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Stav is a martial art and philosophical system which uses runes and Norse Mythology in its teaching. Stav was brought to the public by Ivar Hafskjold, who claims it is based on oral tradition passed down in his family for 44 generations, originating in circa 500 CE, though this does not imply that Stav as presented today, is as it was in previous generations.

The name “Stav” / “Stáv” can be considered as a pun or play-on-words, meaning both ‘stave’ e.g. as in a ‘rune-stave’, a runic character or rune, and also ‘staff’ e.g. as a physical weapon employed in the martial art. According to Ivar Hafskjold, the term “Stav” was his family’s informal name for their martial and runic practices, and comes from the expression sette stav (to set staves), which was how the training was described when he grew up. In the 1990s, Ivar Hafskjold took on four personal apprentice students; Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe, Kolbjorn Martens, David Watkinson and Graham Butcher. All contemporary Stav teachers and instructors belong to a teaching lineage directly from either Ivar Hafskjold and/or one of his four personal students, each of whom are recognised by the Stav International organisation as “Stav Masters”.

Stav on some level resembles a Nordic form of Tai Chi, with the student beginning with ritualized stances resembling the sixteen runes of the Younger Futhark. Once mastery of the rune stances has been achieved, the student progresses to staff exercises. Stav is intended to be a flexible set of principles instead of techniques, focusing on finding the lines of attack and defense in any combat situation and exploiting them to the student’s benefit. Stav practitioners begin by using staffs or cudgels.

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