Iceland has many national sporting pastimes but did you know Iceland has a history with a rare sport that dates back over a century?


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In recent years the world has fallen in love with the Viking-clapping Icelandic football team, who were the unofficial underdogs of the UEFA Champions League when they beat England. The Icelandic national handball team cemented themselves as serious contenders when they won the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In recent years Iceland has even developed its own roller derby team.

There is another sport that bears roots in the history of the nation, the fascinating and relatively unknown sport of ‘glíma.’

Glíma in Reykjavík, 1934 Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons Willem van de Poll

Glíma is a type of folk wrestling practised in Iceland and parts of Scandinavia. The basic principle of glíma is that players grip their opponent by the waist and throw them to the ground. The aim is to achieve this using technique rather than force.

To the untrained eye, a glíma demonstration might look a bit like two drunk guys attempting to settle a debate over who can pull the other’s pants down first, but it’s actually a much loved and respected sport that has a long history.

It’s believed that glíma was brought to Iceland by the Norwegian settlers a thousand years ago, the earliest mention of it, however, is in the law of Iceland or Jónsbók from 1325. The sport reached the world’s stage in the 1912 Summer Olympics when the audiences in Stockholm, Sweden were treated to a display from Iceland’s glíma kings.


See also: Reykjavik International Games To Be The Biggest Yet


Backhold Glíma at the Reykjavík International Games Credit: Flickr FotoFling Scotland

There are three main styles of grip within the cannon of glíma; trouser grip (brókartök), backhold wrestling (hryggspenna), and loose grip wrestling (lausatök).

Some might think the sport has died out; however, it still has devoted fans and participants to this day. Tournaments are still held here in Iceland and around the world, and the current reigning glíma champion is Ásmundur Hálfdán Ásmunsson.

Ásmundur Hálfdán Ásmunsson Credit: fjardabyggd.is

The world might be about to fall in love with this sport in a whole new way, as just this week the electro-metal-bondage-clad band Hatari, challenged the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, to a glíma match during Eurovision in May this year.

‘Hatari’ Credit: Ásta Sif Árnadóttir

So next time you’re in Iceland, get yourself to a glíma match, and if things work out for Hatari, perhaps BDSM gear will become the international glíma uniform of choice.