In 1908, Johannes Josefsson decided to leave his native Iceland to travel the world. Josefsson was no ordinary Icelander; in fact he was known as Glímukóngur– or Glima king- as he was the champion of this style of wrestling. Glima is a type of traditional Scandinavian wrestling which has been practiced for centuries in fact the name has been found in Viking age literature.
Josefsson in 1908
After participating in the 1908 London Olympics, Josefsson went about the world and showcased his wrestling, taking on any challenger he met, even if they were armed with knives. In March 1913 he ended up in New York and was hired by the Barnum and Bailey to display his style of wrestling for two years. What he exhibited on stage was often described as self-defense, even as “Icelandic Jujutsu”. In fact what Josefsson was demonstrating was at that point very different from our contemporary version of Glima as it is still practiced in Iceland. The technical repertoire was much wider and many techniques came to be outlawed upon the new set of official rules. These techniques still survived and thankfully were saved from oblivion. You can still learn Combat Glima with Lars Magnar Enoksen who was lucky enough to learn them before they disappeared. For more information visit their website: http://www.viking-glima.com/
Glima in 1932 Iceland
Although I must say now, this article is not so much about the man, but the wife. Johannes was not alone on the voyage as he brought with him his family including his wife Caroline and their two daughters; Hecla and Skie. In April 19th 1914, the Seattle Daily Times published the following article by Caroline Josefsson in which she described what a woman should do if she was to be attacked by a “masher”, or what we would call today a sexual aggressor. Some of the moves will probably remind many readers of Nicolaes Petter’s wrestling treaty of 1674. Caroline wrote it in a surprisingly colourful fashion – as you will see – and we can only imagine what kind of character such a woman could have possessed.