Shooting Dice

I sometimes play a game with dice – I call it “the random new technique game”, and I’m going to outline it here so you can experiment with similar ideas.

Using a random modifier such as a die or a deck of cards is nothing new, and I’ve heard lots of stories about different versions used for workouts and games in sports training situations. Here’s one such example:

I used to do a workout with a friend in which we would split a card deck into two halves and deal exercises to each other. Hearts were push-ups, clubs were sit-ups, diamonds were squats, and spades were chin-ups. The number of the card told us how many to perform. It was always fun watching his facial expressions when I would save all my kings for last…

One interesting aspect of Taido is the unsoku, sotai, seiho, kimegi, gentai framework to the techniques. It gives a somewhat modular quality to technical composition and suggests that there are many more possible combinations than those frequently taught in classes.

I actually first learned about modular systems when I was studying about old, analog music synthesizers and was struck by the convention for these musical instruments to be described using flowcharts. The components of many old synths can be arranged in various orders with varying degrees of feedback to create new and interesting sounds.

A few days later, I was flipping through some Taido notes and noticed that the technique process was also a flowchart. I decided to try Taido technique as a modular process and see if I could find some new and interesting techniques. After a few hours of experimenting, I had made several pages of notes. I decided that I needed a neater way to list all the possibilities I had found, so I made up a simple chart. Eventually, I started rolling a die to choose values randomly from each column, and “the random new technique game” was born.

Play the Game

My original version of this dice game began with rolling a die several times:

roll 1:

1/2=unsoku, 3/4=unshin, 5/6=both

roll 2a:

1=so/in, 2=ka/gen, 3=ko/ten, 4=tsui/tai, 5=henka, 6=hengen (roll again, even/odd to choose)

roll 2b:

1=zenten (handspring), 2=koten, 3=shazenten, 4=bakuten, 5=sokuten (sokuchu), 6=bakuchu

roll 3:

1=sen, 2=un, 3=hen, 4=nen, 5=ten, 6=2nd unsoku/unshin (back to roll 1)

roll 4:

1=jun, 2=gyaku, 3=ushiro, 4=tobi/tobikomi, 5=2noashi, 6=fukuteki

roll 5:

1=punch, 2=strike, 3=kick, 4=takedown/throw, 5=grab/joint, 6=2nd sotai (back to roll 4)

To play the game, you simply roll once for each variable, and the number tells you what value to insert. For instance, I may roll 3, 2, 6, 4, 4, 3, 4 (since the third roll called for another unshin, I had to roll seven times). According to the chart above, that means “koten, bakuten, tentai ushiro takedown/throw”. Now my job is to figure out a way to move which matches that description. The simplest application in this instance would probably be koten, bakuten dogarami.

I once rolled 1, 1, 3, 5, 1, 6, 4, 4, 3 – unsoku, so/in (in), tentai, jun, 2nd sotai, nentai, tobi, kick. Combining the ten/nen inspired my favorite personal dice-game creation so far: a tobi jun nentai keri from in-soku; it looks sort of like a cross between a 90-degree hangetsu and sokuchu and seems to come out of nowhere when I use it in jissen.

Sometimes, I roll a combination that I have practiced before. Sometimes I roll a combination that seems impossible. Every roll teaches me something new about taido, and as a result, my thinking about taido technique is incredibly fluid. Though my body can’t always keep up, my brain never gets “stuck” for creative inspiration in technique creation. Playing games like this with taido gives me an infinite pool of possible combinations with which to challenge my imagination and technical ability.

Anyway, give it a shot. Come up with your own variations. I’d love to hear about other random modifiers people have used for creative taido practices. Dave in Australia told me a few days ago that they had used cards to randomize their jissen practice by drawing cards to decide which techniques to use for offense/defense, etc. That’s a good idea that I plan to try sometime.

I’d especially love to hear if anyone comes up with usable shingi by this method. Try it, and let me know what you think.

A Software Version?

A couple of years ago, I asked a student who is a programmer to design a simple random technique generator based on my dice game. I gave him a request that would allow for the following variables:

  1. unsoku, unshin, or some combination
  2. optional initial sotai for movement
  3. direction – front, back, jun, gyaku
  4. optional jump, dive, slide, or step
  5. sotai for technique (condition of body during weapon deployment)
  6. weapon – specific punch or kick

My goal was to account for any combination o unsoku/unshin, any single or combined sotai, any direction, any use of seiho, and any strike/kick/other weapon – unsoku, sotai, seiho, kimegi, gentai (and possible iterations) – in an algorithm that could use some sort of serial logic to pull values from a database of movements. Unfortunately, the iterations make the algorithm pretty complex, and my student never got around to finishing the project.


If anyone out there can create such a program (and it really shouldn’t be too very hard), I will compensate you for the price of one beer for your troubles. I would love to have such a program executed as a php code that could be run on this site – available freely to taido students around the world. As my primary goal with this website is to inspire creative and critical thinking for continued development and evolution of taido, I can think of very few things that would be more fitting for me to host than a random movement-technique inspiration machine.

So, programmers, get to work! Seriously, I’ll be your best friend if you can make this for me, and i’m good for that beer money too.

Update: See comments for programs submitted by Juha. – thanks, Juha.

Re-update: The tech-gen was completed and integrated into the sidebar for several months, but I lost my edits when I changed Taido/Blog’s cosmetics without backing up first. Anyway, the links to Juha’s version are a good starting point – give them a go.

4 thoughts on “Shooting Dice”

  1. Hi,

    As a beginner I’m bit unfamiliar with few words.. So, what are ‘Henka’ and ‘Hengen’ ? Those words are not in glossary.. Going to make card version and use it at summer, when away from my club. Thanks!

    And about computer version, I could try to make one, but I don’t completely understand how it works.. Those optional variables (2 & 4), are they just randomly there or does program have to conclude it from somewhere else if they are there or not? At number 6, I think program looks what sotai it is and chooses one from sotai’s techniques? How wrong I understood? ;)

    …hmh, seems like my written english is bit rusty…

  2. hi juha:
    that’s an excellent question. actually, “henka” and “hengen” are my shorthand for the hensoku (or oyo) versions of ka-soku and gen-soku. these would be the extended forms of the footwork. i forgot to correct them when i posted this article originally.

    as far as the options go, i doesn’t really matter if you construct a program. i’m not worried about the relative probabilities, but with a six-sided die, i can’t account for each of the unsoku and unshin. a computer program doesn’t have this limit, so rolls one and two could probably be combined. some variables may be optional. for example, you won’t always want to specify seiho in a combination.

    the most important thing is not which algorithm you use, but that you allow as many possible combinations as you can. there should be the potential for strange, or even “impossible” combinations of movements.

    the last roll is designed to choose a “weapon”, not a “technique”. therefore, there is no connection to the sotai. if the sotai is sen- and the weapon is a kick, then any sentaigeri would be appropriate. this allows us to create entirely new techniques (such as nentai punches) instead of simply different ways to set up manjigeri. my more recent articles may explain this a little better.

    hope this helps.

  3. Ok, here:

    First one is like that dice game, second version makes just one technique at time. Both are javascript, so the code can be looked from browser and is easy to edit. for example there are row:
    var unshinstring = “zenten (handspring) ,koten ,shazenten ,bakuten ,sokuten (sokuchu) ,bakuchu “;

    All unshin’s names can be changed and it doesn’t matter if total number of unshins change. Just make sure that between different unshins there is ‘,’ and there is one space before each ‘,’ (and after last unshin) to prevent technique to be writtes as one long spaceless string. Same goes for sotais, unsokus etc.

    In second version those optionals occur at 50% chance, there is rows:
    if (Math.random() < 0.5)

    that 0.5 is for 50%, it can be changed, 0 means 0% 1 means 100%, and it also can be something like 0.758..

  4. thanks juha!

    those are pretty cool. i’m going to play around with them a bit and see if i can tweak the variables to make them more usable. then, i’ll figure out someway to integrate it into the site.

    if you want beer money, shoot me a mail, and i’ll send it along…

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