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Viking Fighting Techniques

By Lisette Moreau

No historical resources are available that distinctly show the fighting techniques of the Vikings. Many weapons survived, and the sagas (ancient Nordic tales) cite account of fierce fighters, but the way they were used and the training of warriors are not clear beyond doubt. Today, the BERZERKER Viking Fighting Arts and Glíma are practiced. Both have some connection to old Nordic traditions, but have developed with time and cannot be proved to be exactly the same as a method used by Vikings.


The sagas mention warriors who fought with extraordinary ferocity and strength and say that some of these berserks had supernatural powers. Some sagas tell of berserks who put themselves into a trance-like rage and attacked with a frenzy that made them more like animals than humans. The etymology of the word berserkr is debated. "Bear shirt" is one suggestion, because the men wore the skins of animals. Another possibility is "bare-shirted" because they did not use mail and went to battle without armor. Both origins are possible, but neither can be supported without question.

BERZERKER Viking Fighting System

The BERZERKER™ fighting is an eclectic system utilizing only the most effective techniques and fighting strategies. Unlike other martial arts there is no interest in fluidity or style and there are no choreographed movement exhibitions. Its principles include surprise, anger, and pre-emptive action. The system is based on "70 percent attack, 25 percent counter-attack, and maybe 15 percent defense." Practitioners also learn psychological aspects of combat, like fear, stress, panic, anger and frenzy.

The BERZERKER Viking Fighting system involve both armed and unarmed combat. Armed combat includes knifes, projectiles, war hammers, battle axes, sword and shield, staffs, sticks, batons, spears and improvised weapons. Unarmed combat involves punching, kicking, throwing, grappling, breaking bones, biting and head-butting.


The word Glíma can be translated as struggle. It is a very old form of grappling, historically documented as early as the 12th century, although the sagas point to its existence even earlier. Unlike other forms of wrestling, the opponents must always stand erect, they must step around each other clockwise, they cannot fall on or push one another forcefully, and they are supposed to look across each other's shoulders because the wrestling is based on touch and feel rather than sight.

Glíma is practiced as friendly recreation based on a code of honor called Drengskapur, focusing on fairness, respect and the safety of one's training partners. There are eight basic techniques, and all attacks should be done with control so as not to cause harm.

Glíma Styles

There are three traditional Glíma styles. "Back-hold" (Hryggspennu-tök) is practiced with a fixed grip behind the opponent's back. The first person who touches the ground with anything other than the feet or who lets go of his or her hold loses the match.

"Trouser-grip" (Brokar-tök) is the most advanced style in Glíma. It is also a fixed grip style. Traditionally, the grip was on the trousers, but in today a belt is used often. The opponents must move constantly and are not allowed to throw each other down. The victor must take a ritual step over the defeated opponent to show that he or she had the opportunity to injure the opponent but chose not to do it.

"Free gripping" (Lausa-tök) allows the use of any grip. It is similar to combat Glíma, but only techniques that are not aimed to inflict pain are permitted.

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