It is raining and cold on this soggy Tuesday, but when entering the Martial Arts school, Mjölnir, at Mýrargata, it is hot! Thirty men and women are doing pull-ups, lifting weights or boxing sandbags. All you hear is some pumping jams and sporadic pained groaning. Tuesday’s course is ‘Combat Conditioning.’ “These are hard classes but they are very functional” says Arnar Freyr Vigfússon, one of the founders of Mjölnir. “You get explosiveness, endurance and power. Useful attributes for every martial art.”
At the school by Reykjavík’s harbour, a wide variety of courses are offered: Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing and wrestling (and their cagefight-combination ‘mixed martial arts’ aka MMA), and also fitness programs like the aforementioned combat conditioning. Mjölnir members do hold all the courses. “We rent the facilities to other groups as well, like a Capoeira group, which is a traditional Brazilian fight dance or a Kettlebell-training group,” Arnar states.
It all began with a seminar held by Matt Thornton, the president of ‘Straight Blast Gym International’, an American MMA association. Arnar and his colleagues, all disciples of traditional martial arts for years, took part and were disappointed at first. “We had to see that all our techniques didn’t work in a real fight.” They decided to form a school for functional instead of fantasy-based martial arts with their hierarchies and rituals. “In our training, your abilities and hard training count, not titles. Also, we always discuss which techniques worked and which didn’t after class.”
James Davis, from Portland, Oregon, tells a similar story: “As a kid, I took Judo. When I wanted to rise to the next level, my sensei gave me a piece of paper with Japanese words I had to learn and proper belt tying techniques. Even as a kid, I asked myself what this had to do with Judo?” Though Davis continued training, he practiced wrestling and boxing as well and joined the Straight Blast Gym in 2004, where he became an instructor. This brought him to Iceland in August. “The guys from Mjölnir came to Portland for six months for training. We became friends and ever since then I wanted to come to Iceland.” Davis is currently the assistant teacher for the next three months until his visa ends. Once that happens though he will return soon. “Everyone is so nice here. And the students are very eager to learn, which makes coaching a lot of fun.”