Johannes Lichtenauer

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(Redirected from Johannes Liechtenauer)
Missing image
MS_44_A_8_3v.jpg
sitting fencing master, probably representing Liechtenauer, fol. 2v of von Danzig's fechtbuch (1452)

Johannes Lichtenauer (also spelled Liechtenauer) was a 14th century German fencing master. He was born in the early to mid 1300s, apparently in Lichtenau, Mittelfranken (Franconia). What little is known about his person is preserved, together with his teachings, in MS 3227a. According to this manuscript's author, Lichtenauer was a "great master" who had travelled to "many lands" to learn his art. In later, 15th century manuscripts, the Liechtenauer Society (Gesellschaft Liechtenauers) is referred to as a group of fencing masters who considered themselves Lichtenauer's disciples, in possession of his teachings.

Liechtenauer's teachings are preserved partly in rhyming couplets (possibly intentionally obscured, in order to prevent the uninitiated from learning the techniques he presented). Lichtenauer's system gave rise to what is now called the German school of swordsmanship. It was commented on, expanded and modified in Fechtbücher throughout the 15th century, by masters including Sigmund Ringeck and Peter von Danzig, and continued in the 16th century, e.g. by Paulus Hector Mair. It became in fact almost compulsory for any self-respecting fencing master to present himself as standing in the Lichtenauer tradition, even if the influence is sometimes tenuous, or some elements in outright conflict with certain tenets of Lichtenauer's.

Already in Lichtenauer's time, instruction in combat (Fechten) was not restricted to a single weapon, but what was taught was rather a variety of techniques for using the longsword, sword and buckler, dagger, messer, and for unarmed grappling in both armoured and unarmoured combat, and sometimes also in mounted combat.

See also

Historical European Martial Arts

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