Forgotten heroes of WMA #1: Johannes Josephsson
Johannes Josephsson was a historical oddity; the only Icelander (AFAIK) who jumped on the big "style vs. style" wrestling bandwagon at the turn of the 1900s. For whatever reason, probably having much to do with Iceland's tiny population and distance from everywhere else, no-one followed in his footsteps in the short term.
In 1908 he was in England, intending to represent Iceland in Greco-Roman wrestling at the Olympic Games. He would have been the first Icelander to wrestle at the Olympic level, but unfortunately he was injured in training and was unable to compete. He stayed on in London and supervised some challenge fights and exhibitions between members of his retinue and various other wrestlers.
During 1908, Josephsson also wrote the first English-language book on Glima wrestling. This was an excellent training manual, well-illustrated with numerous photographs.
Between 1908-19 Josephsson toured throughout Europe and the USA, taking on all manner of opponents who wanted to try their luck at Icelandic belt-wrestling. He had several famous (possibly "worked") bouts against Japanese jujitsu practitioners in the USA and supplemented his wrestling income be performing vaudeville acts in which he used Glima to fend off "savage Indians", dagger-wielding street gangsters and miscellaneous exotic enemies. Quite the showman, Josephsson also traveled with the Barnum and Bailey circus for a few years. Part of that act involved wrestling with a bear.
In 1927 Josephhson finally retired from wrestling/showbiz and returned to Iceland, having amassed a substantial fortune of $120,000 US dollars (a very great deal of money in those days). He invested this in the construction of a luxury hotel in Reykjavik and basically lived happily ever after.
Josephsson's book, "Glima: The Icelandic Wrestling" is available as a free download via glima@@AMEPARAM@@/docinfo/2977752?access_key=key-19wf8r4e7diw95sdth1p@@AMEPARAM@@2977752@@AMEPARAM@ @key-19wf8r4e7diw95sdth1p . Go to http://www.scribd.com and search for "Glima" if the link doesn't work for you. Page 29 onwards includes a modern biography of Josephsson, written by Pete Kautz, which also details some of Josephsson's more famous matches.