Before we explain the grading system we have implemented for students of Glima in the UK, it is important to clarify that there is no recognisable grading system in traditional Glima. At least not what we may be used to seeing in the UK particularly if one has studied any of the Oriental arts which are so common today. We set out primarily to honour Glima and to keep its practice here as close to the root of its traditions as possible. In order to shape Glima and make it more easily understandable to a non-native audience, one which didn't grow up with its traditions, we saw the need to give students a tangible route through which to progress, something they can set goals based on and one which our Instructors can guide them on.
”You either win or you learn”
It is worth pointing out that in Glima we do not train or compete wearing belts. In fact any Glima artist during training or competition can compete with any other of any grade or experience. Grade, size or experience never guarantee a win and both parties can always learn something from one another, not just in terms of techniques but in speed, balance, accuracy and their individual and unique comprehension and execution of their art. A graded belt therefore should be considered a checkpoint or a series of checkpoints on ones own journey to mastering the art of Glima.
Under the guidance of Grand Master Tyr Neilsen, head of The Academy of Viking Martial Arts (AVK) in Norway and a member of the UKGF advisory council, we have implemented a syllabus which includes Sport & Combat Glima techniques and a route to progress through the grades. This includes how long it should take a novice to go from one belt to the next. It also includes how to correctly demonstrate and teach grades and move up to the Instructor levels.
UKGF Instructor Grading
The Instructor levels begin at Green belt, however we have implemented an honorary Instructor grade for the purpose of enabling the Instructors who will be forming the UK’s first Glima Academies, our Foundation Academies, to begin teaching the art. All of our Foundation Instructors have a solid background in practicing and teaching other Martial Art disciplines and therefore are advanced in their knowledge in respect to balance, the mechanics and physics of how the human body moves, the mental mindset of a martial artist, teaching techniques which others can learn clearly and easily and of course student safety. As they already have the ‘Martial’ element within their skill set, we will be focussing on teaching them the ‘Art’ to a level where they can relay techniques to our high standards and uphold the honour of Glima.
This belt will be identifiable as a White belt, with a solid Green stripe indicating they are able to and authorised by the UKGF to teach their own students. Do not in any way under estimate the knowledge and skill of a Glima White belt. Unlike other arts where you may begin on day 1 wearing a White belt, in Glima it takes around three months with a minimum of 36 hours (x 2 90 minute technical lessons per week) of learning, practicing and honing ones skills before one can grade to this level. That is the level of skill we will give our Instructors over an intense three days of training under the direct teaching of a Grand Master before they set off to open their academies and begin teach their own students.
UKGF Grading Ranks and Schedule
1. To White belt
(3 months after start)
2. To Yellow belt
(3 months after white)
3. To Orange belt
(6 months after Yellow)
4. To Green belt
(6 months after Orange)
5. To Blue belt
(6 months after Green)
6. To Red belt
(6 months after Blue)
7. To Purple belt
(9 months after Red)
8. To Brown belt
(12 months after purple)
9. To Black belt
(12 months after Brown)
As you can see from the grading schedule above, as the level of technical complexity increases so does the time it takes to study for the subsequent grade. For this reason our Instructors, who themselves will be continuing to train, learn and grade, will always remain a minimum of one grade ahead of their students and are permitted to teach up to and including the techniques detailed in the syllabus of the grade they hold. For example a White & Green Instructor can teach the syllabus for White belt, Yellow and Green up to Yellow belt and so on. After their Green belt grading the Green stripe goes from their belt and they continue through the remainder of the Instructor levels to Black belt, continuing to teach up to and including their own grade.
A point to note also is that, this honorary grade is and will only ever be available to the Foundation Instructors who train at the UKGF Instructor Masterclass with GM Tyr in September. After this time anyone who wishes to become a UKGF accredited Glima Instructor must follow the grading path detailed in the schedule, this will take a minimum of 18 months and must be under the teaching of a Foundation Instructor. This will prevent a ‘watering down’ of the quality and skill level of those who teach the art in the UK now and going forward.
We believe that implementing this system gives Glima in the UK the best combination of quality of instruction for students, and time to begin coaching them.
As the UK governing body for the art of Glima it is and always will be of utmost importance to the UKGF to ensure that wherever Glima is taught, standards of practice, skill sharing and safety are maintained at their highest levels.
We are open to and welcome any questions on this or any subject. Message the UKGF here.