171022 Matrixing the Riposte

So far we have looked at the simple, direct attack – the straight thrust, point thrust, or cut – and at the footwork associated with it.  One of the various forms of straight thrust/cut that our efforts identified is the straight thrust prepared by a parry, commonly termed the parry-riposte.  This is one of the most complex combinations of blade and footwork, so let’s look at it in a matrix way.

The parry itself is a critical part of this effort.  When an opponent attacks, the end of that attack is always a one tempo action.  The parry is executed in that tempo, regardless of whether the attack is simple, compound, on the blade, or takes the blade.  Up to that point, the defender has been managing the control of distance and the parry in parallel tempos to the attacker.  The well formed parry stops that tempo and transfers the initiative to the defender, starting his or her first tempo.

Our first question is whether or not and how the parry is prepared by footwork.  Any parry can be executed from a static position, with an advance to collapse the distance, hinder the attack and allow for a riposte over a shorter distance, or with a retreat to either allow time for a compound or circular parry or to parry by distance.  So the parry becomes a one or more tempo blade action with at least one footwork tempo.  Note that this also applies to the beat executed into the attack, what generations of fencers have termed a beat or tac-au-tac parry, but now hopelessly muddled by the insistence that beats and parries are defined for referee convenience, not by how they are executed, but by where they fall on the blade.

How the footwork has been executed in setting up the parry in turn is one of two factors that define how the footwork must be executed in the attack after the parry.  The other is what the opponent does with his or her feet after the defender’s parry.  The opponent logically can recover forward, remain in the lunge, recover backwards, or recover backwards with a jump back or retreat. If we assume for the purposes of discussion that the opponent’s attack will use a standard length lunge, we end up with a matrix of possibilities that looks like this:

Defender Footwork Parry Opponent Footwork after Parry Attacking Footwork and Bladework Tempo
Retreat By blade Recover forward Extension,

Advance and  Extension,

Lunge

One
Stay in lunge Advance and Extension,

Lunge

One
Recover backward Lunge,

Advance Lunge

One, two
Jump back Advance Lunge Two
By distance Recover forward Extension,

Advance and  Extension,

Lunge

One
Stay in lunge Advance and Extension,

Lunge

One
Recover backward Lunge,

Advance Lunge

One, two
Jump back Advance Lunge Two
Static By blade Recover forward Extension One
Stay in lunge Extension One
Recover backward Advance and Extension,

Lunge

One
Jump back Lunge,

Advance Lunge

One, two
Advance By blade Recover forward Extension One
Stay in lunge Extension One
Recover backward Extension,

Lunge

One
Jump back Lunge One

This of course assumes that in each case of a one tempo attack (the riposte) after the preparation by the parry, the original attacker will be unsuccessful with his attempt to parry.  A successful parry of the one tempo action forces the original defender to do one of two things in subsequent actions.  First, in the next exchange use an indirect riposte.  There is a presumption that ripostes will normally be in the same line as the parry – a disengage or coupe riposte changes the line and may surprise the opponent who is wedded to a same line expectation.  The same effect can be achieved with a circular or change parry to prepare a riposte in a different line than expected.  Second, move to a two tempo solution with a compound riposte, a riposte taking the blade, or a beat riposte (dangerous in that a referee make take two sounds of blade impact as a parry by the original defender followed by a parry of the riposte by the original attacker, rather than recognizing that the second impact is a beat to clear the line).

If the riposte will be a two tempo riposte because the opponent is successfully extricating herself from the failed attack, the original defender’s solution now becomes a compound riposte.  Because the blade is withdrawing with the footwork, the use of beat or taking ripostes will have a lower probability of success.

The matrixing process makes it clear that the riposte is prepared by footwork in much the same way as any other attack is.  The parry in this case is a one tempo action achieving the same goal as the preparation in the first tempo of any two tempo attack.  The difference is that the parry tempo is in the same tempo as the last tempo of the opponent’s attack.  It is not attack -> parry -> riposte.  Rather the flow is attack/parry -> riposte.  If we adapt a concept from German Medieval longsword theory, the attack has three parts: the start, the in-between when the attack is in the air, and the end.  The successful parry is in the in-between, creating a premature end, creating the conditions for the defender’s attack.

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