In fencing (a combat sport), a riposte (French for "retort") is an offensive action with the intent of hitting one's opponent, made by the fencer who has just parried an attack.[1] In military usage, a riposte is the strategic device of hitting a vulnerable point of the enemy, thereby forcing him to abandon his own attack.[2]

In everyday language, a riposte is synonymous with a retort and describes a quick and witty reply to an argument or an insult.


In sabre and foil, the priority switches when the parry is successfully executed; the defending fencer now has right of way and may immediately attack with a riposte. The riposte may be direct, or may include compound footwork. If the riposte is delayed, the original attacker's remise gains priority. Riposte is analogous to kaeshi techniques in kendo.

When one sets up a second intention attack, the reactions of one's opponent must be predicted. A fencer may execute an attack expecting to be parried, preparing to counter-parry and counter-riposte.

Military usage

André Beaufre defines riposte in military usage as the act of striking a vulnerable point of an enemy, forcing him to abandon his own attack. The chosen target must be vital to the enemy or at least highly important, so that it becomes imperative to the enemy to defend it. The overall objective is to regain the initiative in battle.[2]


  1. Barth, Berndt (2006), Beck, Emil (ed.), The Complete Guide to Fencing, Meyer and Meyer Series, Meyer & Meyer Verlag, ISBN 1841261912.
  2. Beaufre, André (1965), An Introduction to Strategy: With Particular Reference to Problems of Defense, Politics, Economics, and Diplomacy in the Nuclear Age, Faber & Faber, p. 39
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