Johannes Liechtenauer (Hans Lichtenauer, Lichtnawer) was a 13th or 14th century German fencing master. He was apparently born in the early to mid 1300s, possibly in Lichtenau, Mittelfranken. No direct record of his life or teachings currently exists, and all that we know of both comes from the writings of other masters and scholars. The only account of his life was written by the anonymous author of the Nuremberg Ms. 3227a, the oldest text in the tradition, who stated that "Master Liechtenauer learnt and mastered [the] Art in a thorough and rightful way, but he did not invent and put together this Art, as it is stated before. Instead, he traveled and searched many countries with the will of learning and mastering this rightful and true Art." He seems to have been alive at the time of the creation of the Ms. 3227a (or the manuscript from which it was copied), generally assumed to be in 1389. The estimate of his lifetime is based on this assumption, and could be significantly earlier or later, depending on the actual origins of that manuscript.
Liechtenauer was described by many later masters as the "high master" or "grand master" of the art, and a long poem called the Zettel ("Recital") is generally attributed to him by these masters (and many more masters and manuscripts quote some version this poem without attribution). Later masters in the tradition often wrote extensive glosses (commentaries) on this poem, using it to structure their own martial teachings. Liechtenauer's influence on the German fencing tradition as we currently understand it is almost impossible to overstate. The masters on Paulus Kal's roll of the Society of Liechtenauer were responsible for most of the most significant fencing manuals of the 15th century, and Liechtenauer and his teachings were also the focus of the German fencing guilds that arose in the 15th and 16th centuries, including the Marxbrüder and the Veiterfechter.
The Society of Liechtenauer (Geselschaft Liechtenauers) is a list of seventeen masters found in the introduction to the three oldest copies of Paulus Kal's fencing manual. It is unclear if this was ever a formal organization or what its nature might have been; however, it is commonly speculated that the list is a memorial to deceased students and associates of the grand master. Of particular interest is the international nature of the list, including masters from present-day Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland, which parallels the statement in the MS 3227a that Liechtenauer himself traveled to many lands to learn the art. Several masters from this list are known to have written fencing treatises, but about half remain completely unknown.
Paulus Kal, the presumptive author of the list, lists the members of the Society as follows:
hanns liechtenawer - Johannes Liechtenauer
peter wildigans von glacz - Peter Wildigans von Glatz
peter von tanczk - Peter von Danzig zum Ingolstadt
hanns spindler vo~ cznaÿm - Hans Spindler von Znaim
lamprecht von prag - Lamprecht von Prague
hanns seyden faden vo~ erfürt - Hans Seydenfaden von Erfurt
andre liegniczer - Andre Liegniczer
iacob liegniczer - Jacob Liegniczer
sigmund amring - Sigmund Schining ain Ringeck
martein hunczfeld - Martin Huntfeltz
hanns pägnüczer - Hans Pegnitzer
phÿlips perger - Philipp Perger
virgilÿ von kracå - Virgil von Kraków
dietherich degen vechter von brawnschweig - Dieterich, the dagger-fighter of Braunschweig
ott iud - Ott Jud
stettner - Hans Stettner von Mörnsheim
Master Stettner, he goes on to note, taught a great many students including Kal himself.