (King’s Book) in Icelandic, and was incorporated in the Danish Royal Library's Manuscript Collection.

In 1971 the Elder Edda manuscript was transported back to Iceland by ship, accompanied by a military escort, and is now kept in the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The only surviving source for Hávamál is contained within the Elder Edda, and this priceless document is considered one of Iceland's most prized possessions.  

Havamal is a reflection of its time,  and the poems are as tough and resilient as the Vikings themselves. Havamal’s insight remains timeless and as relevant today as it was in the Viking Age. It has been handed down from generation to generation,  and there is still much wisdom and inspiration to find here, inherited from our powerful ancestors. 

 

Old Norse Poetry by Tyr Neilsen

 Photo of original Hávamál manuscript by tyr neilsen

Photo of original Hávamál manuscript by tyr neilsen

Old Norse poetry derived from an oral tradition, which was told in verse to slaves, freemen, Vikings and Kings alike. Such poetry was very important to Viking Age Scandinavian society, as it contained history, heroic tales, Norse mythology and words of wisdom. This poetry was not just informative, it was also entertainment, often acted out as a performance. Viking society also considered poetry as an “Idrott”, which in Old Norse means sport, and there were Viking poetry idrott competitions, something even the Norse gods participated in. 

Vikings considered poetry as the primal source of the ability to speak and write beautifully and persuasively. Poetry was the gift of the gods, and the highest Norse god, Odin, was the divine patron of poetry. Odin acquired the gift of poetry after stealing the mead of poetry from the giants. The mead’s Old Norse name is Óðrœrir, meaning “The Stirrer of Óðr,”. Óðr is the root of Odin’s name, and means “ecstasy”, “fury”, and “inspiration”. After having gained the ability to compose poetry, sometimes Odin gives the magic of poetry to gods, humans, and other beings he deems worthy of it. 

Old Norse poetry can be traced to the early 9th century, with the earliest being carved in stone and the majority being written on vellum in Iceland in the 13th century. Ragnarsdrápa is considered the oldest surviving Norse poem, and was written in the 9th century by the skald Bragi Boddason, of Norwegian descent. Skáld in Old Norse means ‘poet’, and a skald was an historian, a storyteller, a poet and singer of songs. Skalds were highly respected in Norse society for their skills, and there have been many famous skalds, such as Egill Skallagrímsson and Thorbjorn hornklofi, who gained much fame with their 10th century poems composed for kings.

Viking society valued poetry highly and rewarded poets handsomely, but as the centuries passed, the skald profession became almost extinct, until the most famous Icelandic skald, Snorri Sturluson, compiled the Prose Edda in the 12th century. His Prose Edda is not only an epic work, it is a manual to preserve and pass on the traditions and methods of the skalds.

Bragr is the Old Norse word for poetry, and in Norse mythology, the god Bragi is the skaldic god of poetry. Husband to the goddess Idunn, Bragi was said to have possessed eloquence surpassing all others. His name may have been derived from bragr, or the term bragr may have been formed to describe 'what Bragi does'. 
 
Old Norse poetry is split into two types: Eddaic poetry and skaldic poetry. Eddaic poetry is the name given to an unnamed collection of Old Norse anonymous poems. Eddaic verse was usually simple, in terms of content, style and metre, and deals mostly with mythological or heroic content. Skaldic poetry is poetry from skalds who composed at the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age and Middle Ages. Skaldic verse was complex, had historical content, and was usually composed as a tribute or homage to a particular jarl or king, typically have relating battles and other deeds from the king's career.

There are several forms of skaldic poetry: Drápa, Flokkr and Lausavísa.

Drápa is a long series of stanzas (usually dróttkvætt), with a refrain (stef) at intervals.

Dróttkvætt is the most predominant metre of skaldic poetry. 

Flokkr (vísur or dræplingr) are a shorter series of such stanzas without refrain.

Lausavísa is a single stanza of dróttkvætt, said to have been improvised impromptu for the occasion that it marks.
 
Skaldic poems about kings and jarls include: 

Glymdrápa - The deeds of Harald Fairhair

Knútsdrápa - The deeds of Cnut the Great

Bandadrápa - The deeds of Eiríkr Hlaðajarl

Vellekla - The deeds of Hákon Hlaðajarl
 
Skaldic poems that have mythological content include:

Þórsdrápa – relates to the thunder god Thor telling the tale of one of his giant-bashing expeditions.

Ragnarsdrápa - relates four tales from the mythology as painted on a shield given to the poet.

Haustlöng - relates two tales from the mythology as painted on a shield given to the poet.

Húsdrápa - describes mythological scenes as carved on kitchen panels.

Ynglingatal - describes the origin of the Norwegian kings and the history of the House of Yngling. It is preserved in the Heimskringla.
 
Viking poetry has many metrical forms which range from the simple fornyrðislag, to the very complex dróttkvætt.

Fornyrðislag – "the metre of ancient words", is generally used where the poem is mostly narrative. It is composed with four or more syllables per line.

Ljóðaháttr - "chant metre" is so called because of its structure which comprises broken stanzas, which lends itself to dialogue and discourse. 

Málaháttr - "speech metre" is similar to fornyrðislag, but with a fixed metrical length of five syllables.

Kviðuháttr - "discourse metre" is another variant of fornyrðislag with alternating lines of 3 and 4 syllablesDróttkvætt - "courtly metre" or "noble warrior's meter" normally uses a structure of 6 syllables, ending in a long stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one.

Hrynhenda - “flowing metre” is a variant of dróttkvætt. It uses all the rules of dróttkvætt, with the exception that the line comprises four metrical feet rather than three.

Galdralag - "magic spell metre" contains a fourth line which echoes and varies the third line.

 

Many Viking poems have names that end in mál, which in Old Norse means ‘speech’. Some of the most famous of these poems include: 

Skáldskaparmál – “Poet-creating-speech” tells the story of how Odin brought the mead of poetry to Asgard. 

Hákonarmál - The death of king Hákon the Good and his reception in Valhalla.

Eiríksmál - The death of king Eiríkr and his reception in Valhalla.

Reginsmál – "Regin's speech" relates to Loki's dealings with Andvari and then Sigurd's relationship with Reginn and the advice given to him by Odin.

Fáfnismál – “Fáfnir's speech” is about a meeting between Sigurd and Fáfnir and the claiming of a gold hoard.

Sigrdrífumál -"Speech of the victory-bringer" (also known as Brynhildarljóð,) is the  title of a section of the Poetic Edda relating to the meeting of Sigurðr and the valkyrie Brynhildr.

Hávamál – “Odin’s speech”, is one of the most valuable and most famous poems from Viking Age Scandinavia.

 

Einherjarmál - by T.I.Neilsen

Sunrise breaks o’er thy snow decked peaks

O glorious Asgard

From flushed dell whence Yggdrasil towers

Yon sky of glowing hue

Crowns in splendor

Deep forest and weathered vale

Lofty mount and azure plane

That burnish with dazzling radiance

Testimony to godly endeavor

This enchanted vista

Thus convey’d

Soaring resonance, rich, untamed

O’er enchanted woodland

Splend'rous meadow

and Iðunn blessed orchard

To this land good call rewarded

Freyja’s host through distant cloud sings

With stroke for their fair chains

An honored gift

Overture of no small contented words

From mortal warriors

To golden hall

Comes cry receptive

That joins with sweet peal

Neath plummeting foss and comforting storm

Verse for Bifrost’s crossing

And harmonious clash

Practiced evr’y day

From dawns fine promise

To sunset’s curtain

Luminous eternal

Steering valiant souls through gent'lest day

And storms of thunder

Ride on Noble Valkyrie

Raise cold spirits upwards

Exalting warm elation whilst they climb

Assemble your selected slain

Neath Odin’s tower

Where vaults from shield to shield

Nailed golden clad

Deep timbre rings joyful cheer

On yon glowing standard

A glint of single orb

Death’s day yet ends

To fetch the favor’d

For nights everlasting

Where ashen branches

Strive for Hlidskjalf’s crown

And yawning tendrils

Drink deeply from Urd’s well

Ever here the high ones

Each day hold court

This fate observed

Unmatched

O first vision of Buri’s spawn

In cloud of golden guard

Do shield maidens convey

Their honored choice of princely men

Whose martial fame and high acclaim

Be now renowned

And shine like Brisingamen

Glimpsed in early morn

When surpassed is beauty’s glow

To all ladies loathe and envy

Though words may tell against

Their eyes speak true

Once glittering jewels break

And glowers ensue

As bloodied oath

And pledge of sacred vow

From man and king as one

A trade of final days  

For promise of yon misty trail

That trembles under hoof

Of noble winged steed

Whence emerge fair choosers of the slain

Thus charged by Sigrdrifa

Behold her liberated locks

On bleak wind gliding

With solemn bearing

So graceful stirred

Lost loves bearer to this place

With sturdy horde

Victory bringers all

To flourish not in vain

For favor, praise or fame

But everlasting glory

When final fate in battle

Fighting side by side with Gods

Aye, and of more than they

Fate's golden throne

At this time placed

Spectacle as ne’er seen

Collisions so violent

That day be stolen

To ne’er return

Yet such radiance exudes

From anguished maidens

Whose cries of ache doth reverberate

To tear from souls all sense of dread

And bolster forth frailest of heart

Tho weary and forlorn

To stand once more as heroes

Our paragon of valor

Doth rise and face

Malevolent hordes

Whose dread countenance constricts our ancestral blood

The very source of being

So enthused

Not Thor, beloved heir

Whose might renowned

Could compare

Nor Tyr, whose boldness

Leads the chosen ever on

Though realms may fall

And worlds are wrought asunder

Twas ever thus

In highest esteem

These Einherjar stand

Firm and fast

Alongside yon sovereign

Whose sacrifice begot

Rune mystery and well wisdom

Greatly prized and age refined

Go not unused

Where deeds of man and gods

Thus entwined

In truth and cunning

For such a time

As when whispered words are hushed

And desired breath is stayed

Held attentive as needs

Once such threat pervades

Darkest menace gathers speed

Hastening ever to this place

This wrathfull storm

Distant Ragnarok draws near

Resembling most condemned dread

That grips the heart

And pains the ear

Now blackest thoughts stain fairest hope

In fears cold clasp no sun could thaw

Rise again o’er highest faith

That heart doth beat

Bid thee primal thirst

Where deepest force

May forever reign

And decree everlasting

With wondrous thread

Flawlessly woven by hand of favored age

Interlaced in all designs

Thine fates entangled

O thy chosen

In evr’y realm be heard

Gjallarhorn resounding

Such agony vouchsafe

Thus tremble the nine worlds

When at Vígríðr there gathers

A host foretold

Forces of monstrous grim expanse

In colossal clash

Like ocean surge of raging tremors

And such destruction

That Sól be not spared darks deepest shadow

Yet knowing thus

Does mighty thew

Grip weapon of iron and steel

Awaiting such fare

As cruel Fimbulwinter calls ever closer

To crimson gore of fated men

Let not thy mettle waver now

Nor mercy expect

Stand strong

Thou art favored of Odin

O Einherjar