Lord Of The Sword



What: Phoenix Swords at Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday, March 4-5
Where: Pensacola Interstate Fairgrounds,
6655 Mobile Hwy.
Cost:  $10 adults; $5 children
Details: 429-8462 or

When Frank Hunt’s alter ego Fenix parties like it’s 1399, he prefers to play by the book—an authentic medieval fight manual book to be exact.

“We do try to integrate historical sword moves into our performance,” says Hunt, calling from Phoenix Sword’s dragon’s lair in Worcester, Mass. “My wife and I are both part of the Higgins research group that actually goes through these sword fighting manuals from 400 to 700 years ago.”

Hunt says the Higgins Armory Museum’s Sword Guild spends hours dissecting translations-in-progress—like a 1,000-page German and Latin manuscript written in 1550 by Paulus Hector Mair—and then he utilizes the research when crafting Phoenix Swords’ theatrical productions.

“We’re taking material from these manuals written centuries ago that tell people how to sword fight,” he explains, “and then bringing the moves forward into our current performances.”

Of course, Hunt and his troupe of more than 20 members have to be careful when opening a serious can of medieval whoop ass.

“Since a lot of those manuals were written to be a fight for your life, we have to soften it a bit. So, some of what we do is flashy and Hollywood,” he explains. “But we do try to bring authentic sword fighting techniques to the audience.”

The 42-year-old says living by the sword—and painstakingly using the medieval fight manuals to ensure historical accuracy—is a fairly new phenomenon with stage and film productions.

“The documentation that we use has only really become available in the last five to 10 years,” he says. “Most of the stuntmen who choreograph fight scenes in Hollywood have been doing it since the ‘60s and some are resistant to change.”

While Hunt likes to play by the book, he also embraces scenarios that appeal to the mainstream. For example, he’s incorporated danger acts, like fire-eating and “fire swords,” into the group’s already red-hot repertoire.

“Everybody likes it when we light the head of our big, bald guy on fire,” he jokes. “For the finale of the fire show, we actually have a fight where we have a pair of swords that are specially modified so we can set them on fire. I duel with the aforementioned big, bald guy.”

The real challenge to his craft, Hunt insists, is learning how to capture the anachronistic authenticity of medieval martial arts while keeping his Phoenix Swords crew safe.

“We’ve never had a serious injury,” he confirms. “You do get your knuckles skinned occasionally. But we’ve never had more than a bad bruise.”

So, no one in Phoenix Swords has ever caught on fire during the group’s infamous fire-show finale?

“Um,” Hunt recalls with hesitation, “we had one case when a guy’s beard caught on fire. We put that out rather quickly, so there was no permanent injury. To put it in context, we’ve never had anything we’ve had to explain to our insurance agency.”