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Smaller peoples and their traditional and ritual combat sports

Iceland folk wrestling "Glima"

Learn Glima - the Viking way of wrestling
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Glima wrestling belt

Glima wrestling


Glima wrestling
Glima wrestling
Glima wrestling

Iceland folk wrestling style "glima" (translates literally as “The Game of Joy”) is at least 1100 years old. Glima was brought to Iceland by Viking settlers, and has been practiced as a folk art ever since. In old times, way of life was harsh and wrestling was not just an amusement but also had the applied importance to train warriors. As the most of other folk wrestling styles, it was originally men's only play. There were three main Glima forms in the old days. There was formal Glima and Loose Grips wrestling; and then besides, there was wrestling for settling a duel – to the death! In the deadly matches, which would have only been done over the most serious of offenses, the two men would go into a field with a large, waist-high, tapered slab of rock – a stone to smash your opponent down on to slay him.

Glima is traditionally practiced outdoors in appropriate clothing for the weather. In Iceland, one of the reasons you might have decided to wrestle for a few rounds was just to stay warm on a cold night!

Perhaps the most immediately discernible characteristic of modern Glima is that the participants today wear special leather belts. These have a main belt around the waist, and separate belts on the lower thighs of each leg, which are connected to the main belt with vertical straps. These belts allow a specific grip to be taken which is wrestled out of – similar to many other traditions around the world.

The reason that the belts are still worn today is that they are symbolic of wearing the heavy pants and jackets as they did in the past. The belt gives something to grab, and it is fair to all competitors. It is also important to note just where the Glima player is grabbing. The left hip and right thigh are both places where an opponent’s sword or dagger would have been kept in the old days; that's why these places are gripped during the contest. Your left hand grabs his right thigh and your right hand grips his left hip. From here you start to circle to the right, both circling around each other, trying to find a weakness. In the modern game, players wear special shoes in addition to the belts previously described.

The central object of glima is to off-balance the opponent (using a swing, jerk, lift, or pull with the hands on the glima belt), apply a foot, leg, or hip technique, and then swiftly, but gracefully, throw the opponent to the floor. It is prohibited to follow the opponent to the floor, or fall on top of him. It is important that a wrestler maintains proper balance after throwing an opponent. A bylta (fall), which determines the victory in a match (if accomplished 2 times), is called if an opponent touches the floor anywhere on his body above the knee, above the elbows, on the buttocks, the torso, the head, or with both hands behind him. If both wrestlers lose balance and fall to the floor, this is termed braeorabylta (brothers-fall) and the wrestling match resumes. A wrestler who is skilled in the art of falling can prevent a bylta when thrown and thus continue to wrestle in the match. If an opponent touches the ground by the both shoulders the thrower is immediately announced a winner.

Although Iceland women are intrepid, strong and sturdy, for a long time they were excluded from glima competitions; it might be explained by the fact that by 1905 wrestlers had gripped each other by trousers which were not a women's clothing at old times (women wore long dresses and aprons). When special wrestling belts were replaced trousers, it opened the door to glima for women. Sine 1914, women have been reportedly practicing glima (with some breaks). Since 1988, girls and women have been officially training and competing. Certain particular features of glima wrestling make it very appropriate for women to practice because women's lower body is more developed - legs, thighs and hips are the most important leverages in glima wrestling.

There are the glima authorities in Iceland - "Glimusamband" which states rules and governs federation of glima clubs. The time limits for youth ("unglingur") competitions is 1 1/2 minutes for each round; for adults (17 years or older) the time limit is 2 minutes, with at least a five-minute rest period for each wrestler between bouts. In certain cases, a round has no time limits; such is the case in the finals of a competition. Another distinctive aspect of glima is the absence of weight limits in practice and in competition. Mixed competitions are forbidden by the rules. However, young boys and girls often train together and wrestle each other for training.

Besides, Iceland, glima wrestling is practiced in some other countries, such as Denmark, Sweden and even New Zeeland


The Gripping History of Glima

The Way of the Vikings

Excerpts from Glima. Icelandic wrestling

Glima contests remind dancing

Children training

Glima wrestling
Glima wrestling
Glima wrestling
Glima wrestling
Glima wrestling

Videoclips. Glima is a precise art

Исландские девушки в традиционной одежде соревнуются в борьбе Глима

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