Despite the name the Knights of St. John is not any form of society or fraternal order. It is simply a club for those interested in the study of historical European martial arts. Its name is something of a slightly tongue in cheek joke created by its founder, Ambroise Dubois, a professor of medieval history at St. John's University and is a play on the name of the university where many of the meetings are held and the order commonly referred to as the Knights Hospitaller, more formally known as the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem or the Order of Saint John.
The stated objective of the group is the research and reconstruction of combat arts as practiced in Europe during the medieval ages utilizing manuscripts such as the fechtbuchs of Hans Talhoffer or Fiore dei Liberi's Il Fior di Battaglia, medieval literature such as the Icelandic sagas or the Acritic songs, and even historical artwork such as the Bayeux tapestry. In practice, however, it tends to be more of an excuse for a bunch of people to get together and hit each other with sticks.