Sunday, July 26, 2015

This Week in 5 Minutes: The Flow of the Attack and Options 2

Last week we looked at the flow when an opponent parried, but did not immediately riposte or riposted with an error in technique, either of which allowed the remise to be successful. This week we will assume that he or she ripostes.

As a reminder every fencing action comes with two basic phases - our action and the opponent's action. In most cases our action is known to us, as part of our bout plan or following readjustment of that plan using the 5 second drill. The one exception is when we execute an instinctive reaction to an opponent's action without conscious thought. So in this week's case we have a known action in our first phase. We did not know that the opponent was going to parry, and to follow that parry with a riposte, but this is one of the probable responses to an attack. Our planning for this touch should have included it as a possibility. So in this case, we will assume that the parry and riposte is a predictable, or partly known, action. As a result we should be prepared for it.

If the opponent's riposte is poorly executed we may be able to use last week's remise to deal with it. However, for this week we will assume that the riposte is correctly executed and has either right of way (foil or sabre) or has the timing and lock-out advantage (sabre and epee). This means that we must parry and counterriposte.

Notice the terminology. The first parry and every subsequent parry in a phrase is a "parry." It is not a counterparry, a term that correctly means a circular parry returning the indirect attack to its original line (although it may actually be a counterparry, in analysis of the phrase it is always referred to as a parry). The second riposte in the phrase is the first counterriposte, and each subsequent riposte is a counterriposte. The terminology is important - it is difficult to understand the game if you confuse others by using the wrong terms or are confused when they use the correct ones.

So we now have three options growing from the opponent's response. If she:

(1) parries and does not riposte - remise (or redouble or reprise).
(2) parries and makes a technically incorrect riposte (inaccurate and going to miss or exposing the forward target during its execution) - remise.
(3) parries and makes a technically correct riposte (well aimed and covered against a valid target) - parry and counterriposte.

The flow of the phrase is now:

You attack >> he parries and ripostes >> you parry and first counterriposte.

Although this exchange could theoretically extend out to multiple parries and second to three hundred and third counterriposte, as a practical matter you do not want it to continue past your first counterriposte. We have known since the mid 1300s that multiple exchanges are characterized by actions in each exchange becoming progressively less controlled and more inaccurate. With this the probability that the opponent will hit you increases after each exchange. If you do not hit on the attack, hit on the first counterriposte. If you don't, get out of there unless there is another tactically compelling reasons to stay (and being sure you will go faster and more accurately on the next one is self-delusion, not tactically useful).

This means that you must practice this scenario. Simply counterriposting in the same line as your first attack and the opponent's riposte is not a guarantee of success. Be prepared to:

(1) parry and counterriposte in the same line with a tempo change (straight thrust or counterdisengage against a change parry on his part).
(2) use a change parry and direct counterriposte to hit in a different line (requires enough time and distance to execute the change parry).
(3) parry and indirect counterriposte into a different line (with a disengage or coupe).

So find a partner and work on these scenarios - you will be glad you did.

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