"The adversary attacks you; you parry; he doubles himself up, as it were, and your riposte touches his mask, his back or his arm. "The mask! the back! the arm!" says your antagonist, recovering guard indifferently, and airily denotes with his sinister finger tips the place of dishonour. And there are many who go on lunging as if nothing has occured.
"The mask, sir! But do you reflect that this thrust might have passed through your brain, which would have been quite as effectual as passing through your lungs? That other would have itroduced six inches of cold steel into your back. The third would have pinned your arm to your breast. You place your face, your back, your arm where your breast should be. I touch what is before me, and feel, you may be certain, amply satisfied with the result.
"Do you really believe that were the button removed from the foils you would consider it equivalent to parrying or to escaping a thrust, this substitution of one part for the another? That you are out of danger because you only expose your head, your back, or your neck to be drilled through?
"Certes, it is the height of desperation to risk blow for blow when both you and your adversary suffer equally. To use such means as those shows that you have no others at your disposal; yet it must always be borne in mind that you must use what you have ..."
From: The Sentiment of the Sword - Sir Richard Francis Burton
burtoniana.org for more on this fascinating gentleman, and his intrepid wife. Also for download options for the book