No, we aren’t talking about renewing your USA Fencing membership, although you should have already done that by now. Instead we are interested in renewals of the attack. First, what is a renewal of the attack? It is a conscious and distinct action to replace the blade on the target. Simply pushing through with the initial attack after your blade is parried because you cannot stop and recover is not a renewal, it is a continuation, and it may result in a touch. But it is not a conscious tactical choice. A renewal of the attack is a choice that you make after you recognize that the opponent has met your blade, and that you believe there is still an opportunity to score.
There are three traditional renewals of the attack
(1) Remise – a renewal of the attack by replacement of the point in the same line as the original attack while remaining in the lunge.
(2) Redouble – a renewal of the attack by replacement of the point in a different line (laterally, vertically, or diagonally) from the original attack, usually by disengage or coupe, while remaining in the lunge..
(3) Reprise – a renewal of the attack (actually usually a complete new action) after the fencer recovers to guard but the opponent makes no timely riposte. This can be done with the recovery backwards. However, in modern fencing, it seems that the most effective version is aggressively with the forward recovery to close distance and maintain the initiative of the attack.
It is important to think carefully about the tactics of how to use renewals in the bout that you are fencing. If your attack (or riposte or counterriposte) is parried the opponent can do two things:
(1) riposte, or
(2) hold the riposte. This can be a broken tempo response to facilitate a delayed riposte or just a failure to execute the riposte. It really does not matter; the delay gives you a chance to hit without the concern of a point coming immediately in your direction.
On the other hand, you have three opportunities:
(a) parry and counterriposte,
(b) stop hit, or
Tactically, the combination of your opponent’s possible courses of action and your opportunities play out into four cases:
Case 1 – the opponent ripostes (1) and you parry and counterriposte (a).
Case 2 – the opponent ripostes (1) and you stop hit (b).
Case 3 – the opponent holds the riposte (2) and you attack (c).
Case 4 – the opponent holds the riposte (2) and you stop hit once the riposte is initiated (b).
To understand these cases, it is helpful to identify what the three standard renewals of the attack are. The remise and the redouble are a direct stop hit against the riposte and an indirect stop hit against the riposte, respectively. They are executed from the lunge footwork position to hit as the opponent moves forward with the riposte. The reprise differs in that it introduces a new forward footwork movement from the recovery, and is more likely to be as part of a series of attacks maintaining offensive pressure against the opponent and denying the ability to riposte.
So, in Case 1 we use the standard defense-offense of the parry and counterriposte to deal with the opponent’s riposte.
In Case 2, you use the remise or redouble to stop hit the riposte. There is a difference in the three weapons in execution. In foil you are most likely to be awarded right of way if the action is so fast that the referee cannot distinguish whether you hit on the original attack or the remise or the opponent has a fault in the execution of the riposte. And, of course, if the opponent simply misses routinely with the riposte, the remise is a good choice. The redouble is a slower action and more clearly not one that lands before the parry, but it is still viable with a faulty or inaccurate riposte. In sabre, the fast, instinctive second cut remise still has the chance to time-out an opponent whose riposte is slow. In epee, the remise is an effective stop hit against the riposte if the opponent fails to maintain control of your blade.
The effectiveness of the remise and redouble is increased by two seemingly contradictory techniques. The use of opposition protects the fencer executing the remise by diverting the opponent’s blade. And the use of angulation increases the ability to get around the blade that has parried – the Italian ceding attack is based on this, with an instantaneous pivot using the opponent’s blade as the fulcrum for the angulation.
Case 3 is the situation for the reprise. If the opponent tends to hold the parry, a forward recovery collapses distance, may force a retreat, and in any case allows for a completely new attacking action based on the location and orientation of the opponent’s blade.
Case 4 introduces a new action. You may term this a remise or redouble, but the delay actually makes this a different tempo stop hit against the delayed riposte.
Like anything else, these options and the basic mechanics of the renewal have to be practiced in drills, in practice bouting, and through visualization if you are going to be able to apply them in the competition.