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