170312 Parries, Ripostes, and Remises – a systems approach

This is the second posting supporting our work on systems.  To refresh your memory, and to say anything I need to say that I didn’t say last time, a system is a combination of actions, chosen based on your tactical doctrine, that naturally work together to maximize the potential of your attack, counterattack, and defense in as few actions as possible.  Systems are well integrated combinations of blade and footwork that provide a well structured core of technique on which the fencer can rely.

Within a system there are related actions that form subsystems that operate throughout the phrase.  A phrase itself is a series of actions by both fencers that are performed without a break, until a hit results, at least one fencer withdraws out of distance, or the referee calls a halt.  The subsystem we are looking at this week is the initial attack (and it can be any type of attack), the defender’s parry and riposte, and the remise.

Let’s look at the last of these first – the remise.  A remise is a renewal of the attack without footwork executed in the same line as the attack.  This is a conscious action, a deliberate replacement of the parried point or blade after either the defender’s parry or the attacker’s miss.  It is not simply continuing through to hit in the same action that has been parried – that is a continuation.  Both the remise and the continuation can generate a light on the scoring machine, but the tactical importance of the remise lies in it being a deliberate tactical choice.

So what is a remise?  The simple answer is “what do you mean what is a remise – it is a remise.”  The more aware answer is “it is a renewal of the attack.”  That is certainly true of the opponent parries, holds the parry, and does not riposte.  But the true answer if the opponent intends to, or starts to, riposte is that it is a stop hit that denies the defender the opportunity to score.  In epee, the remise works by landing more than 1/25th of a second before the riposte lands.  In foil and sabre, the remise cannot count on having the right of way unless the opponent hesitates after the parry.  The right of the riposte to the right of way is not absolute, and depends on the convention that an immediate riposte is initiated before the remise, redouble, etc.  If there is a delay in the riposte the remise seizes the right of way.  There are two other cases that also make the remise successful – when the opponent routinely misses with a poorly controlled riposte or when a brilliantly timed and executed stop hit literally causes the opponent to stop and admit defeat (not that common, but it can happen).

So, if we look at how this subsystem plays out:

(1)  the attacker attacks, and hits.


(1)  the attacker attacks,

(2)  the defender selects the correct parry and executes a riposte, and

(3)  the attacker at the same time remises as a stop hit against the riposte.

or …

(1)  the attacker attacks,

(2)  the defender selects the correct parry, but does not immediately riposte, and

(3)  the attacker remises as a renewal of the attack.

This means that the attacker’s system may be any attack + remise or any attack + parry and counterriposte (the option we have not discussed).  The defender’s system has to be parry + riposte to score a hit.  Or the defender can parry + riposte + remise of the riposte against the counterriposte.

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