A riposte is an attack after a parry has allowed control of the opponent’s blade, even if only momentarily. The character of ripostes and the tactical choices that guide their employment vary from weapon to weapon. However, what does not vary is that simple ripostes are simple attacks, and that any of the four common simple attacks can be used as a simple riposte. That means we have:
(1) One simple direct riposte that starts in the line of the parry and ends in the same line as it hits the opponent. This is the direct riposte by straight thrust in foil and epee and a direct cut (head, flank, chest, or arm) in sabre. This is the fastest option, and the vast majority of riposte are simple direct ripostes. Unfortunately for the riposte who relies on the simple direct riposte, it is also the default scenario for the attacker’s parry and counterriposte.
(2) Three simple indirect ripostes that start in one line and go to or through another line.
(2a) The disengage riposte. This is not actually a single riposte, but rather a family of multiple ripostes all of which are executed by disengages:
In foil and epee common variants include (these are French thumb up options for the standard movement patterns – there are others) the following. Note that the sabre ripostes may be either with the point or with the cutting edge.
Lateral disengages from 6 to 4 or 4 to 6 or 8 to 7 or 7 to 8. Sabre uses 3 to 4 or 4 to 3.
Vertical semi-circular disengages from 6 to 8 or 8 to 6 or 4 to 7 or 7 to 4. Sabre uses 3 to 2 or 2 to 3.
Diagonal disengages from 6 to 7 or 7 to 6 of 4 to 8 or 8 to 4. Sabre uses 4 to 2.
(2b) The counterdisengage riposte. This is a circular riposte to deceive a habitual circular parry executed by the attacker during the recovery. In foil and epee the operationally possible choices are counterdisengage 6 or 4. In sabre the most probable one is a counterdisengage against the 3rd circular parry.
(2c) The coupe riposte. Coupe ripostes are viable in the high line of foil (6 to 4 or 4 to 6) and sabre (3 to 4 and 4 to 3). In epee the coupe riposte is vulnerable to remises to the forward target, but it cannot be completely discarded as it has considerable “what was that” value if used as a surprise.
Which do you choose? The straight thrust or direct cut is the obvious solution if you are faster than your opponent or if you have a clear target the opponent is not in a position to defend. The disengage family of ripostes is an excellent choice of an opponent press the blade in the recovery or if the opponent is opening a line on the other side of her blade. The counterdisengage riposte is the riposte of choice for a habitual circle parry trying to clear the line in the recovery. And the coupe is good if the opponent’s point is raised (reducing the movement needed to get over it) and you have the time to synchronize your lunge and blade movement to give adequate space for the descending blade. Having more than one option significantly complicates the problem of the individual who is attempting to parry your riposte, and increases your probability of scoring a hit with the riposte.