The Krigarenve

Basic Krigarenve Philosophies

Basic Viking Fighting Philosophy

In the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland) we call a certain historical period that spanned between the years 750–1100 A.D. – the Viking Age, because that was the age of the Viking achievement. Over a time period of more than 300 years, the Vikings of the North became known in many parts of Europe, Asia, Africa – and even in North America as fearsome warriors that seemed unstoppable in warfare. The Vikings behaved like kings all over the World and never recognized any foreign power which tried to rule over them.

Since the age of the Vikings it has been debated by the scholars as to what gave them such confidence. They had no problem adapting to different styles of warfare or other fighting-styles that they met on their travels. How come the Vikings never felt insecure of their Martial Arts skills or never thought that their enemies were unbeatable? The answer can be found in the way that they trained, both with and without weapons.

The sword ruled the Viking community and you had little to say if you could not protect your rights with a weapon in your hand. In this society the family and the kindred were the most important thing – even more important than the man himself. If a relative was killed, his family or kindred was supposed to avenge his death by killing a member of the killer’s family. This was called “blood-revenge”. If you had a dispute, it did not matter if it was a minor or a major one; you could always settle it by challenging the opponent to a duel. The outcome of the duel decided who had won the dispute. As one can see – the males had an utmost need for a good martial arts schooling, otherwise they were an easy target for any person who wanted to gain from their losses.

It was a matter of life and death that made the Northmen train their martial arts skills at an early age. When winter came and the snow fell, the children made snow-castles and played the game of “snow-ball-war” – which was the training ground for stone-throwing at war or to learn how to attack and run down a besieged castle and not be afraid to get hurt in a fight. In the Nordic countries we still practice this game and both children and grown ups love it. In this game of “snow-ball-war” there still is a remnant from the Viking Age when the warriors showed their bravery in the battlefield by degrading the enemy, which is done by mashing snow in the face the opponent until he becomes red in his face – which actually means that you have killed him.

The Vikings had their special way of viewing how a warrior should behave in combat to be known as a valiant fighter. The Danish king Skjold (Shield) was said to have given them the Law that said that every warrior that wanted to have a reputation for his bravery – should always go to the attack against one, stand on his ground against two, he was allowed to move his foot against three and could without shame flee from four.

As you see, a Viking was supposed to be able to defend himself against at least three enemies in single combat if he wanted to be known for his bravery. But it is also interesting to notice that the warriors of the North had a special fighting attitude – that a Viking always should be able to hold his ground and never go backwards in a fight. As an interesting parallel – in the Viking Age duels you lose the fight if you step outside the fighting area (or is the first one to drip blood on the ground). To be able to stand steadily and confidently on the fighting field, the Vikings had a special way of training. When two Vikings trained their weapons skills, they each stood on a square that was only one “aln” (ell) or circa 60 centimeters on each side. The fighters were not allowed to move outside this square while exchanging blows with their swords or axes and protected themselves with shield or shield-buckles.

However, you can not always meet force by force, sometimes you have to evade or sidestep an enemy attack before you can have the advantage. The Vikings had their own way of training their intuition that made them able to adapt to any kind of fighting-style – and they did foster this skill by developing a special martial art called “Glíma”.

In Glíma, the Vikings believed that they had invented a perfect training ground to foster courage, endurance, strength and valiantly behavior. This style of Viking-wrestling is still one of the best ways to train your fighting-spirit and to get a good feeling for when it is the right moment to go to the attack. It also teaches the art of evading, so that you always can use your opponent’s attack to your own advantage. But even more, it teaches you that a victory over an inferior opponent means nothing and gives you no honor. But if you can conquer a stronger opponent – then all glory is yours.