160508 Indirect Ripostes

The direct riposte, attack in one line, parry in the same line, riposte in that very line, is a staple of fencing.  It is one of the first things we teach students.  Although I have no data to support the claim, I would bet that the large majority of ripostes in all weapons are direct ripostes (an excellent research project for a Fencing Master’s thesis).  And that makes them predictable, and thus vulnerable to parry and counterriposte (which is probably also direct … setting it up for …, etc.).

To understand the riposte, we have to understand the options open to the opponent who parries the attack: (1) lateral parry, (2) circular parry (if the attack is a disengage, or theoretically a coupe),  (3) change parry, (4) taking of the blade, or (5) beat parry (and, yes, I know that under the current rules you cannot have a beat parry, you can only have a beat or a parry).  Each of these drives a selection of potential ripostes based on the line in which the parry is made:

(1) lateral parry – direct, indirect by disengage or coupe against an opponent’s habitual lateral parry, or counterdisengage against a circular or change parry.

(2) circular parry – direct, indirect by disengage or coupe against an opponent’s habitual lateral parry, or counterdisengage against a circular or change parry.

(3) change parry – direct, indirect by disengage or coupe against an opponent’s habitual lateral parry, or counterdisengage against a circular or change parry.

(4) taking of the blade (most likely a bind from 6 or 4) – indirect into the low line off the transport.

(5) beat parry – direct, indirect by disengage or coupe against an opponent’s habitual lateral parry, or counterdisengage against a circular or change parry.

This list suggests that the vast majority of ripostes will fall into four categories – direct, disengage or coupe, counterdisengage – all depending on the most likely parry the original attacker will execute.  We can narrow the list.  Direct ripostes, including direct ripostes with strong opposition (a form of taking the blade), will work from any of these parries.  Coupe ripostes are probably most practical against the attacker’s lateral parries and in sabre or foil (although after seeing a moulinet riposte succeed in epee in a North American Cup recently, I hate to rule anything out if you are willing to practice it enough).  Counterdisengage ripostes, like counterdisengage simple attacks, require initiation by the opponent selecting a circular movement pattern.

If we accept that the riposte is an offensive action, an attack, the same basic rules apply to it that apply to any attack.  You want to riposte (1) into an opening line (2) with sufficient unpredictability to complicate the defender’s problem, (3) using the actions of a previous phrase as a feint to set up the current action.  This calls for a mix of direct and indirect ripostes.  If you always do one or the other, the opponent  knows to which line to parry on the recovery from their attack based solely on the line of their original attack.  If you always riposte direct, their attack in 4 means they will recover parrying in 4 automatically.  If you always disengage or coupe to the high line as a riposte, their attack in 4 means they will recover parrying 6 (3 in sabre) automatically.  And their automatic parry will be successful.  However, if you riposte direct once or twice, preferably either successfully or as a false riposte or second intention action, and then riposte indirect, the previous direct riposte serve as the feint for the successful indirect riposte.

Bottom line, your set of core, well-practiced actions requires an indirect riposte.  The good news is that you probably already have a perfectly good indirect attack that will serve as your offense after the parry.

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