Before we talk about the tactics of the remise, a review of the context and technique is important. The remise is one of three renewals of the attack commonly taught in all three weapons:
(1) Remise – a renewal of the attack in the same line.
(2) Redoublement – a renewal of the attack in a different (vertical, lateral, or diagonal) line.
(3) Reprise – a renewal after a return to guard (forward or backwards).
The term “renewal of the attack” implies a conscious use of the fingers, wrist, and weapon arm to replace the remise thrust or cut on target. This is not simply bulling through after the parry in hopes of beating the riposte – that is a continuation of the attack without any technical merit. Instead it is separate aimed action after a miss or parry to exploit a specific tactical opportunity. The fact that the remise is not described in the same way as a reprise with a return to guard means that the remise is fought from the lunge.
There are three obvious situations in which the remise makes tactical sense. It’s basic role is not as a renewal of the attack for the attack’s sake – rather it is a stop hit or stop cut (sabre) against the opponent’s riposte. If the opponent has parried, either with the blade or with distance, the basic tactical assumption the attacker must make is that a riposte is on the way. The attacker then must make an instantaneous decision as to whether the riposte is to be parried or counterattacked. If the riposte is well covered, quick, in the proper distance, and accurate, the response in foil or sabre should be in most situations a parry and first counterriposte. The decision in epee is a little more complicated in that it requires an assessment of the fencer’s degree of tolerance of, or even preference for, a double hit. However, in all three weapons, if the riposte is closing the line and controlling your blade, a parry is advised.
The above discussion having dispensed with the course of action for a well executed riposte, let’s consider the not so well executed riposte. There are four basic situations:
(1) The opponent is moving, but only slowly. A slow opponent creates the potential for the remise to time out the riposte in sabre or epee. The classic case is the immediate remise from the head cut in sabre – a slow riposte can be defeated by a quick remise cut as the opponent’s blade leaves parry 5.
(2) The opponent commits a technical fault in executing the riposte. This may be a hesitation in the transition from parry to riposte, excess movement in the riposte, detaching from the blade (in epee) to riposte, etc. The remise may be successful because the technical fault exposes a target for the remise or because the excess movement or hesitation allows time for the remise to hit.
(3) The opponent is simply inaccurate. This is a case where you have to know your tolerance for risk under the conditions of the bout. Down 4-2 with 18 seconds left and an opponent who misses 30% of the time, a remise may be well worth the risk. Ahead 4-1 with 45 seconds left, the remise might not make sense unless the opponent misses two thirds of the time.
(4) The opponent holds the parry. In the right of way weapons there is an incorrect assumption that the parry provides an absolute right to riposte. In actuality, the parry creates a neutral condition – the first fencer off the parry gains the right of way. By convention, an immediate riposte delivered as a continuous action is assumed to be the first action off the parry. If the parry is held for an appreciable moment, the right of way belongs to first mover, and that means the remise can win. Under these conditions, the remiser can do effective work with immediate angulation, using the opponent’s blade as the pivot point, either laterally or vertically.
A remise by itself carries some substantial inherent risk – the opponent can speed up, this could be the case in which they are accurate, the riposte might be immediate, their bladework could settle down into not providing an obvious fault to exploit. That reality means that the remiser should be ready to increase the odds that his or her hit is the one light. How to do that?
The popular solution is the close-out, a rapid, strong, full arm withdrawal of the blade after the hit to close and hold the line of the opponent’s action (this is also used in counterattacks). The success of the action lies in its ability to prevent the opponent’s riposte landing before lock-out time kicks in. It vulnerability lies in its assumption that the remise landed on target, depressing the point sufficiently, etc. And if it is not properly timed and positioned the admittedly small chance exists that an opponent may be able to deceive it.
A more difficult solution is remise-parry-counterriposte. This increases the probability of a hit, and should gain right of way, but it requires speed and accuracy developed by a daunting number of repetitions.
Finally, there is the option of either evasion or a rapid retreat after the hit. Evasion is somewhat limited, but the incorporation of a duck or movement off the center line with angulation may increase the odds in your favor. Rapidly opening the distance requires the ability to get out of the lunge and into a jump back against a slower opponent. Again, practice is required.
A good remise can be a bout winner when applied at the right time. Persistent remises in the hopes that they will work against a technically disciplined, faster opponent are probably bout losers. Know your opponent’s game, make a careful analysis of the situation in this tournament, and plan the remise when you plan the actual attack, should it fail and you need the chance to salvage a hit.