Kendo Duel – About the game


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Kendo, meaning “The Way of the Sword”, is based on traditional Japanese swordsmanship and is today a modern Japanese martial art.  Kendo is a unique product of Japanese culture and is an offspring of Kenjutsu, the classical Japanese sword art.

Kendo is a physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial arts values with sport-like physical elements.

Kendo is a lifelong activity. Age and gender do not matter. The purpose of practising kendo is not only improving your techniques but also your mind and physical fitness. Kendo is practised wearing traditional Japanese clothing and armour (bogu), using one or – less commonly – two bamboo swords (shinai).

A practitioner of kendo is called kendoka (“one who practises kendo”), but is sometimes also called kenshi which means “swordsman”. Kendo is different from European fencing in the way the sword is handled. Kendo employs strikes involving both the edge and tip of the shinai.

Kendo is practised worldwide and there are more than 6 million people training. In 1970 the International Kendo Federation (FIK) was established and today around 60 national or regional federations are members.  The World Kendo Championships is held every three years since 1970.



  • Attacking cards: MEN, KOTE, DO, TSUKI
  • (4×3: 12 cards) – in a brown frame
  • Counterattacking cards: the combinations of the basic attacks above (4×4: 16 cards)- in a brown frame
  • Reinforcing cards: JODAN, SEME (2×2: 4 cards) – in a red frame
  • Cards against reinforcing cards: MUSHIN, SEIGAN (2×2: 4 cards) – in a purple frame
  • Cards to defelct an attack: TAI SABAKI, KAMAE, FUDOSHIN (3×2: 6 cards) – in a blue frame
  • Cards to parry an attack: TSUBAZERIAI, BOGYO (2×3: 6 cards) – in a green frame
  • Alternative attacking cards: TAIATARI, MAKI AGE – (2×2:4 cards) – in a yellow frame
  • Ippon marks on one card (1 card): the marks to show the points must be cut out before the start
  • Penalty marks on one card (HANSOKU, 1 card): it must be also cut out before the start


Kendo Duel is a strategy card game that can be played in two game modes: the “Duel” and the “Competition”.

In “Duel” game mode 2-4 players can play together. They fight each other without drawing new cards during the game. The winner is the last player who has a card in one’s hand.

In the game mode “Competition” only 2 players can play and it is similar to a real kendo competition: the players can get ippons (points) and hansokus (penalty points), and the winner is the one who receives the second ippon (point) first.


  • Cards needed: the whole deck except JIKAN DESU, HANSOKU marks, IPPON marks
  • Number of players: 2-4
  • Duration: 4-5 min. with 2 players

Starting the game

  1. Before the start the following cards should be discarded from the deck: JIKAN DESU, HANSOKU marks, IPPON marks. The other cards should be divided into 3 subdecks:
  2. Basic attacks (Men, Kote, Do, Tsuki)
  3. Counterattacks
  4. All other cards

These subdecks should be shuffled and placed to the marks on the gameboard face-down.

  1. Deal 3x basic attacks (Men, Kote, Do, Tsuki), 4x counterattacks and 5x from the other cards to each player.
  1. At the beginning, players can switch any 2 of their cards to other cards, each from its own subdeck. The new card should be drawn from the top of the subdeck and your switched card should be put under it. Switching a card is not compulsory.
  1. Add the numbers on your basic attack cards: the player with a higher result starts the first attack. If more players got the same total, switch the card with the lowest number on it to a new one from its own subdeck. Examine your totals again.
  1. You can start a new or first attack with the following cards and combinations:
  •     Men, Kote, Do, Tsuki attacks: a) alone or b) together with one reinforcing card (Jodan or Seme)
  •     Other attacking cards (Taiatari, Maki age). These two can only be played alone without reinforcing cards.
  1. An attack aiming a certain part of the body can always be countered with a same attacking card or an appropriate counterattack card. For example, a single MEN attack can be countered with the same MEN card, or a counterattack, which answers, so starts with MEN. A counterattack can also be answered with another appropriate counterattack or single attack card, and so on.

However, if you answer a counterattack with a basic attack card, your opponent can then start a new attack and does not need to answer your card.

  1. If you are attacked with a single attack with a MEN, KOTE… etc. or a counterattack; OR a basic attack reinforced with a JODAN or SEME card, you must always react to it.

If you are attacked with a basic attack with a reinforcing card, you must react to the reinforcing one first. You can try to neutralize it, deflect or reflect it. If you can’t do any of these, your opponent pulls one card from you and can use it as one’s own.

After reacting to a reinforcing card, you must react to the basic attack, too.

If you can’t react to a MEN, KOTE, DO, TSUKI attack / counterattack, you lose two cards to your attacker.

If you are attacked with a TAIATARI or MAKI AGE card, and you have no valid card against it, you lose one card to your opponent, which he or she may choose without seeing your cards.

  1. If you lose a card to another player:
  • in case of 2-3 players: it’s your turn to start a new attack against any of the other players;
  • in case of 4 players: the player, who got your card can start a new attack, attacking anyone except you.
  1. If you cannot react to an incoming attack, and have no cards to give away or to start with when it’s your turn, you lose the game. In case of 3-4 players playing, you drop out.

After you dropped out, your last attacker can draw one card from any of the subdecks as a bonus and can start a new attack.

When 3 players are in the game, the player who did not receive a bonus card starts the next attack.

  1. If it is your turn to start an attack, but you don’t have any valid cards, you should discard one of your cards and draw a new one from the basic attacks subdeck and use that.

11.In case of 2-3 players: if you can react to an attack with a valid card, you are free to choose whom you would like to attack with your used card.

In case of 4 players: you cannot attack your attacker with a single basic or counterattack, except when you use a card that deflects or reflects an attack directly.

  1. Hikiwake (draw): when 2 players play, the game ends in a draw if the last applied valid card of any of the players is a TSUBAZERIAI or a BOGYO. When more than 2 players play, in this case this player simply drops out.


  • Cards needed: all the cards
  • Number of players: only 2
  • Duration: 10-20 mins

Aim of the game:

The winner is the one who gets the second Ippon (point) first, or successfully plays the JIKAN DESU (Time’s over!) card.

It is considered as an IPPON (point) if a player cannot react to a basic or counterattack with a valid card OR has no more cards at all OR gets one’s second Hansoku or penalty points.

After an IPPON is awarded, all players draw as many new cards from any of the subdecks, that they have at least 6 cards in their hands. If you have more than 6, you can keep them but cannot draw more.

HANSOKU or penalty point must be given when:

  1. ‘Stepping out of the court’: you couldn’t react to a TAIATARI card.
  2. ‘Losing the sword’: you couldn’t react to a MAKI AGE card.

The second hansoku you suffer means an IPPON to your opponent, and this is marked with a „H” as an ippon for hansoku.

If it is your turn to start an attack but you have no valid card to do so, draw one card from the basic attacks subdeck and play that card.

After an IPPON is awarded or a HANSOKU is given, always the „unlucky” player starts a new attack.


Rule to switch cards: Always before you play a card, you must switch one of your cards to a new one from any of the sub-decks (without showing). Put your old card under its own subdeck.

AND you must draw a new card from the Counterattacks or the Other Cards sub-deck. You cannot draw this new one from the basic attacks subdeck.

Exception to the rule: if you play a BOGYO or a TSUBAZERIAI card, an IPPON is awarded or a HANSOKU is given, you are not allowed to switch and draw again one after another. However, after an Ippon you can still draw cards until you have 6, as mentioned above. It means that if you get a HANSOKU or your opponent receives an IPPON because you have already switched and drawn, but still could not react, you are not allowed to switch and draw again. You must play a card directly from your actual hand.

Starting the game

At the beginning deal 2 cards from the basic attacks subdeck, 3 cards from the counterattacks, and 3 cards from the other cards subdeck to each player. During the game players play cards in turns according to the rules of the Duel mode and as well as the information written on the cards.

The first attacker is decided exactly the same way as in the Duel mode.

The differences between the Duel and the Competition:

The Competition is played with less cards in hand, and players switch and draw cards during the game, which is not possible during the Duel.

When you attack successfully during the Duel, you get cards from your opponent. During the Competition, you are awarded an Ippon or your opponent gets a penalty.

Gameboard: the divided subdecks must be placed on the marked places on the gameboard. The already played cards can be placed to the competition court.

In the Competition, the Ippon marks can be placed on the marked area ’Scores’ to show the points awarded.



  1. MEN: basic attack, a strike to the head or helmet
  2. KOTE: basic attack, a strike to the wrist or protecting gloves
  3. DO: a basic attack, a strike to the body or body armour
  4. TSUKI: basic attack, a thrust to the throat or throat protector
  5. COUNTERATTACKS: combinations of the basic attacks, each one answers a certain one in a certain way
  6. JODAN: upper basic stance, a reinforcement to a basic attack in the game
  7. SEME: mental pressure put on the opponent, a reinforcement card to a basic attack in the game
  8. MUSHIN: empty mind, a special state of mind. It neutralizes SEME card and makes a counterattack card able to answer any type of attacks (like a joker).
  9. SEIGAN: a slightly lifted basic stance, to neutralize JODAN card
  10. TAIATARI: a hit with the body, an alternative attack in the game
  11. MAKI AGE: spinning out the sword from the opponent’s hand, an alternative attack in the game
  12. TSUBAZERIAI: a very close distance of the fighters, where their swordguards touch each other. Parries a basic attack in the game.
  13. BOGYO: parry. Parries a basic attack in the game.
  14. KAMAE: basic stance. Deflects a basic or counter attack and neutralizes a TAIATARI or MAKI AGE attack in the game. After neutralizing a yellow attack, the attacker can start a new attack again.
  15. TAISABAKI: whole body movement. Deflects a basic  or counter attack and neutralizes a TAIATARI or MAKI AGE attack in the game. After neutralizing a yellow attack, the attacker can start a new attack again.
  16. FUDOSHIN: immovable mind, a special state of mind. Deflects all attacks in the game. (See more: on the card)
  17. JIKAN DESU: if the score is 1:0 to you: the opponent initiates an attack; if this ends with an Ippon, the game goes on; if not, the game’s over with 1:0. If the score is 1:1, shuffle the decks and each player gets 5 cards. The game goes on until the first Ippon. This card cannot be used again.

Hint: Frames of the same colour mark mostly the exact same usage of the cards.

  •  All rights reserved. © 2016, Akos Vachter
  •  Game design by Akos Vachter
  • Illustrated by Anita Benczur