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Vikings loved all kinds of sports, but the best loved sport in Viking Age Scandinavia, was by far, wrestling. 

Over the centuries, the forms of wrestling used by the Vikings have been known by many names, Glíma, Scandinavian wrestling, Farmer wrestling, Icelandic wresting and Norwegian wrestling, but the name this sport is probably best known as, is Viking wrestling. 

Whether it was as a form of physical, mental or spiritual training, as competition, or as a form of entertainment, Viking wrestling was a major part of Viking Age life. Men, women, and children trained in this sport, and whenever the people of the north gathered, at home, in a village, at a market, or at a Thing, Viking wrestling was always a major attraction. 

Viking wrestling was so important in Viking Age society, that their most popular god, Thor, was also the god of wrestling. In fact, the first written mention of Viking wresting is a Norse myth about Thor. It was written in the form of a poem and dates back to the 9th century. The poem involves Thor in a wrestling competition with a magical old woman who is actually old age. The ancient poem was written by Bragi hinn gamli Boddason and Kveldúlfr Bjálfason, who were both of Norwegian descent, which means that glíma could possibly be of Norwegian origin.

There were several types of Viking wrestling, and all of them are part of the Viking martial art called Glíma, which means glimpse or flash in Old Norse. Most of the written documents we have about glima and Viking wrestling come from Iceland, which started to be populated in the mid-9th century by Norwegian settlers. These Norwegian settlers took with them their culture, and from the early 13th century, the people of Iceland have been very clever to take care of their original culture and document it. This includes their original form of traditional wrestling, which has been documented in the Eddas, the Icelandic Sagas and Icelandic law books. 

These sources tell us of the 3 forms of glima; Lausatök, Hryggspenna and Brókartök. Lausatök means free-grip, and is the most popular form of glima in Norway, Europe and USA. Hryggspenna means back-hold, and is the most popular form of folk wrestling in Scotland, of which many regions were under Norwegian rule or colonization until the 15th century. Brókartök means trouser-grip glima, which is the most popular form of sport glima in Sweden, and is the national sport of Iceland. 

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The Old Norse name Lausatök is now called Løse-tak in modern Norwegian and free-grip in English. Of the several forms of Viking wrestling, Løse-tak most closely resembles the close quarters hand to hand battlefield combat of the Vikings, where the aim was to be standing whilst an opponent was down. 

A Løse-tak competition starts when opponents clasp each other’s forearm. This is called the Handsal, which means that the opponents are friends before the wrestling starts, are friends during the competition, and are friends after the competition, regardless of who wins. The handsal was a legally binding contract in the Viking Age, and is still a form for making a deal legal in Norway today. 

A competition can immediately transform from the handsal into a clinch or wrestling.

As with the other forms of Viking wrestling, the aim in løse-tak glima is to send an opponent to the ground, either by a throw, trip, sweep or pull, but in løse-tak glima, the competition is not over just because an opponent hits the ground first. If the person who is sent to the ground first is within reach of the standing opponent, then the person on the ground can immediately pull, sweep, trip or throw the person who initiated the takedown, and in this way the competition can continue. 

If both competitors end up on the ground, this situation leads to exciting battles in the fight to be the first person on their feet and away. Løse-tak Viking wrestling is incredibly effective on the ground, where skill, speed, strength, endurance and balance are as important as when the competitors are standing. The contest is only won by the person who is on their feet and out of grabbing distance of the person on the ground. 

               Tyr Neilsen - President Norwegian Glima Association

               Tyr Neilsen - President Norwegian Glima Association

Viking wrestling, as it is practiced today in Norway, is almost unchanged since the Viking Age, and there is regular training in sports halls as well as outdoors training, year round, in sun, rain and snow. There are also regular Viking wrestling competitions such as the Norwegian Løse-tak Glima Championship. 

I feel immensely proud to be able to keep this unbroken line from the Viking Age intact, and preserve Viking wrestling techniques so they can be handed over to the next generation. It is an honor to be able to sustain this unique part of the Viking heritage that goes back over a thousand years.


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

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THE GLIMA GRIP by Tyr Neilsen

Glima handsal tyr neilsen

Glima handsal tyr neilsen

Not only was the glima grip the most important hand technique in the martial arts of the Vikings, it was also the most important grip in Viking Age society.

The glima grip (glíma grep) is an extremely strong and flexible grip that is capable of adapting to many situations. For Viking warriors in unarmed combat, the glima grip was used to hold and manipulate parts of an opponent’s body, clothing or weapon. In armed combat glima, the glima grip was used to hold any single-handed weapon. When a grip could mean the difference between life and death, this was the one to have.

The 3 forms of Sport Glima are defined by grips; Løse-tak is free-grip glima (Lausatök in Old Norse), Ryggtak is Back-grip glima (Hryggspenna in Old Norse) and Bukse-tak is trouser-grip glima (Brókartök in Old Norse). The glima grip is an essential part of Løse-tak sport glima right from the very first move when opponents clasp each other’s forearm at the start of a competition. This is called the 'Handsal', which means that the opponents are friends before the wrestling starts, are friends during the competition, and are friends after the competition, regardless of who wins. The handsal can be the initiator of other moves, or it can be built upon to control the opponent.

The Handsal was not only an integral part of sport glima, it was a legally binding contract in the Viking Age and is still a legally binding contract in Norway today.


Grip strength is important in combat, but strength is not enough, flexibility is also needed. No matter how strong a person’s grip is, it can be broken by using the correct technique. Close quarters combat, grappling and wrestling are not static. The people in these situations are always in motion, using strength and technique to win. To control an opponent in these situations, a strong yet flexible grip is vital.

In order to throw an opponent, it is necessary to grip an opponent’s arm or some part of the body. To stop an opponent from hitting or throwing you, the first line of defense is often to take a grip of the arm being used against you. In order to stop a person from using a weapon against you, it is usually necessary to control the weapon by either a gripping the weapon, or gripping a part of the opponent’s arm that is holding the weapon. A strong but static grip is not enough in these situations, and when weapons are involved, a strong static grip can be fatal.

When gripping, the arm muscles are tightened, which usually means stiffness or less flexibility. A strong grip is usually made by gripping with all four fingers towards the thumb. Although strong, this grip is prone to be ‘broken’ when the object that is being gripped moves into a position that weakens the gripping arm. What makes the glima grip so good is that it is flexible whilst still being strong.

The secret of the glima grip is the passive index finger, which leaves a three finger grip towards the thumb. By not gripping tight with the index finger as well as the other three fingers, the wrist is more flexible and has more range of motion. Applying pressure from the index finger to the glima grip at certain moments can secure or build on the grip, so long as the index finger isn’t fixed and can relax or release without negatively impacting the grip. This is true for grips on an opponent’s arm, on an opponent’s clothing or on an opponent’s weapon.


Historians have written about Viking combat and the use of Viking weapons, without ever having trained in the Viking martial arts. By writing about, and making conclusions regarding something they have no practical understanding of, often leads them to wild conjecture. The shortness of many Viking sword grips has puzzled most historians, which has led to the story that Vikings had small hands, which is simply untrue. The common sense answer is much simpler, it's because the mode of gripping the sword is different than historians, or people not trained in glima, have assumed.

The glima grip makes for better control of weapons, especially the Viking sword. Not only does the glima grip on Viking weapons make for much more dexterous maneuvers than with a 4 finger ‘hammer’ grip, it gives the index finger control of the sword in a way that is impossible with a full four finger grip. Working the index finger against the crossguard in unison with the three fingered grip on the sword grip, provides better control and precision, and increases the maneuverability and versatility of the Viking sword.

The glima grip guides and controls cuts, blocks, parries and disarms with dexterity and effectiveness. Being so versatile, the glima grip can range from loose to firm control without cramping the hand or arm or the versatility of the weapon, and provides the supple and active grip needed to hold and use a Viking sword to the full. The glima grip works with long and short Viking sword grips, and can be a lot more effective than a regular hammer grip, which isn’t so precise or versatile. In fact, the glima grip is so effortless when used correctly that it makes the hammer grip seem clumsy with slow recovery in comparison.


As there is so much more to the glima grip, there will be follow up articles on the Glima Grip in sport, combat and with weapons.

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Tyr Neilsen


Under construction




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Some links to other sources of information about the history of glima:


glima tyr neilsen

glima tyr neilsen

Glima Rules

Rules for Viking Løse-tak Glima competitions

Loose-grip Glima (Free-Grip glima)

• The contest is started when both athletes take the Handsal hand-shake.

• In the competition form of Loose-grip (Free-grip) glima, the athlete who manages to make his/her opponent fall to the ground and remain standing, or is the first athlete up on their feet and out of reach, wins.

• In the old Viking Age rules, 3 drops to the knee was enough to win the game, if a full throw could not be implemented.

• A throw is counted as any part of the body above the knee or elbow touches the ground.

• Brøderfall is when both fall at the same time. No win is counted with brøderfall. The win is counted with the first contestant standing and cannot be taken down by the opponent on the floor.

• If you are thrown, don't fall, go after the legs of your opponent. There are many techniques and angles of attack you can use from the ground, including inflicting pain from the ground.

• A competitor can win from the ground by keeping hold of their opponent, forcing them to the ground, then standing up and getting away first.

• The winner is the competitor standing whilst the other competitor is on the ground.

• It is not allowed to strike with fist or head.

• When in doubt, the judge's assessment is final.


Rules for Viking Wrestling Competition – Full Overview

Win by Fall:

The aim of the contest is to win by what is called a fall.

In the Loose-grip type of Viking Wrestling match, a 'fall' is when a competitor is ends up with knees/legs/body on the ground after being thrown, tripped, pulled or pushed.

Win by technical superiority:

From Handsal, hands, feet, knees and shoulders can be used to take an opponent down.

Taking an opponent off balance is key so that a throw, or very fast and clean Glima foot technique, delivers the desired result of sweeping the foot of an opponent, so that the opponent is taken off balance and falls. 

If a fall is not achieved by a clean throw or foot sweep, a competitor can win with technical superiority, which means that he has controlled the fight and got his opponent to his knees three times .

If a contestant wins by forcing his opponent down this way, he wins the contest on technical superiority.

Win the judge's decision:

If none of the competitors achieve a clean technique, or technical superiority , the competitor who dominated the game in the referees judgment will be awarded victory.

Win by Injury:

If a competitor is injured and unable to continue, his/her opponent will be awarded the victory. This is also called a medical omission.

The term also includes situations where the competitor becomes ill, has too many injury breaks, or bleeds uncontrollably.

If a competitor is injured due to opponent performing an illegal act, and therefore cannot continue , the opponent is disqualified.

Win by Disqualification :

If a competitor receives three warnings for illegal acts, he/she will be disqualified.

In other circumstances, such as excessive brutality, the fight is stopped immediately and the athlete disqualified for the tournament. This requires a majority decision from the judges.

Team Points in tournaments:

In a team competition, a team consists of competitor/competitors for each weight class and overall points are awarded depending on individual performance .



If a contestant wins his/her weight class, the contestant’s team will receive 10 points. If the contestant comes in tenth place, the team would only receive 1 point. Towards the end of the tournament, each team’s scores will be set together and the team with the most points will win the team competition, with subsequent ranking.

Teams Tournament:

A long contest or challenge is a meeting between teams where contestants compete in specific weight classes. A team receives one point for each victory in a weight class regardless of how the result is achieved. (clean win or decision) The team that gets the most points at the end of the tournament wins the team tournament.

With point similarities between the teams, this can be solved in two ways: One way is to have a best- of - three final competitions. The second way is to judge matches by considering in priority the following:
1 Most victories by adding together the points from the matches
2 Most points for fall, Walk-over, contestant withdraws, or disqualification
3 Most matches won on technical superiority
4 Most rounds won on technical superiority
5 Most technical points in total in tournament
6 Least achieved technical points in the tournament
This works in a similar manner when there are 2 teams or more than two teams in this situation.


Regler for Løse tak Glima konkurranser i norsk:


• Kampen er i gang når begge utøvere tar Handsal-taket.
• I konkurranseformen av Løse-tak fri glima, utpekes den utøveren som klarer å kaste sin motstander i bakken og holde seg stående, eller er den første utøveren opp på beina, til vinner.
• I de gamle reglene fra vikingtiden sto det at 3 fall til kne var nok til å vinne kampen, dersom et fullt fall ikke kunne gjennomføres
• Et fall telles når en hvilken som helst del av kroppen over kneet eller albuen rører bakken.
• Brøderfall, dvs når begge faller samtidig, telles ikke.
• Det er ikke tillatt å slå med knyttet neve, eller hodet. 
• Dommerens vurdering i tvilstilfeller er endelig.

Regler for Viking Bryting kamper – Oversikt

Seier ved Fall:

Hensikten med brytekampen er å vinne ved det som kalles fall. Avhengig av typen Vikingbryting kamp, betyr et fall at enten er en utøver kastet til bakken, eller en utøver holder begge motstanderens skuldre mot bakken samtidig.

Seier ved teknisk overlegenhet:

Hvis et fall ikke er oppnådd ved et reint kast, kan en utøver vinne ved teknisk overlegenhet, hvilket vil si at han har kontrollert kampen og fått sin motstander i kne 3 ganger.
Hvis en utøver vinner ved å tvinge sin motstander ned på denne måten, vinner han kampen på teknisk overlegenhet. 

Seier ved dommeravgjørelse:

Dersom ingen av utøverne oppnår en rein teknikk, eller teknisk overlegenhet, vil den utøveren som har dominert kampen etter dommernes skjønn bli tildelt seier.

Seier ved uteblivelse:

Hvis en utøver ikke er i stand til å fortsette turneringen uansett grunn, eller unnlater å stille til kamp etter å ha blitt ropt opp 3 ganger, taper han kampen, og motstanderen erklæres vinner ved uteblivelse. 

Seier ved Skade:

Hvis en utøver er skadet og ikke I stand til å fortsette, vil den andre utøveren bli tildelt seier. Dette er også kalt en medisinsk uteblivelse.
Termen inkluderer også situasjoner der utøveren blir syk, har for mange skadepauser eller blør ukontrollert. 

Dersom en utøver blir skadet pga at motstanderen utfører en ulovlig handling, og derfor ikke kan fortsette, blir motstanderen diskvalifisert. 

Seier ved Diskvalifisering:

Hvis en utøver mottar tre advarsler for ulovlige handlinger, vil han bli diskvalifisert.

Under andre omstendigheter, som overdreven brutalitet, kan kampen stoppes umiddelbart og utøveren diskvalifisert for hele turneringen. Dette krever en majoritets bestemmelse fra dommerne. 


Lag poeng i turneringer:

I en lagkonkurranse, består et lag av en utøver for hver vektklasse, og totale poeng gis avhengig av individuelle prestasjoner. 

Eksempel: En utøver vinner sin vektklasse vil utøverens lag motta 10 poeng. Dersom utøveren kom på tiende plass, ville laget kun motta 1 poeng. Mot slutten av turneringen legges hvert lags poengsummer sammen, og laget med flest poeng vil da vinne lag turneringen, med påfølgende rangering. 

Lag turneringer:

En langkonkurranse eller duell er et møte mellom (som oftest to) lag hvor utøvere går mot andre utøvere i definerte vektklasser. Et lag mottar ett poeng for hver seier i en vektklasse uavhengig av resultat. Laget som tar flest poeng mot slutten av turneringen vinner lag turneringen. 

Ved poenglikhet mellom to lag, kan dette løses på to måter: En måte er å ha et best-av-tre oppsett. Den andre måten er å vurdere kampene ved å vurdere i prioritert rekkefølge: 
1. Høyest antall seire ved å legge sammen poengene fra de to kampene
2. Flest poeng for fall, Walk-over, utøver trekker seg eller diskvalifisering
3. Flest kamper vunnet på teknisk overlegenhet
4. Flest omganger vunnet på teknisk overlegenhet
5. Flest tekniske poeng totalt i turneringen
6. Minst oppnådd tekniske poeng i turneringen

Dette fungerer på en lignende måte når det er flere enn 2 lag i denne situasjonen.


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Tyr Neilsen