Especially at higher levels (e.g. Swashbuckler) sword fighting can be pretty difficult (if not irritating) against certain opponents, more so when you don't specialize in the fencing skill. Here's a way to counter that problem.
The easiest (and longest) way to win a fight is to always attack mid-level. Although not much strategy in this technique, it does provide basic an almost "win" situation as well providing newbie players to adjust with the fencing atmosphere. This technique relies on the opponent in making a mistake when attacking you, as the mid-level attack is the fastest of all three attacks available, thus any other mid-level attack (or block) conducted by the opponent at the same time you attack (mid-level) will automatically lose.
For more seasoned Pirates! You will discover that you can block and counter attack. I personally had difficulty mastering this technique the first (many hours) around (thought it had to do with my IQ level *cough*). Trying to focus on block and counter-attacking is amazingly difficult when you don't get the hang of it, as the margin of error to do so is barely at most 1-2 seconds long. I found a very helpful way (mentally) to overcome this problem with one's ability to instinctively counter attack after a successful block (may provide useful to those who have similar difficulties):
The first thing to do in your mind set is to just focus and blocking. For some odd reason, focusing on both blocking and counter-attacking at the same time ruins your focus (at least for my brain). Just focusing on blocking helps you in adjusting to the current battle at hand, in addition that a successful block on a correct attack (high block for high attack, etc.) does not permit you to lose any defensive ground. After awhile you may notice that you have no problem blocking without paying much attention, thus you can then focus on counter-attacking.
Note: This technique (and fencing in general for that matter) is heavily influenced by your difficulty setting, fencing skill feat, sword type, opponent capability and crew size (if boarding a ship).