Jan 26, 2020
One of the last major landmasses to be settled by human beings, Iceland is nowadays a thriving modern nation that boasts a highly educated populace and one of the highest standards of living on Earth. The world of the earliest Icelandic settlers, however, was significantly different – one of endless, back-breaking agricultural work carried out amid brutal North Atlantic weather and the constant threat of violent family feuds. Their wrestling matches could often be similarly wild and injurious, often barely distinguishable in motivation or consequence from a duel fought with sword or axe.
As this young society began to mature and regulate itself, however, their wrestling began to change accordingly. And just like the modern nation of Iceland emerged out of a fractious mass of Nordic and Celtic settlers on the edge of the world, the Icelandic national wrestling style, Glima, gradually took form. A game of joy – of truly convivial wrestling – Glima is both stylistically unlike any other grappling tradition on Earth, and a physical manifestation of the discipline that Iceland forced on itself in order to balance the conflicts of an honour-driven society with the need for mutual cooperation in order to survive.