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Glíma is the Icelandic national style of amateur Folk wrestling.
There are four points that differentiate it from other forms of wrestling:
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.
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. 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.
Surrounding glima is a code of honour called Drengskapur that calls for fairness, respect for and caring about the security of one’s training partners.
The word glíma is translated as a struggle. The word is a common expression in modern Icelandic, to glíma with something means to struggle with something in life just as in the sport. In particular, glíma is also the Icelandic term for “wrestling” in general, extending to modern, non-traditional styles.
The first version is by far the most widespread and the one typically associated with the term glima. Indeed, most people 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.
Hryggspenna is more similar to other styles of wrestling and is considered to be more a test of strength than of technique. In Hryggspenna the opponents take hold of each other’s upper body; whoever touches the ground with any part of the body except the feet has lost.
In Lausatök (loose-grip wrestling) 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 Icelandic wrestling. Lausatök 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.
Even more divergent from other forms of Icelandic wrestling is lausatök when trained purely for self-defence (as is done a couple of places in Scandinavia). In such training the harmful and hurtful techniques or ways of executing the techniques, that are not accepted in other forms of Icelandic wrestling, are explored in as free and creative a way as possible while not injuring one’s training-partners.
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