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Glíma is the name of the Scandinavian martial arts system used by the Vikings. The word glíma in Old Norse means glimpse or flash, which describes the systems techniques.

Glima as a self-defence 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. Glima as self-defence was the foundation for the Viking warrior, and these techniques are still practiced in Scandinavia, Europe, North America and South America.

Glima as a sport covers several types of Scandinavian folk wrestling: Lausatök, Hryggspenna, and Brokartök. Glima was the most widespread sport in the Viking Age, and was practiced by men and women of all ages. Wherever Vikings 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 Viking god of wrestling.

Glima is first mentioned in Viking poetry by the Norwegian court poet Bragi Boddason (790-850) and Kveldúlfr Bjálfason (820-878), also of Norwegian Heritage. The poetry is about the Norse god Thor and his journey to Utgards-Loki, where Elli defeats Thor in a wrestling match.

Glima is also mentioned in Prose Edda the Icelandic collection of texts from 1220, and in the book Gylfaginning.

History of Glíma

The Vikings were famous as great warriors, on land and at sea. Viking warriors had the skills to survive against the various forms of warfare they encountered in their travels around the world.
The reason for the Vikings fighting prowess is found in the way they trained both with, and without weapons. Glima training for Scandinavian children began at 6 or 7 years of age. 
The combat system of Glima developed the strength, reflexes, endurance and courage, Viking warriors needed to survive in battle. Glima as a sport was fun, and Glima wrestling competitions were extremely popular.

As with people of every age and nationality, Vikings loved sports. Wrestling was the most widespread sport in the Viking Age, and there were several variants. Viking wrestling was divided into glima wrestling, Råbryting (Raw wrestling) and water wrestling. 
The unrestricted form of Råbryting was crude and wild and differed from glima wrestling because these contests were decided by opponents being pinned down. Water wrestling was a wrestling match in the water, and was the most popular form of swimming competition. 
The idea was to keep the opponents head under water until he gave up, and such matches could last for hours. 
The skilled variants of Glíma wrestling (Brokartök, Hryggspenna, and Lausatök) had complex rules and competitors brought each other down with lightening quick moves and tricks as much with the feet as with the hands. Glima wrestling was divided into several classes based on strength and skill, between two opponents or team competitions between different districts.

The original Norwegian settlers in Iceland took Viking wrestling and the Glima combat systems with them, according to the Jónsbók law book from 1325. In the Icelandic medieval book of laws known as Grágás, which refers to a collection of earlier Norwegian laws, there were rules for wrestling. The Icelandic populace has taken very good care of their Norwegian heritage, and Glima there is almost unchanged since Viking times.

Brokartök Glíma is the national sport of Iceland. The oldest Icelandic competition in glima is Skjaldarglíma Ármann which was first held in 1888 and has been held almost every year since. In 1905 the belt was introduced so that the wrestlers could have a better grip on each other. Before that they held on each other's trousers. In 1906 the first Íslandsglíman (Grettisbeltið) competition was held where the winners are named Glímukóngur.

In the 1912 Summer Olympics there was a demonstration of glima, it was an introduction of the sport to the world, and a reintroduction to Scandinavia. Olympic officials had consented to making Glima an official Olympic sport, the Olympic committee planned to fulfill the promise and include glíma at the Olympics in Antwerpen 1920. When the participation of Icelandic glíma-wrestlers had been secured, news were received that the Danish king planned to visit Iceland that same summer. 
The sports leadership decided that it was more important to offer the king a spectacle of the best wrestlers. Icelandic sport officials cancelled their participation in the Olympics. 
Eventually, the king postponed his journey and did not visit Iceland until a year later.

In the final chapter of the 20th century, Glima began to be practiced in mainland Scandinavia.

In 1987 glima was taught in primary school in Iceland.

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