Small Talk

Jun Ken Po

January 15th, 2014

File this one under Absurd Conversations.

Olivia and I were playing jun ken po. (That's rock-paper-scissors for our English-preferring readers.) The rules of any game with a six year old are so arbitrary. Plus, there's the overarching desire to win at all costs.

I usually let her win, but it's a little hard with a game of chance like jun ken po. We reveal our hands at the same time. I ended up winning the first three rounds. The games are best out of three.

She started getting salty on the fourth round when I had two points in my favor and it seemed clear that I was about to win again. She did this crazy move which was to unveil a new supercharged shape. Not the traditional rock, paper, or scissors, but rather, wave movements with her hands (like you might see in hula.)

I was like, Hold up here? What is this?

She declared, as if it was totally normal, "Oh, you can do other moves. Tornado, tsunami, volcano, dynamite, and God." The correlating hand motions are:

Tornado: Finger circles vertically

Tsunami: Wave motion with hands

Volcano: Hands form pyramid shape

Dynamite: Crossed hands over chest

God: Sign of cross with index fingers

Obviously, a lot of thought was put into this. She admitted it's all the rage with the first graders.

I do not remember inventing all this when I was a kid. I do remember inventing pencil with my cousins, and the rule was that pencil can write on paper, but rock and scissors can demolish pencil.

I pressed Olivia for the rules on each - which trumps which? - and she really couldn't tell me. She did clarify that God is the most powerful, so that wins all.

Further pushing for rules clarification resulted in confused vagaries. I mean, when do you pull out the God card and what prevents a total collapse of the game structure by have two players consistently use the sign of the cross? She could not provide me a logical answer.

So I busted out the God move in every subsequent game to test this out in a real-life example. This frustrated her and she insisted we stop.

I'm not sure how our game of jun ken po devolved, but somehow, I invented an animal version in which we would reveal a hand shape that look something like an animal and/or make the noise of the animal, and then we'd debate who won that round based on which animal is more powerful.

That was going weirdly until both of us coincidentally claimed cheetah with a ferocious, multi-pitched yowl, and Olivia did not want to have a tie. It became clear we really had some kinks to work out on that game.

Shortly thereafter, I accidentally presented a carnivorous pitcher plant (which ate her butterfly), and the game morphed into a vegetable version. Do you know how hard it is to represent an ear of corn? Or how much strategic thinking is required to define which vegetable wins: corn or lettuce?

I"m not sure this game will go viral, or that Hasbro will have a job waiting for me any time soon. We'll settle for silly fun for half an hour. And if you have a suggestion to improve our versions, I'd love to hear it. Maybe we can reprise a new and improved Jun Ken Po: Animals! or Jun Ken Po: Vegetables! 

7 Responses to “Jun Ken Po”

  1. keoni:

    Diane, that is hilarious! Mahalo for a good morning laugh.

  2. Ken Conklin:

    Children learn many important concepts from the seemingly frivolous games they play. In this case Olivia is learning that rules must be obeyed but they are arbitrary, and subject to change by mutual consent of the participants (just like laws). She's also learning that sometimes it's advisable to remove a particular rule if it leads to an unfair outcome, like the "God" move that will always win and therefore destroys the game.

  3. jimmy borges:

    LOL...That's a brilliant piece! I love what you and Olivia devised; Jun Ken Po for advanced math majors and/or theater majors.

  4. Tyler:

    Google "RPS 25" -- there's a big chart of 25 possible "Rock, Paper, Scissors" hand signs and what they beat, e.g. dragon, wolf, snake, etc.

  5. lno:

    LOL! Kids now days are very creative in making up their own rules when things are not going their way... Olivia is so cute and smart!

  6. Rosette:

    YES second child...I have two kids so they wont torture me to amuse them with nonesense your brain will shrink to vegetable....cabbage...poke her forehead with cobra strike..I WIN!

  7. Diane Ako:

    Jimmy - Thanks, yes it did require some theatricals to go with the hand gesture!
    Tyler - I love this!
    Ken- So she's in training for politics? 🙂
    Rosette- If only there was a second child to keep her occupied! Then I'm not the constant playmate! LOL!
    Ino- Thanks!!

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