Glima: Nordic Folk Wrestling

Glima wrestling is a traditional Icelandic martial art that has been practiced for centuries. It combines elements of grappling, throwing, and striking techniques with the aim of defeating an opponent by using physical strength or skill. The sport originated in Iceland and is still popular there today. Glima wrestling has also gained popularity in other countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

This article will provide a brief overview of what Glima wrestling is all about, from its history to its rules and regulations. Additionally, it will discuss how this ancient form of combat can help develop skills such as balance, coordination, and strategy that are important for success in any field or endeavor.

glima wrestler

Table of Contents

What is Glima Wrestling?

Glima wrestling is a type of martial art that involves techniques such as throwing, locking, and pinning. It requires both physical strength and skill in order to be successful.

Unlike other styles of wrestling, Glima wrestlers do not wear any protective gear aside from their clothing. This makes it one of the most dangerous types of martial arts, as well as one of the most physically demanding.

What is the Meaning of Glima?

The name Glima comes from the Old Norse word glíma, which translates to “play” or “sport.” This reflects the recreational nature of Glima wrestling, which is meant to be enjoyed by all and not just used as a form of combat.

Is Glima a Real Martial Art?

Yes, Glima is a real martial art. It has been practiced in Iceland for centuries and is still popular today. Additionally, it has been gaining popularity in other countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.

History of Glima

Glima wrestling has been practiced in Iceland for centuries and is thought to have originated from Viking times. It was often used during tournaments to determine who would be named champion or leader of a group. Glima was also popular among Icelandic warriors during battles, as it allowed them to quickly and easily subdue an opponent.

Today, Glima is still popular in Iceland and has seen a recent resurgence of popularity in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia. It is often practiced in fitness centers or martial arts studios where people can learn the techniques in a safe environment with experienced instructors.

The Types of Glima

There are several different types of Glima, each with its own set of techniques and strategies. They include:

  • Brokartök
  • Hyrgspenna
  • Lausaatök


Brokartök is the most popular form of combat in both Sweden and Iceland, requiring precision over raw strength. While fighting, competitors must wear special belts for safety precautions and stand upright as they circle each other like dance partners. The objective is to either trip or slam your opponent off balance without any physical contact occurring between them.


Hyrgspenna is a distinct type of wrestling that exalts brute strength over skill. Contestants must try to take each other down by gripping their opponents’ upper bodies, and the one who touches the ground or floor with any body part except for feet will be declared as the loser.


Lausaatök is the most well-known form of martial arts in Norway and can be practiced either as a self-defense technique or simply just for recreation. Participants are allowed to use any type of hold they want, with the winner determined by who stays standing at the end – while those that fall to the ground – lose. Matches usually take place outdoors or inside on wooden floors, so powerful throws need to be avoided.

Rules and Regulations of Glima

The rules and regulations of Glima vary depending on the organization that is hosting the event. However, some common concepts are used throughout these organizations.

For example, in a tournament setting, two opponents will typically compete in a three-round match. During each round, points can be earned by either pinning the opponent or escaping their hold. The competitor with the most points at the end of all three rounds is deemed the winner.

In addition to this, Glima also adheres to a set of ethical rules and regulations that must be followed in order for it to be practiced safely and effectively. These include not using any type of dangerous moves or strikes, as well as refraining from taunting or deliberately injuring an opponent.

Glima Techniques

Glima encompasses a wide variety of techniques, with each variation requiring its own set of strategies. These include:


Glima involves opponents stepping in a clockwise direction, called “stígandi”, to strategically gain and maintain an advantage over their opponent. This constant movement is key in order to preventing any stagnancy while also providing chances for offense and attack.

Upright Position

Contestants in Glima must remain upright, unlike other ethnic wrestling styles which allow for bent-over body positioning. In fact, this type of posture is known as ousting and it’s not permitted in Glima competitions.

Knocking Over Is Not Allowed

Pushing your competitor down through brute force is not allowed in Glima as it goes against the honorable nature of this sport. Instead, opponents should be conquered with a well-executed grip that allows them to gracefully fall to the ground without additional physical contact. This demonstrates respect between competitors and keeps matches fair and civil.

Additional techniques are also used in Glima, such as grip strength and footwork. These more advanced techniques require practice and guidance from experienced instructors, making it essential to seek out training and instruction if interested in Glima.

Where to Learn Glima?

Although Glima has been around for centuries, it is still relatively unknown in many parts of the world. Those interested in trying Glima can find classes and tournaments in most major cities, as well as in specialized gyms and martial arts studios.

The most popular places to learn Glima are in Scandinavia, where the sport has its roots as well as in the US and Canada, where it has been gaining popularity in recent years, and Russia where it has been popular for some time because of the Scandinavian influences

There are also a number of online resources that provide detailed instructions on the various techniques and strategies of Glima. Additionally, many organizations offer Glima instructors who can teach the sport to those who are interested.

Glima Classes

Many martial arts gyms and studios offer Glima classes and tournaments, as well as private lessons. These classes typically involve a warm-up to get your body ready for the match as well as a series of drills to learn and practice the various techniques.

Also, several websites offer online classes or videos that provide instruction in the fundamentals of Glima, making it easier than ever to get started with this ancient wrestling style.

Glima Weapons

This style of wrestling does not require the use of weapons when it is performed as amateur wrestling nowadays. However, the original form of Glima used to include various weapons such as Vikings’ swords, knives, and axes.

These weapons were used by the Vikings to defend themselves in battle. Although not commonly used today in Glima, the use of these weapons can still be seen in some traditional Viking festivals and events.


The Vikings used shields made from wood and leather to protect themselves in battle. These shields were used to block an opponent’s attack and provide a means of defense.

Benefits of Glima Wrestling

Glima wrestling is an excellent way to develop skills such as balance, coordination, and strategy. It also helps to improve overall fitness levels, as the combination of physical strength and skill required of Glima wrestlers will help to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and increase endurance.

Additionally, the use of locks and holds can help to improve the competitors’ reflexes, as well as their ability to quickly analyze a situation and react accordingly.

Finally, Glima wrestling provides an effective way for people from different backgrounds to come together, learn from one another, and build relationships. The combination of physical contact, mental strategy, and technical skill makes Glima a rewarding and challenging sport for both professionals and beginners alike.

Is Combat Glima Effective?

Yes, combat Glima is an effective form of martial arts. While the rules and regulations of Glima are designed to ensure safety and fairness, it is still a physical and confrontational activity.

As such, combat Glima can help practitioners develop the wrestling skills needed to successfully defend themselves in various defensive situations. It also helps to improve overall physical fitness, coordination, and strategy. With proper training and practice, combat Glima can be a powerful and effective form of self-defense.


Glima is a unique and ancient form of wrestling that has been around for centuries. It combines physical strength, skill, and strategy to create an incredibly challenging yet enjoyable sport. Glima classes are offered both in person and online, making it easier than ever to get started with this fascinating martial art.

Additionally, the use of weapons such as shields and swords can add an extra layer of interest to the sport. Finally, Glima provides a great opportunity for individuals from any background or experience level to come together and build relationships while testing their physical and mental abilities.

Overall, Glima is an incredible martial art that offers many benefits both physical and mental. Whether you are looking to improve your self-defense skills or just want to try something new, Glima is a great choice. So why not give it a shot and see what this ancient wrestling style has to offer? With the right amount of training and practice, you could soon be competing in Glima tournaments or simply enjoying the sport as an amateur.