Lars Magnar Enoksen (b. 1960) is president of the Viking Glima Federation and its master instructor. The following text is a short presentation of the grand masters who are Lars Magnar’s most influential instructors in the art of Glima. Lars Magnar began his apprenticeship in the late 1980s when he was tutored by experienced masters of Glima in Iceland which was the only place at the time where this art was still practiced in unbroken traditions since the Viking age.
It should be mentioned that in the late 1980s there was almost nobody who knew of Glima in Scandinavia except a few practitioners of this martial art to be found in Iceland. These keepers of the flame had all been taught Glima through family traditions or were fostered in an area where Glima had strong traditions. These masters had a great understanding of Glima which was quite different from those who only practiced it as a modern sport. It is their knowledge of the martial arts applications of Glima that truly distinguishes them from those who are only aware of it as a modern sports style.
The masters of Glima
The elder masters of this group were Þorsteinn Kristjánsson (1901-1991) and Þorsteinn Einarsson (1911-2001). At Iceland’s Millennium celebration of their Alþingi or “the Parliament” in 1930, the former had been awarded the honourable title of being the best Glima wrestler in the world. It was because of this truly remarkable fact that Þorsteinn Kristjánsson was awarded a magnificent drinking-horn by the Danish king at an official outdoor ceremony with thousands of guests at the site of the ancient Parliament called Þingvellir. The other master, Þorsteinn Einarsson, was an expert in the historical evolution of Glima. He was also Iceland’s inspector of sports and traditional games between 1941-1981. His mission was to visit all the homesteads on the island – no matter how remotely located – to study what kind of old traditional games and martial arts which were still practised there. Before getting his job Þorsteinn was challenged by the Prime Minister of Iceland, Hermann Jónasson (1896-1976), to fight with him in Glima. Hermann had been a Glima king, which is the most prestigious title you can obtain in Glima, and was famous for his efficient and almost brutal style of combat. The fight was staged in Hermann’s office and he was victorious as usual, but directly afterwards Þorsteinn challenged and beat him in a combined long- and high-jump over the minister’s desk from a standstill position and got the job.
Between the older and younger generations of masters we find Ármann J. Lárusson (b. 1932) who is famous for being invincible in any fight since he was 22 years of age. He was Glima king fifteen times (!) and fourteen years in a row – a feat which will be almost impossible to repeat. Ármann was often challenged to fight the American soldiers at the Army base in Keflavik near the international airport. In these challenges that were arranged in the 1950s and the 1960s Ármann took on all comers and they fought in the old catch as catch style with no holds bared, which is very similar to Combat Glima. To make the challengers understand what they were up against, these fights were staged at the deck of the Navy cruisers. No mats were used in the fights and many challengers found out the hard way why steel floor have never become popular as wrestling ground.
The younger masters of Glima are Sigurđur Örn Jónsson (b. 1948) and Pétur Vignir Yngvason (b. 1952). Both Sigurđur and Pétur practiced Glima together when living in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. They also worked side by side as bouncers at sailor taverns in the harbour. It was forbidden to serve alcohol in public places at that time in Iceland, but strong liquors could easily be obtained in the taverns where Sigurđur and Pétur worked and were supposed to prevent any violent actions. Needless to say, fighting was the favourite activity of the clientele of these taverns. Their knowledge of Combat Glima helped Sigurđur and Pétur to survive in an environment where only the fittest survives. As a master of Glima, Sigurđur Örn Jónsson is known as an expert of all the dirty tricks that can be used in Glima and this knowledge is needed when fighting a person that does not care about your well being. His brother in arms, Pétur Vignir Yngvason, was five times awarded the title Glima king in the 1970s and the 1980s – a title which his twin brother, Ingi Þór Yngvason, held four times.
The knowledge and traditions are very strong indeed in the blood of the Glima masters. This is proven by the fact that the father of Ármann, Lárus Salómonsson (1905-1987), was also a Glima king. The son of Sigurđur, Ingibergur Sigurđursson (b. 1973), has won the title Glima king seven years in a row and the daughter of Pétur, Inga Gerđa Pétursdóttir (b. 1983), was the first woman to become a Glima queen.
The masters and their styles
I (Lars Magnar Enoksen) have been taught by all five masters of Glima and it is now my intention to explain and point out what kind of knowledge and skills they have given me. First of all I most declare that the most vital thing with Glima is that it is an old martial art which clearly states that those who do not have any connection with its unbroken traditions, will be hopelessly lost when it comes to understanding its art.
The first master I came in contact with was Sigurđur Örn Jónsson, who happened answer the phone at the office of the Icelandic Glima Federation when I phoned from Sweden in the late 1980s. I asked him about Glima and Sigurđur was very frank and told me that the only way for me to understand Glima was to visit Iceland and learn it from the masters. This was the beginning of a tutoring in Glima which have not yet ended.
During my first visit to Iceland, Sigurđur Örn Jónsson informed me that an injury of his knee had ended his career in Glima. However, he thought that he was still able to show me a trick or two. And indeed he could! Sigurđur had a very aggressive style of Glima and was an expert in offensive techniques. He taught me the principle of taking the initiative in a fight by using my own force to the advantage. In these techniques you jump onto the opponent and use the whole bodyweight in the attack. He was very careful to caution me of its downsides, because it must be done with expert timing or otherwise you will lose your own balance and become an easy victim for the opponent. Over the years of watching Sigurđur in action I have never seen him fail with these techniques.
The training sessions with Sigurđur were held in the Reykjavik area, but he told me to visit the north of Iceland and experience the Glima style of the Mývatn district where his old friend Pétur Vignir Yngvason were located. When I arrived at the destination, Pétur invited me to a training session that literary would be held in the middle of nowhere. Everything was dark outside because of the winter and its few hours of sunlight, but it did not seem to worry Pétur who obviously knew the way, even if there were sometimes no road to be seen. Finally, we stopped by an isolated house and the cars parked outside showed that there were people waiting inside.
Pétur and I entered the house and we were greeted by friendly people of impressive stature. I was standing next to a staircase when Pétur asked me what kind of wrestling I practiced. I answered him that wrestling was perhaps not the correct expression of it, because it was more directed towards self defence. My words had just ended when Pétur said: “Prove it” and suddenly I was attacked from behind by one of the strong guys who took a bear hug on me. I was able to get my foot behind the attacker’s foot and tripped him so that we fell backwards down through the stairs and landed on the basement floor. The big brute still had a tight grip on me, but I managed to get my hand around his balls and forced him to let go of his hold.
The fight was over as quickly as it had started and Pétur said that I had an interesting style and wondered where I have learned Glima. It was then I understood that to the masters of the art the word Glima has a deeper meaning and is always regarded as a martial art, even if it can be practiced as a sport. When Pétur showed me his style of Glima it was easy to understand why he was such a formidable practitioner of the art. He had a very relaxed body-stature while fighting and always used the mistakes of the opponent to his advantage. It was Pétur who taught me the importance of adapting a smooth fighting attitude because of its intimidating effects on the opponent. Pétur also stressed that the right moment to attack is when you feel for it. However, he told me that this information is useless for individuals who does not have the courage to go for it when needed.
After returning to Reykjavik from my visit to the north of the island, I was confronted by a gentleman who wanted to talk to me. The man was the famous Glima master and martial arts scholar Þorsteinn Einarsson. He invited me to his home and wanted to know more about my interest in Glima. Þorsteinn was delighted to hear that I already had started an apprenticeship with Sigurđur Örn Jónsson and Pétur Vignir Yngvason tutoring me in the art. It was through my discussions with Þorsteinn I learned the fascinating history of Glima which can be traced back in unbroken traditions to the Viking age.
Þorsteinn taught me the evolution of Glima and said that a real understanding of the art could only be gained by combined theoretical studies and practical exercises. He explained to me how and where to find the historical sources and encouraged me to do my own research in the matter. I always get a smile on my face when I think of the many sessions I have had with this strong-minded gentleman who always had a nice selection of cakes to offer his guests. He had a lot of energy and it never showed that he was of high age when a heated discussion forced him to act out his thoughts. Many times have I been thrown down to the floor in his living room and it was in one of those spontaneous training sessions that he ripped my sweater to pieces and announced that the Lose grip (Lausa tök) style of Glima never could had allowed grips on the clothes in ancient times because they were to cost worthy to be ruined just for fun. Believe me, I got his point!
To Þorsteinn Einarsson, movement was the most important aspect of Glima and he wanted me to understand how it worked by letting two experienced Glima fighters demonstrating it. Never could I have expected what he had arranged for me. I became witness to a sight that few have seen. In an apartment I was introduced to Þorsteinn Kristjánsson who was ninety years of age, and it should be mentioned that my friend Þorsteinn Einarsson was eighty years old at the time. They explained to me that the dancing steps of Glima are used to make fighting possible in very narrow environments and the best way to make me understand it was by watching them fight in the room with lots of furniture and other stuff in the way. It was a beautiful and very informative sight to see these old masters fighting each other in a small room with attacks made in earnest. Effortlessly and with smooth moves they avoided everything they could stumble on. This was the essence of Glima they said and I felt very honoured to have been invited to this master lesson.
Þorsteinn Einarsson and Þorsteinn Kristjánsson were pleased to see that their knowledge had been handed down so that the continuity of the ancient art was kept intact. They also encouraged me to seek out other senior masters of Glima and the most important being Ármann J. Lárusson. This famous master accepted a meeting with me and he thought the best place would be at his home. Ármann was an impressive man and his body-language had the calmness of an invincible fighter. However, when we started to talk about Glima there was sadness in his eyes. Unbelievable as it may sound, Ármann told me that I was the first person who had looked him up to gain some knowledge about the art that he loved. This statement became even stranger knowing that he was the best Glima fighter in modern times.
As the story unfolded Ármann J. Lárusson said that he was actually forced to quit Glima because ignorant people thought that it was bad for the art having a seemingly invincible master. Yes, I am telling the truth, instead of celebrating this formidable master, they used his superiority against him! So when he noticed that I had the desire to learn, Ármann showed me the moves that had made him invincible in all the fights he fought in the last two decades of his active Glima career. However, he was very clear in pointing out that the techniques are worthless if you do not have the right fighting spirit. Ármann looked me in the eyes and said: “You must just want to take him!” His words were so strong that its power forced me to back away from him. Seeing this he smiled and said that it reminded him of the good old days when the opponents were already beaten when he entered the ring and they noticed his presence.
Over the years I have had many encounters and training sessions with Ármann J. Lárusson, Þorsteinn Kristjánsson, Þorsteinn Einarsson, Pétur Vignir Yngvason and Sigurđur Örn Jónsson. It was their tutoring that gave me a higher understanding of Glima and fostered the skills that I have in this art. It has become my goal to honour the time and effort they invested in me by sharing the knowledge with those who prove themselves worthy to be part of the old Viking tradition called Glima.
Author: Lars Magnar Enoksen
Original source: http://www.viking-glima.com/masterstories.html
The official statement by the Viking Glima Federation
In the last twenty years Lars Magnar Enoksen has worked closely with the five masters of Glima in order to set the standards needed to become an instructor or a master of Glima. These standards proclaim that Glima is an old martial art with strong traditions of the North, and mastery can only be acquired from the recognized masters of the art. Those, who practice Glima are considered to be the guardians of an unbroken tradition which can be traced back to Viking age Scandinavia, and they are very proud of this fact. Only those who are awarded the official certificate signed and approved by the Viking Glima Federation and its masters are regarded as authorized instructors in this art. The certificate of Viking Glima Federation clearly states the level of the instructors and which style/styles of Glima they are practicing.