Master the Art of Glima, the Icelandic Wrestling Tradition


Have you ever heard of Glima? It’s a traditional Icelandic martial art that dates back to the Viking Age. Despite being a lesser-known form of combat, Glima has a rich history and unique techniques that make it worth exploring.

If you are interested in martial arts or simply want to learn more about this fascinating practice, read on. In this article, we will delve into the history and techniques of Glima and explore why it remains an important part of Icelandic culture today. So grab your habits and get ready to learn about the fascinating world of Glima.

What Is Glima?

Glima is a traditional Icelandic wrestling martial art that dates back over a thousand years. It is a unique form of grappling that focuses on technique, balance, and leverage rather than sheer strength. Glima is deeply rooted in Icelandic culture and history, and it continues to be practiced and celebrated today.

In Glima, two participants, known as glímumenn, face each other in a circular ring called a glímafall. The objective is to throw the opponent off balance and make them touch the ground with any part of their body except their feet. The throws and techniques used in Glima emphasize agility, timing, and skillful execution rather than brute force.

Glima is characterized by its fluid movements, intricate footwork, and precise holds. Wrestlers aim to maintain a strong base while attempting to disrupt their opponent’s balance and control their movements. The emphasis on technique makes Glima accessible to individuals of different ages, sizes, and genders.

Glima has various forms or styles, including Brokartök, Hryggspenna, and Lausatök. Each style has its own set of rules and techniques, providing a diverse range of challenges and strategies for participants.

Glima is not only a martial art but also a cultural tradition. It is often performed during special events, festivals, and competitions in Iceland. Glima events showcase the skills and heritage of the wrestlers, and they are a significant part of Icelandic folklore and national identity.

Glima has gained international recognition in recent years, with practitioners and enthusiasts promoting the sport beyond Iceland’s borders. It offers a unique and exciting experience for those interested in martial arts, traditional wrestling, or Icelandic culture.

Whether you want to explore a centuries-old martial art or engage in a captivating physical activity, Glima provides a blend of history, tradition, and athleticism that will captivate and inspire.

 What does Glima Mean?

Glima is an ancient form of Scandinavian martial arts practiced in Iceland and Sweden for centuries. It consisted of unarmed combat, grappling, and ground fighting techniques and was used as a method to settle disputes between individuals or clans. In modern times, it is considered a sport similar to other forms of wrestling. Glima can be seen in various settings such as tournaments, demonstrations, and competitions.

“Glima” is derived from the Old Norse verb “glioma” which means to wrestle or wriggle with someone. It is an ancient form of wrestling developed by the Vikings and has existed for over a thousand years.

Glima involves two opponents who try to throw each other off balance without using any strikes or kicks. The participants must use their feet and hands to maintain balance, leverage, and technique to defeat their opponent.

Glima is an important part of Icelandic culture and history and continues to be practiced today. It is an exciting sport that offers a unique blend of physical activity, strategy, and artistry that will captivate and inspire anyone.

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Master the Art of Glima

Where is Glima From?

Glima is an ancient Scandinavian martial art that originated in Norway. It has been passed down through generations and is still practiced today by some more traditional Viking martial arts clubs. Glima dates back to the Viking times when it was used as a form of combat training for warriors. Even today, Glima is still recognized in many parts of Europe as a legitimate form of martial arts.

Glima requires a great deal of agility and skill. Moves such as locks, throws, and trips throw the opponent off balance. There is also a strong emphasis on posture and balance to maintain control over the opponent. Glima fighters must be able to think quickly and anticipate their opponents’ moves to gain an advantage.

How To Play Glima?

To play Glima, follow these general guidelines:

  1. Set up the wrestling area: Glima is typically played in a circular ring known as a glímafall. Mark a circular area on the ground with a diameter of around 8-10 meters. This can be done using ropes, markers, or simply by designating the boundaries.

  2. Understand the objective: The objective of Glima is to throw your opponent off balance and make them touch the ground with any part of their body except their feet. The first person to touch the ground or step out of the ring loses the round.

  3. Start the match: Both participants stand inside the ring, facing each other, with their arms relaxed and ready to engage. It’s common to have a referee present to oversee the match and ensure fair play.

  4. Grasp the grip: Begin by establishing a grip with your opponent. In Glima, the grip starts with both wrestlers interlocking their fingers, usually at chest height. This grip allows for better control and maneuverability during the match.

  5. Use footwork and technique: Footwork plays a crucial role in Glima. Move around the ring, maintaining balance and stability while trying to disrupt your opponent’s balance. Utilize various techniques such as sweeps, trips, and throws to take your opponent off their feet.

  6. Focus on timing and leverage: Glima emphasizes timing and leverages over brute strength. Use your opponent’s movements and momentum against them to execute throws and takedowns. Timing your techniques properly increases their effectiveness.

  7. Maintain control and balance: Throughout the match, strive to maintain control of your opponent’s body while keeping your own balance intact. Use your grip and footwork to control their movements and prevent them from gaining an advantage.

  8. Play multiple rounds: Glima matches typically consist of several rounds. The first wrestler to win a predetermined number of rounds or the wrestler with the highest score at the end of the match, is declared the winner.

Remember, Glima can have variations in rules and techniques depending on the regional style being practiced. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific rules and guidelines followed by the particular Glima organization or group you are participating in. Regular practice, studying techniques, and learning from experienced practitioners can help improve your skills in Glima.

Read More: How To Play Freestyle Wrestling? Rules To History

Master the Art of Glima the Icelandic Wrestling Tradition

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Glima only practiced in Iceland?

While Glima has its roots in Iceland and is deeply ingrained in Icelandic culture, it is not limited to Iceland alone. In recent years, Glima has gained international recognition and popularity. It is now practiced in various countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Glima enthusiasts and organizations have spread the art globally, promoting its rich history and cultural significance beyond Iceland’s borders.

Can anyone participate in Glima, regardless of age or gender?

Absolutely! Glima is a martial art that welcomes participants of all ages, genders, and fitness levels. It is known for its inclusivity and adaptability. Glima offers a range of techniques that can be modified to suit individual abilities. Whether you’re a child, adult, male, female, or senior, you can engage in Glima and experience its benefits, including improved coordination, physical fitness, and an appreciation for ancient martial arts.

Are there specific uniforms or attire required for Glima?

Glima does not have strict uniform requirements. However, participants typically wear comfortable athletic clothing suitable for physical activity, such as T-shirts, shorts, or leggings. Some practitioners wear traditional Viking-inspired attire, adding a cultural touch to their Glima practice. It’s important to wear appropriate footwear with good traction to ensure stability and prevent slipping during matches.

Are there different styles or variations of Glima?

Yes, Glima has different regional styles or variations that have evolved over time. These variations often reflect the historical practices and influences of specific areas within Iceland. The most common Glima styles include Brokartök, Hryggspenna, and Lausatök. Each style has its own distinct techniques, rules, and strategies, providing a diverse range of experiences and challenges for practitioners.

Are there opportunities to compete in Glima?

Yes, there are opportunities for Glima practitioners to participate in competitive events and tournaments. These events provide a platform for showcasing skills, testing abilities, and fostering camaraderie among enthusiasts. Competitions may range from local gatherings to national or international championships, offering various categories based on age, gender, and skill level. Participating in Glima competitions can be an exciting and rewarding experience for those looking to challenge themselves and engage in friendly competition.


Glima is an ancient Icelandic martial art with roots in Viking culture. It is gaining recognition and popularity worldwide, with practitioners of all ages, genders, and fitness levels coming together to experience its benefits. Glima has various regional styles, rules, and techniques that can be adapted to individual abilities. Moreover, there are opportunities to participate in competitions and tournaments for those looking to test their skills and compete in friendly matches.

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