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It is not the intention of this book to list and identify the social differences in the Viking world, or to differentiate between those who were warrior-farmers and those who were professional sea raiders and privateers. The purpose is to attempt to reconstruct the fighting arts of all the people within the medieval Scandinavian world.

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No matter what they were called or how they were portrayed, we know that what we are dealing with is a group of men who are 'warrior-farmers' and that for the purposes of this book it does not matter if they were fighting in Scandinavia over land disputes, raiding monasteries or protecting the Dane-law in England. For this investigation into the martial arts of the Vikings, we have only to know that a 'Viking', as we have come to know them, was a Scandinavian who was part of a warrior culture with its own methods of fighting.

Therefore, this book will refer to all Scandinavian warriors as 'Vikings', as that is the name by which they are now most commonly known. The first thing an academic would do is list the pitfalls in attempting to reconstruct the Viking martial arts by using the post-Viking era writings. These include:.

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These problems are all good reasons not to trust the word of the sagas. Most academics would say it is too problematic to get a correct martial understanding from them.


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  • Illustrated Guide To Viking Martial Arts by Cummins Antony Ma.

However, the aim of this book is simply to take the basic elements of the combat as described and start to reconstruct them as a martial art, not to analyse the historical record in full. So this book becomes a starting point for all Viking enthusiasts to work from, as a guideline for reference. While some feel that the reality is too far away to grasp, the author feels that the truths that will be unearthed through this approach are worth the effort of tackling the problems that the saga writers have left for us. Now that these problems are established we can identify the solutions.

It is the job of the reader to consider these problems at all times and to take them into account when striving for the truth. With this in mind we now turn to the counter-arguments. However, if a man is decapitated in a story it is unlikely that this will change into a leg amputation or a spear thrust, such evolution would not be natural. We can trust that if in the written saga a man was defeated by having his leg removed, then we can expect that the original story held the same information. Remember that the audience was still a warrior culture, even if that of Christian knights, they were still descendants of the people in these sagas and years is not a long time for an aristocracy to transform itself, nor is it such a long time that the stories could have radically changed, so that the combat descriptions became distorted wholesale, even if they had become somewhat embellished.

We have to consider the difference in the warrior aristocracy of the Viking era and the warrior aristocracy of the early Christian medieval period. Underneath the religious change you still have a selection of aristocratic families who fight with similar weapons for similar reasons of greed, land and pride. They simply want to hear stories of the brave and the heroic, which has no bearing on the martial arts issue. However, if we take into account the only factors that would affect the martial arts, then we can see that the differences are slight: a sword in the twelfth and thirteenth century is very like its Viking equivalent.

It is still well constructed, of similar length and weight. The spear is still a principal weapon, as is the axe, the warrior wears mail and a helm, as did the Vikings. The only changes to this fundamental equipment are in the shape of the shield, from what was probably a circular version to a kite shape, and the addition of small sections of plate mail being worn. The issue of the shield is germane and is discussed in the text. And there appears to be no mention of plate mail in the sagas. All the sagas here are late nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century academic translations.

We know from the introduction to the new translations of The Sagas of the Icelanders that these older translations are more 'word for word' than later works. These older texts are therefore better for our purposes as they stay as close to the original as possible. It does not matter in general how the translator has come up with sentences such as 'his head was cleave in twain' or 'his leg was cut off below the knee', any translation is unlikely to be factually incorrect.


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Here we are not concerned with the subtle meanings or literary skill of the work, we have used a small number of quotations that have direct meaning and are unlikely to be in error. Illustrated with over images, The Illustrated Guide to Viking Martial Arts in effect represents the earliest combat manual in the world. This insight into the warriors who were the scourge of Dark Age Europe is a feat of textual interpretation - and imagination.

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The Illustrated Guide to Viking Martial

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