What is a remise? Let’s discard what it is not first. You lunge; your opponent parries and immediately ripostes. You barge on through to land on the target. That is not a remise, regardless of what the referee calls it. It is a continuation of the original attack, only slightly bothered by the opponent’s parry and riposte (which may or may not have given him or her the right of way in foil or sabre, depending on the ability of the referee to determine the sequence of parry and hit). All that it shows is that you lack the discipline and skill to recover to parry and first counterriposte, but instead relied on main force, awkwardness, luck, and the referee’s inability to determine whether the parry was before, during, or after the hit. That is not a remise.
To quote the current edition (June 2018) of the USA Fencing rules of fencing, a remise is:
A simple and immediate offensive action which follows the original attack, without withdrawing the arm, after the opponent has parried or retreated, when the latter has either quitted contact with the blade without riposting or has made a riposte which is delayed, indirect or compound.
This definition tells parts of the story, and doubtlessly serves the purpose of referees, but it leaves out several important points:
First, the remise is a renewal of the attack, not a continuation. It is a separate, distinct, and tactically intentional blade action, even if that blade action is difficult to separate from the original attack because of its speed of execution. It follows the opponent’s parry, whether that parry is by blade or by distance.
Second, the remise is not just simple, it is direct. It is executed in the same line as the original attack ends.
Third, the definition assigns to the remise the classification as offense. This is not necessarily true. Whether or not its conception (remember, I said above that the remise is tactically intentional) is offensive depends on the fencer’s assessment of the opponent and the tactical plan that the fencer has developed for the bout.
Fourth, the definition does not consider the varieties available in the remise’s delivery.
Let’s use these points to consider the remise in more depth.
FIRST – CHOICES IN APPLICATION
If you are faced with an opponent who does not riposte following his or her parry, execution of the remise is an offensive renewal of the attack intended to score a hit in the reasonable assurance that no effective offense (as a riposte) will be executed following the parry. The “does not riposte” part of this may be habitual or it may occur in definable percentage of the parries or under specific circumstances. It may be by holding the parry, making a parry and then opening the line by returning to the original guard, or it may be by a short parry by distance (a distance pull) followed by a resumption of the original distance. Because these tend to be errors by less experienced fencers, against more skilled opponents, use of the remise in this situation requires a calculation of the risk versus reward of the remise in this specific situation.
If you are faced with an opponent who does riposte, but may have a fault in that riposte, either of the choice of riposte or in the actual execution of the chosen riposte, the remise is counteroffensive intended to score a hit and prevent the opponent’s scoring by locking out the attack, seizure of right of way, or by seizure of the line with opposition. It is a stop hit or time hit on the riposte, and it is very effective in epee.
The third case is more difficult to categorize. If your opponent has truly bad point control today, and the risk-reward balance is favorable, a case can be made for remising whether or not the opponent makes a correct parry and an immediate riposte. You are simply ignoring the riposte as irrelevant because it is some percentage of unlikely to score on you. In my opinion this is offense, a sporting application of the World War I doctrine of Attaque a Outrance, relying on the strongest will, courage, and energy to push the attack to its conceivable limits.
SECOND – THE MECHANICS
The remise is executed by use of the fingers, hand, and arm to replace the blade in the original line, oriented to hit the target. At this point you probably are under considerable pressure. See the target and hit the target. Be relaxed and deliberate, quickly deliberate, but deliberate nonetheless. You are in most cases already in position to hit; a spasmodic reaction will sacrifice your chance.
The replacement itself may be sufficient to land with a hit if the distance of the original attack is still good. If the distance has opened slightly, a forward movement of the torso by lean, or of the body by a gravity lunge to use any unused leg length, is appropriate. In doing this, generally, the arm should not be withdrawn, unless the opponent has closed distance. Doing so sacrifices time and allows a riposte (if you are remising counteroffensively) to penetrate further toward your target.
The presence of the opponent’s blade, guard, and arm in the space in which you are attempting to work creates a complication. Any remise should consider whether angulation is needed to get around obstructions or simply to achieve a better angle to ensure good contact with the target. In cases where the parry is likely to be held, the immediate use of the ceding attack to create a remise may accelerate this process.
If the opponent is expected to riposte, remise can be executed with opposition to close the line of the riposte. This requires an understanding of the opponent’s technique. For opponents who riposte in the line of the attack, it is a matter of intercepting the blade and closing the line using similar technique to the close-out or time hit. However, given that some train their students to automatically riposte indirectly, you have to understand the preferred indirect movement.
THIRD – DO NOT BE PREDICTABLE
The remise is a valuable technique. Like every technique that works there is a tendency to use it to try to solve every problem. Used continually, it becomes vulnerable. Smart opponents will figure out solutions, sometimes as simple as not departing your blade after the parry and controlling your remise while they hit. Sometimes even simpler … a fast indirect riposte or an even faster direct one. Or maybe more complex … using the failure to riposte as an invitation for …. Good opponents will simply not allow you to continue to hit them with a single technique, unless you are a much better, faster, stronger fencer than they are. So ration when you use the remise, and conceal your tactical decision making that led you to selecting it as a way to score.