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Attacking and defending from each Kendo/Kenjutsu stance.

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  • Attacking and defending from each Kendo/Kenjutsu stance.

    I'm new to japanese sword fighting, but I have experience fencing with epee and foil in Olympic format. I am trying to build a mini-game for D&D similar to the Jousting system in the original 1970's D&D booklets. This system will only be used when two sword fighters are facing off against each-other in an honorable duel, using a single standard katana wielded with both hands. Each turn will involve selecting a stance, and then choosing a single direction of attack. My questions are:
    • Given the possible directional attacks of: Vertical, Horizontal, Downward Diagonal Cut, Upward Diagonal Cut, and Thrust; what attacks can be initiated from each stance?
    • Given the directional attacks above, how would each stance defend against each attack? Would it be a parry or avoidance?
    I've only included the five "elemental" stances in this system: Chudan (Water), Jodan (Fire), Gedan (Earth), Hasso (Wood), and Waki (Metal); and I think I have a good understanding of each of their purposes and forms. I've already worked through these on my own, but I'm not satisfied that my results will stand up to the scrutiny of an experienced Kendo or Kenjutsu practitioner.

    If anyone can make a well thought out response that I can integrate into my game rules, I'll cite you as a source if I publish them. Any insight as to "what might counter what" would be appreciated as well. I'm already aware that a Jodan vertical or downward diagonal attack can be countered by a quick thrust from Chudan or upward diagonal cut from Gedan since attacks from those stances would impact before the Jodan attack was completed.

    An example response would be:
    • Jodan Attacks: Vertical, Downward Diagonal Cut.
    • Jodan Defenses:
      • Vertical: Parry
      • Horizontal: None
      • Downward Diagonal Cut: Parry or Avoid
      • Upward Diagonal Cut: None
      • Thrust: None
    If it is too complicated to list out each defense, list what areas each stance is weakest against.
    Last edited by CountingWizard; 25th September 2015, 03:14 AM.

  • #2
    The difficulty with this is that this leaves no room for kaeshi waza. e.g. why stop at 'parry'? Are you suggesting that any follow up attack would be 'round 2'? That is not consistent with the timing of kaeshi waza.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by verissimus View Post
      The difficulty with this is that this leaves no room for kaeshi waza. e.g. why stop at 'parry'? Are you suggesting that any follow up attack would be 'round 2'? That is not consistent with the timing of kaeshi waza.

      Well, this system abstracts some of the actions that may occur in a turn, follow-up attacks exist in this system: Chudan attacks first with a thrust, and the defender is in Gedan who successfully defends with a parry (or dodge?) and then makes his normal move as a counter. Basically, the more defensive positions resolve their actions later because they are waiting for the opponent to initiate the attack.

      My goal with this system is for it to be a page for stance descriptions and restrictions, and a page for how hits against each stance are resolved (in matrix format), with special mention of any specific handling of special situations like stepping into a Chudan's thrust while in the unguarded Jodan stance.

      The problem with trying to make this system is that I just don't know enough about the range of movements and techniques involved in japanese sword fighting to simplify it down into a quick minigame where players tactically choose a stance and angle of attack.
      Last edited by CountingWizard; 25th September 2015, 02:25 AM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by CountingWizard View Post
        The problem with trying to make this system is that I just don't know enough about the range of movements and techniques involved in japanese sword fighting to simplify it down into a quick minigame where players tactically choose a stance and angle of attack.
        That's a feature in kendo that takes a while to understand (maybe in other sword arts too, but I don't know anything about those). For instance, there's nidan waza (e.g. kote followed by men), sandan waza (e.g. kote men men) or even longer 'chains' until a valid strike is made. None of these can actually be considered different turns. Breaking kendo down into 'turns' is not realistic, IMO. Take a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwQrs7ngCcE. Where would you say one 'turn' ends and another begins?

        It is possible that I am getting hung up on details which are ultimately inconsequential to the mini-game. I'll ascribe that to a lack of knowledge of the mechanism, in which case I'll keep quiet.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by verissimus View Post

          That's a feature in kendo that takes a while to understand (maybe in other sword arts too, but I don't know anything about those). For instance, there's nidan waza (e.g. kote followed by men), sandan waza (e.g. kote men men) or even longer 'chains' until a valid strike is made. None of these can actually be considered different turns. Breaking kendo down into 'turns' is not realistic, IMO. Take a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwQrs7ngCcE. Where would you say one 'turn' ends and another begins?

          It is possible that I am getting hung up on details which are ultimately inconsequential to the mini-game. I'll ascribe that to a lack of knowledge of the mechanism, in which case I'll keep quiet.
          The end of a turn would be indicated by a temporary pause or hesitation between both combatants where they begin assessing the new situation or any changes in position/stance/behavior. Combat in this system could be abstracted to this level, with quick successive strikes not being meticulously spelled out except for the final strike that lands.

          The focus of strategy is choosing a stance, and guessing what the opponent's stance will be and choosing an attack that can get through their defenses.
          Last edited by CountingWizard; 25th September 2015, 05:28 AM.

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          • #6
            Jodan seems a bit funky to me. The normal Jodan 'defense' is to attack. Because the jodanist only needs to cut, not to raise and cut...against a vertical cut -- cut first. Against a horizontal cut -- cut first. Against a diagonal cut -- cut first. Against tsuki --- cut first.
            That captures jodan's spirit much better.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by verissimus View Post

              That's a feature in kendo that takes a while to understand (maybe in other sword arts too, but I don't know anything about those). For instance, there's nidan waza (e.g. kote followed by men), sandan waza (e.g. kote men men) or even longer 'chains' until a valid strike is made. None of these can actually be considered different turns. Breaking kendo down into 'turns' is not realistic, IMO. Take a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwQrs7ngCcE. Where would you say one 'turn' ends and another begins?

              It is possible that I am getting hung up on details which are ultimately inconsequential to the mini-game. I'll ascribe that to a lack of knowledge of the mechanism, in which case I'll keep quiet.
              Of course sword fighting can't be perfectly translated into turns, but this is just a game. I'm pretty sure OP's goal is not to simulate a sword fight exactly, but to get a basic idea and have something that feels cool and swordy and satisfying to play.

              What Verissimus said before about the timing of kaeshi waza is a good idea though. In kendo, the timing is very tight, so a counter attack comes either slightly before, during, or slightly after the attack, before there is a chance for the opponent to respond. Maybe a good way to do this is if the opponent chooses to parry, they make a roll, and if they roll high they succeed with the counterattack and the opponent dies, if they roll medium then they block the attack and move to the next turn, and if they roll low the block fails and they die.

              Originally posted by OP
              I'm already aware that a Jodan vertical or downward diagonal attack can be countered by a quick thrust from Chudan or upward diagonal cut from Gedan since attacks from those stances would impact before the Jodan attack was completed.
              The thing that bothers me about this is if you are attacked by a jodan player from above and deliver a thrust from chudan, yes you have stabbed him, but there is still a sword coming down on your head. In order to not die, you would have to get out of the way, displace his attack, or attack in a way that would make it impossible for his attack to finish (ie cut off his arms).

              Originally posted by rfoxmich View Post
              Jodan seems a bit funky to me. The normal Jodan 'defense' is to attack. Because the jodanist only needs to cut, not to raise and cut...against a vertical cut -- cut first. Against a horizontal cut -- cut first. Against a diagonal cut -- cut first. Against tsuki --- cut first.
              That captures jodan's spirit much better.
              I foolishly posted without reading this. This says what I was trying to say much better - the chudan player needs to deal with the jodan player's threat of cutting no matter what, otherwise he is suicidal.
              Last edited by Missingno.; 26th September 2015, 04:24 AM.

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              • #8
                So I've finished the first draft of the rules:

                https://www.scribd.com/doc/282999905...RAedTJdLeYE15a

                In D&D a "saving throw" is a target number based on character level, that must be rolled above (on a d20) in order to "save" against an effect. Like a level 1 might need to roll a 20-sided dice and make a 15 or higher in order to make their save. In the version of the game I play, it is very rare for a character to reach level 10 (think years of play), so for 99% of characters, there is usually about a 50% or greater of failing the saving throw.

                I tweaked the rule to allow automatic dodging of blows coming from certain directions while in specific stances. Like Gedan seems to be positioned so that if you just lean backwards, an upward diagonal cut would miss you. I gave each stance its own strength and weakness:
                • Jodan
                  • Always strikes first.
                  • Always hit if opponent is not dispatched by the first strike that turn.
                  • Restricted to downward (vertical, downward diagonal) attacks only.
                • Waki
                  • Nearly as fast as Jodan, but slower since it has a full arm movement to attack.
                  • No ability to parry, but can dodge vertical attacks and certain downward cuts.
                  • Restricted to horizontal and upward diagonal attacks from one direction only.
                • Chudan
                  • Third fastest stance.
                  • Can parry attacks from any direction.
                  • Receives a penalty to parrying since efforts are equally focused on attacks.
                  • Can attack from nearly any direction except upward diagonals.
                • Hasso
                  • Fourth fastest stance.
                  • Can parry attacks from any direction, and sidestep (dodge) thrusts.
                  • Receives a penalty when trying to parry horizontal attacks.
                  • Restricted to downward attacks only.
                • Gedan
                  • Slowest stance.
                  • Not allowed to make attacks unless both participants are in Gedan stance.
                  • Can parry attacks from any direction, and dodge upward diagonal attacks.
                  • Can counter-attack, guaranteeing a hit if parry is successful.
                  • Parries with a penalty to the saving throw due to having guard down.
                I'm considering making it so that each turn you write down a sequential combination of 5 attack directions, and the attacks go back and forth in order until someone is injured or the list is worked through without anyone scoring a hit.

                Each turn you have the ability to change your stance.

                I play tested this on a turn-by-turn basis without the combo rule on Friday, and found that the longest game lasted 5 turns. I was successfully able to beat a level 8 with a level 4, three times in a row, showing that with a familiarity of the rules and mechanics you can gain some edge.
                Last edited by CountingWizard; 29th September 2015, 03:21 AM.

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                • #9
                  Some comments:

                  1. Hasso is at least as fast as jodan, maybe faster. Downside of hasso is a more open kote and men, from a kendo POV. Waki-gamae is slower than either. Gedan is slow to turn into a cut, but very quick compared to all others except chudan for a thrusting attack.
                  2. Jodan doesn't always attack first. In fact, baiting the opponent into attack which is then avoided and countered is a very common jodan tactic.
                  3. Jodan doesn't always hit. Like anything, there is a chance to miss especially if the opponent is actively avoiding the cut.
                  4. I don't understand why chudan receives a penalty on parrying. Of all 5 kamae it is the best suited to parrying.
                  5. There is nothing stopping a chudan player from cutting upwards, other than we just don't in modern kendo. It would be very easy for example to turn the sword over and cut the arms from underneath.
                  6. Why can't gedan attack?
                  7. Why can't waki-gamae parry?
                  8. Why is a gedan parry a guaranteed hit? There are no guarantees, especially in the case of parrying where you often successfully ward off the incoming attack but miss the counter due to the rapidly closing distance or other factors.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                    1. Hasso is at least as fast as jodan, maybe faster. Downside of hasso is a more open kote and men, from a kendo POV. Waki-gamae is slower than either. Gedan is slow to turn into a cut, but very quick compared to all others except chudan for a thrusting attack.
                    So should I change Hasso to be as fast as Jodan, but give a penalty or outright hit from downward attacks? I'm not accounting for hand hits since this is closer to feudal period sword-fighting rather than modern kendo. The goal is to make a killing blow.

                    Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                    2. Jodan doesn't always attack first. In fact, baiting the opponent into attack which is then avoided and countered is a very common jodan tactic.
                    I'm thinking my mechanic for this should be that while in Jodan, a player can choose to either aggressively attack, or wait to counter. Countering might receive a penalty for success, and a failure indicates KO instead of a minor injury. However, if I make this change, it also changes the dynamic between the different stances. As it is, Gedan stance is unique because it is the only one that allows a counterattack.

                    Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                    3. Jodan doesn't always hit. Like anything, there is a chance to miss especially if the opponent is actively avoiding the cut.
                    This is accounted for in the mechanics. Against most other stances, downward attacks have a possibility of being parried (in this case meaning with skill the blow is avoided). Waki is low enough to the ground that any vertical attack will outright miss in this system. If the opponent is in Jodan also, two vertical attacks will lock blades in a contest of strength. Otherwise, both people will receive an injury, and a saving throw would indicate whether it is a KO or merely a scratch.

                    Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                    4. I don't understand why chudan receives a penalty on parrying. Of all 5 kamae it is the best suited to parrying.
                    Gamewise, it is to balance it among the other stances. It's distinct advantage is that it can parry attacks from any direction (from the front). However, since the descriptions I've read that it is a stance that is balanced between aggressiveness and defensiveness, the focus of the stance isn't to simply defend. It receives penalties because the player is also looking for openings to attack. It gets to move 3rd fastest (middle) of the stances, and it has one of the most versatile options available for angles of attack. The penalty was mostly to bring it into line with Hasso being the more defensive stance.

                    Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                    5. There is nothing stopping a chudan player from cutting upwards, other than we just don't in modern kendo. It would be very easy for example to turn the sword over and cut the arms from underneath.
                    I'll consider adding this when I do my re-look. I don't foresee a problem making this change.

                    Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                    6. Why can't gedan attack?
                    All descriptions I've read about gedan describe it as the most defensive stance. The user is waiting for their opponent to attack, and then gedan swats the blade out of the way and makes a riposte/counter, or simply steps backwards and then lunges.

                    Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                    7. Why can't waki-gamae parry?
                    The blade is being held behind the body and does not appear to be in a position that is ready to parry. Also, I would think that swinging your sword from all the way behind you would snap the blade from the force of impact.

                    Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                    8. Why is a gedan parry a guaranteed hit? There are no guarantees, especially in the case of parrying where you often successfully ward off the incoming attack but miss the counter due to the rapidly closing distance or other factors.
                    Gedan parry is a guaranteed hit to simplify the game mechanics. It provides a purpose to use Gedan as a defensive stance. If you are skilled enough, Gedan can be a good way to get a solid hit on an even more skilled opponent. Mechanically there is a trade-off between penalty to parry, and that if you make the parry you also take advantage of the opening it provides. I've combined the two parts you've described into one roll instead of two to speed up resolution.

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                    • #11
                      For hasso, it should be a higher chance of getting hit than jodan as it is a little weaker defensively. If you are not accounting for hand hits you are missing a huge part of fencing. Take the arm out and you win.

                      Regarding penalizing chudan for parrying: your reasoning makes no sense. It is the strongest position for parrying, period. We are looking to attack from any kamae.

                      Regarding gedan: the purpose of gedan is to kill the opponent regardless of outcome for yourself. It's not a posture that makes much sense from a gaming point of view.

                      Regarding waki: waki hides the length and condition of the blade and also provides for a very strong cut. Swinging the blade from way behind you provides power.

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                      • #12
                        Here is an article by a senior sensei regarding kendo kata (more or less the only time kendoist deal with kamae other than chudan and jodan) including some theories about the five kamae. There is a sort of rock-paper-scissors logic to it and might be interesting to incorporate into your game system.

                        What about kasumi kamae?

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