Stav: The Spiritual Side of A European Martial Art

scandinavian-martial-artAs a martial art, Stav was introduced to the wider martial community in 1992, when the current inheritor of the tradition, Ivar Hafskjold, was interviewed by the martial arts magazine Fighting Arts International. However, since fighting is just a small portion of Stav, I want to focus, here, on the philosophical and spiritual — as well as some historical — aspects of the tradition.

Let me give you some background: Until fairly recently in rural Scandinavia there were no public schools, and, to a large degree, families educated their children by themselves. The higher up in society your family, the greater the responsibility to educate your children. Knowledge and skills were important, and professions were sometimes kept within families, being passed from one generation to the next.

Although the runes (which had served as both letters for writing and symbols of the spiritual, natural forces, and cultural beliefs, etc.) were suppressed when the Roman alphabet was introduced, together with Christianity, the tradition of passing down knowledge through the families ensured the survival of runic wisdom. In one isolated area in Sweden it was still common knowledge to read and write runes into the 20th century. Within the tradition of Stav, however, the runes are essential, and when Ivar decided to share the tradition outside his own family, Stav was the natural name for it. Continue reading “Stav: The Spiritual Side of A European Martial Art”