Practise the ancient art of Glima with a descendant of Norway’s last great Viking king

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Christian Westblikk is one of West Norway’s champions of the Nordic martial art – Glima (Photo by Thomas Gudbrandsen, ETphotography)

A champion of the Nordic martial art called Glima  – Christian Westblikk is not your average viking. He also happens to be a descendant of an 11th century king known as Harald Hardrada. And he’s hosting an induction and tournament of the ancient practice right in the heart of viking land – above the Arctic Circle in Værøy – where this year’s Midnight Sun Festival is taking place.

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True – it’s not everyday  you get the chance to meet a real life viking. It was only in 2015 that Christian managed to trace his bloodline right back to the time of Harald Hardrada – the last great viking king ever to have lived and who ruled Norway from 1046 – 1066.

And as Chris himself began to develop a passion for the ancestral sport, he also realised it was something much closer to his heart than he could ever have imagined.

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Photo by Mantas Girskas

Chris said he discovered his connection to the last great viking King of Norway while researching his ancestry. “My previous research had led me to the 1700s, but then I remembered last year that my great grandfather was an important man on the island of Karmøy – from where a lot of people had moved to America – so for this reason, a lot of work on ancestry had already been done.

“Two of my great grandfathers’ bloodlines lead directly to dukes and knights and coats of arms and such. As such, the bloodline and the heritage of landowners was well documented all the way back to the ancient kings of old. It’s put a lot of pieces in place for me in this life.”

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Photo by Mantas Girskas

“So for someone who has read all the sagas and identified with this culture and its warriors for many years – this was huge, and it brought a tear to my eye when I realised I had been reading about my own family the entire time.”

In February 2015, immediately after this discovery, a cosmic coincidence of events began to take shape when Chris was offered the role of a Viking nobleman in the film ‘Birkebeinerne’ (The Last King) – one of Norway’s biggest blockbuster films of the year.

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Photo by Mantas Girskas

The 31 year old father of two decided that summer to bring his children to a gathering of vikings in western Norway – and it was here in Bjørgvin, Bergen’s biggest gathering, that he would enter and win his very first Glima tournament.

“I truly felt my roots and lineage working through me. I later travelled to Gudvangen, the biggest Viking gathering in Norway and made third place in the Elite class. I will be going back later this summer and aim to win.”

He added: “Glima means ‘flash’ – which reveals the focus of the art – so it’s a contest of speed, technique, endurance, wits and strength.”

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Photo by Mantas Girskas

Chris said the practice was once even taught to young children and practised by women and men of all ages. “Competitions were arranged at virtually every gathering where people were divided into classes depending on criteria such as age, sex, experience, strength and skill.

“It’s an honourable sport and the traditional handshake at the beginning of each match signifies that each contestant is honour-bound not to injure his or her opponent. Punches, kicks, chokes and arm and leg bars are not allowed at the Midnight Sun version of the sport.

“The winner is the one standing up, when the opponent is down. As soon as a contestant is touching the ground with anything other than two feet, and the other is clear and standing, the match is over.  

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Photo by Mantas Girskas

“The Glima tournament at Midnight Sun will be very much like the ones that were held a millennia ago. So for all the Glima contestants, both experienced and inexperienced – I recommend bringing a dose of humility and humour. 

Even though the ancient roots of the sport are honoured – it has also evolved from the era in which it was born.

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“Today we do not judge one’s worth after how far one rises in the tournament. We join the tournaments to help each other face hardships, to increase our strength and resolve. Meeting someone stronger is no longer a curse, but a blessing because it will help us work on both our humility and our technique. We practice winning and losing with the same mindset.”

“And it is with great pride that I host it in Værøya, where Thor’s presence can be felt in such a way. 

“Through the sheer rock cliffs rising up along the coastline, this dramatic scenery and landscape truly brings us closer to the old gods and their ancient ways.”

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It’s not often you get the chance to practise an ancient martial art with a descendant of the last great Viking King. So for those who feel it, embrace your inner viking and sign up to the induction on Thors Day (Thursday) 30 June, and to the tournament, which kicks off on (Saturday) 3 July – both at 4pm.

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Contestants will be divided by age, sex and weight. Look out for the Glima posters across the Midnight Sun Festival site. There will also be a grand prize for winners of each class and some celebratory mead for all contestants.

 

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