It is a good thing to score with your initial attack – your total commitment pays off, the score goes up one in your favor, you use the least amount of effort, the hit is done in the least amount of time, you are vulnerable for the shortest time. It is a good thing to parry the opponent’s initial attack and riposte – you don’t get hit, the opponent has had to expose herself, he has had to expend energy without a positive result, and he has brought his target closer so that you can hit quickly and with less effort. After that things get trickier. Each following parry and counterriposte increases the risk of error or poor skill performance creating an opening for either fencer to hit. So how do we do this and survive, much less score?
First, terminology. The initial offensive action by one of the fencers is the Attack. The first defensive blade action is a Parry. The first offensive action after the first parry is the Riposte. The second and all subsequent defensive blade actions are Parries (not counterparries, a term that usually is used to describe the circle parry and change parry). The second riposte is the First Countreriposte, the third the Second Counterriposte, etc. Thus the flow is:
attack … parry and riposte … parry and first counterriposte … parry and second counterriposte … etc.
Odd numbered counterripostes belong to the original attacker, even number to the original defender.
Second, the balance of advantages and disadvantages changes between the attack-parry-riposte and the parry-counterriposte sequences. In the initial attack, the attacker has significant advantages:
(1) he has the initiative,
(2) she has been able to choose the distance and timing for the attack, and
(3) he is acting in the 4th Act segment of the OODA Loop while the opponent has a lag time to enter the 1st Observe and 2nd Orient stages of the Loop.
The defender has advantages and options, depending on the degree to which the attacker has loaded the conditions in her favor:
(1) the defender has a shorter distance to travel with the blade to make the parry (a key disadvantage of hidden guards and absence of blade is that these tend to increase the distance of blade travel to form a parry),
(2) depending on the distance and timing the defender can change the fundamental geometry by opening the distance or collapsing it to disrupt the attack or force its elongation,
(3) the defender’s actions can force the attacker into a new OODA Loop, and
(4) at the moment of the parry the attacker is well into the range of the defender’s riposte.
Once the first parry and riposte sequence is underway there are significant changes:
(1) the last offensive movement (attack or riposte) must make an immediate choice of recovery to a guard for a parry and counterriposte, or a close-out, or a remise as a stop hit against the riposte – thus creating a new OODA Loop initiation.
(2) neither fencer automatically holds a distance and timing advantage – either fencer may try to change the geometry or the timing of actions.
(3) the increase in pressure of the situation creates the possibility of wider actions with less control, increasing the importance of highly skilled technical execution.
These changes increase the risk of the exchange for both fencers. Risk is a measurement of the probability of an occurrence times the impact when it does happen. All fencing actions have an associated risk. The value of that risk in the current tactical situation (the score in the bout. time remaining, place on the strip, energy level of the two fencers, etc.) is what determines whether you are willing to accept it. Anything that you can do to decrease risk is obviously to your advantage. Because multiple exchanges increase risk you should be able to maximize your blade and body control throughout the exchange, change technique to use indirect or leverage actions to change the flow of blade action, and exit safely at the point where you feel that the risk of being hit becomes unacceptable.