Who's Who in
Glíma is the Icelandic national style of
amateur Folk wrestling.
There are four points that differentiate it from other forms of
- The opponents must always stand
- The opponents step clockwise around
each other (looks similar to a waltz). This is to create
opportunities for offense and defense, and to prevent a stalemate
- It is not permitted to fall down on
your opponent or to push him down in a forceful manner, as it is not
- The opponents are supposed to look
across each other's shoulders as much as possible because it is
considered proper to wrestle by touch and feel rather than sight.
Glima remains, as it always has been,
friendly recreation and a gentleman's sport, but as the lösatags
version (described below) shows it also has a rougher side.
Glima is a very old combative style. Certain evidence of glima dates
back to the 12th century but some descriptions of wrestling in the
Icelandic sagas and the Younger Edda makes it reasonable to believe
that the system is much older. The core of the system are eight main
bragd (techniques), which form the basic training for approximately
50 ways to execute a throw or takedown.
The word glima is translated as a struggle. The word is a common
expression in modern Icelandic, to glima with something means to
struggle with something in life just as in the sport.
Surrounding glima is a code of honour called Drengskapur that calls
for fairness, respect for and caring about the security of one's
Glima are say to come in three forms: byxtagsglima, livtagsglima and
lösatagsglima, terms taken from Swedish; on Iceland byxtagsglima is
called glima and livtagsglima is called axlatök, Lösatagsglima
doesn't exist in Iceland.
The first version is by far the most
widespread and the one typically associated with the term glima.
Indeed, some would say the term should be restricted to this kind
only, and it is this version which is Iceland's national sport.
Historically it was also the one put in highest esteem for favoring
technique over strength. Each of the two wrestlers wears a special
belt around the waist and separate, additional belts on the lower
thighs of each leg, which connect to the main belt with vertical
straps. A fixed grip is then taken with one hand in the belt and the
other in the trousers at thigh height. From this position the glima-wrestler
attempts to trip and throw his opponent. In this style of glima, a
thrown wrestler may attempt to land on his feet and hands and if he
succeeds in doing so he has not lost the fall. The winning condition
in this type of glima is to make the opponent touch the ground with
an area of the body between the elbow and the knee.
In Lausataksglíma the contestants may
use the holds they wish. This style is a kind of re-creation since
it was out of practice for a period of about 100 years before being
taken up again recently, within the last generation.
It is much more aggressive and differs in many ways from other
styles of glima. Lausataksglíma comes in two forms: A version for
self-defence and a version for friendly competition. In either all
kinds of wrestling techniques are allowed but in the friendly
version they are still taught to be executed in a way so they won’t
cause the opponent injury. In such a friendly match the winner is
considered the one who is standing tall while the other is lying on
the ground. This means that if both the opponents fall to the ground
together the match will continue on the ground by the use of
techniques to keep the other down while getting up oneself.
Even more divergent from other forms of glima is lausataksglíma when
trained purely for self-defence (as is done a couple of places in
Scandinavia). In such training the harmful and hurtful
techniques/ways of executing the techniques, that are not accepted
in other forms of glima, are explored in as free and creative a way
as possible while not injuring one's training-partners.