You have made a smooth, clean, fast, at the right distance and at the right time attack. Out of nowhere, your opponent manages to parry. Or you have made a smooth, clean, fast riposte changing the line to avoid the customary lateral parry, and, you guessed it, she still parried successfully. What do you do next?
The frustrating answer is … that depends. It depends on:
(1) Your willingness to assume risk.
(2) The quality, speed, and accuracy of your fencing actions after the opponent’s parry.
(3) The accuracy of the opponent’s actions and the probability that the opponent will detach from your blade.
Every fencing action creates a condition of risk. In simple terms risk is your assessment of the probability of success or failure of a particular course of action balanced against the reward for success or the penalty for failure. In a bout risk is a critical determinant of tactical choices, and it is a determinant that changes as the bout changes. If I am ahead by 1 touch and within 14 seconds of the clock running out in my DE, I am highly risk aversive (unwilling to take risks to get another touch). But if I am down by 2 I become willing to take large risks to close the gap – if I do not accept these risks, and my opponent is competent, I have no chance of winning. A 5% chance of scoring under these conditions is much better than doing nothing and going quietly into the record books as having been knocked out in the round of 512.
The conventional answer to our problem of reacting to the opponent’s parry and the expected riposte is to recover to guard and parry and counterriposte. But is that all there is? No. Enter the remise.
A remise is a renewal of the attack in the same line without a recovery to guard. It is not just holding the arm out and hoping the opponent runs into it, or just pshing forward with a continuation of the trajectory of the original attack. Instead it is a deliberate, aimed replacement of the point to hit, or in the case of sabre a deliberate, aimed renewal of the final finger action of the cut to hit. It is important to understand that the remise is a stop hit against the riposte.
Generally, remises should pick the nearest available target because speed of execution counts. This is especially true in the one light lock-out weapons, epee and sabre (until 1 August of this year when the dynamic changes with the introduction of 170 millisecond lockout times).
Is this a risky course of action? Yes. What decreases the risk?
(1) an opponent whose ripostes are held, are slow to initiate, or are notoriously inaccurate.
(2) in sabre and epee an opponent who leaves the advanced target exposed.
(3) an opponent who detaches from the blade after the parry.
(4) practice doing remises, including with opposition (a time hit against the riposte) and with angulation – lots of practice.
(5) practice doing a fast closeout of the riposting line on completion of the hit.
The remise is a core tactic in epee to the extent that even in the recovery the arm may be kept in line to stop the riposte in preference to recovering to a parry position. In sabre, a quick remise cut as the opponent starts the riposte may catch a sloppy execution. In foil, the remise is effective primarily against fencers with more serious problems with riposte execution.