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[personal profile] eosin
I originally didn't want to make this post, but some things have changed. So here goes.



Stav is a system with Norse martial arts, philosophical, and metaphysical components. It was created by Ivar Hafskjold, and is allegedly a system that has been passed down within the family line since the middle ages, and only in recent years has Ivar revealed the family secrets to others. Aside from the comic-book storyline which already casts doubt on its legitimacy, there's a lot more that creates problems.

Ivar didn't start teaching the stuff until after his 14 years of training in Japan in traditional Japanese martial arts. He studied long enough in those systems to get those credentials. The problem is that when he first started teaching Stav (after returning from Japan), he made the claim that the martial art system was a Norse/Viking art passed on from one generation to the next within the family homestead, for many centuries, but done secretly. Aside from the atrophy issue (more on that below), the techniques he taught were recognized by others as the Japanese arts he studied, rather than anything historically Norse, and I remember seeing this discussion on other online forums rather than on the Stav website. Over time, I've seen the radical claims get reduced, so now instead of a secret Viking martial art in an unbroken line since the homestead was founded, it's claimed that the techniques are based on an ancient system of philosophy handed down through the ages. And the Japanese techniques from the arts he studied abroad? Oh, that's just a bit of cross-training using Norse Stav philosophy with Japanese technique, and Japanese stick-fighting to teach Norse sword technique. Yeah.

Except that every assumption in the argument is factually wrong. Every martial art in the world taken out of its original combat use atrophies over time, within individuals and within lineages, and there are numerous examples of this. Human nature introduces ideas and habits that distract from the realities of combat, and regular use in combat usually corrects this very unforgivingly. Yet somehow that one family preserved dark-age combat technique solely within the family without degrading. And somehow missed all the realities of warfare, technology, and resulting evolution happening all across Europe. In fact, the classic weapons of a Norse warrior (double-edged sword and round shield/buckler, seax, throwing axes, etc.) are completely absent from Stav, including the sophisticated systems of use that lasted across Europe for centuries. This also includes Glima and its variants, done widely across Europe, which again are completely absent. There's only Japanese stick fighting, using the jo stick as a substitute for sword technique (minus the shield, of course), which isn't how the sword was used at all, and shows tremendous ignorance.

Conversely, the historical record of archeology, technical martial manuals, contemporary treatises and commentaries, iconography, etc. together with modern science in metallurgy, physics, kinesiology, and so on have given us a clear picture on what really happened in Europe long ago, including the Viking era. The combat systems of Europe were comprehensive and very effective, and were put to use in places all over the world (e.g. all of Europe, the middle East, Africa, Russia, the Americas, Japan, Philippines, etc.). They have different weapons, different core movements, and different priorities from the arts of Japan. They also lack several recent misconceptions that have crept into modern Japanese arts as well. And when Europeans went to Japan during its famous feudal era, they took notes on everything they saw, yet were not impressed with their martial arts. Conversely, feudal era Japanese scribes actually noted how devastatingly effective European technology and warfare were. Hmmm...

And for the philosophical and metaphysical components? Nothing like what was actually recorded in historical sources, yet strangely similar to many modern New-Age inventions and conflations conducted at various metaphysical bookstores and workshops. Centuries, ago, runes were known, studied, carved and painted, put into building frames, and so on, yet were never used in the particularly different way Stav presents them.

Of course, to be fair, I've checked the recent Stav videos to see what they're up to, and it's a joke. The martial techniques are not only done against an opponent who freezes in place like a mannequin, but the techniques presented are suicidal in actual practice, and bear no relation at all to the ones documented in historical sources, other than a few vague similarities that lack essential core movements. And the 'runic' body exercises not only have no relation to documented exercises done back in the day, but they are counterproductive to any application to actual historical European martial arts, even though it's claimed that the martial techniques are based on the runic postures. Even the philosophical components don't match what historical masters actually wrote, and they wrote plenty.

So why the rant? Because this kind of fraud disrespects the art, the people who lived and died by it, and the people who diligently practice it today. It also grossly misinforms people on actual combat (which can get them killed or seriously injured), history, original Heathen practices, etc. And the desperation I've seen to support it in the face of history and science borders on the kind of fanaticism usually seen in cults. It's the Norse version of an 'Ancient Book of Shadows' in Wicca with modern New-Age additions.

So please, anyone who's interested in these subjects--read, read, read, and read some more. Check facts, original sources, archeology finds, scientific discoveries, and anything else that informs one on how things really were and how things really work. We have a rich heritage worthy of study. Respect it through honest inquiry and diligent practice.
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The Pedantic Swordsman

March 2013

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