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I originally assumed that it had a more fitting name for a move of this nature in Japanese that just got lost in translation (similar to how Splashs Japanese name is more accurately translated to "Hop", and why Pokemon like Hoppip and Azurill learn it as a result), but that doesn't seem to be the case. So why is it that drumming on your belly equates to halving HP and maximizing Attack? Is it some sort of Japanese cultural reference that would be lost on those not in the loop?

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I always imagined that Belly Drum maxes attack by rallying the user’s spirit. And it halves HP because... well, I guess it’s drumming itself really hard.
Could also have some cultural significance, though.

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I think Belly Drum is based on Taiko, which is a type of a Japanese Drum.

In feudal Japan, taiko were often used to motivate troops, call out orders or announcements, and set a marching pace; marches were usually set to six paces per beat of the drum.

Taiko drums and drumbeats have been a cultural phenomenon that is supposed to rally courage, appease the sprits and so on. They're a fairly common Japanese icon. They were probably used to create fear within opposing enemies and so on.

As for the HP halving, I can only assume KRLW890 is right about the Pokemon literally hitting itself hard enough to cause damage. That, and the devs felt that was a good way of balancing such an otherwise broken move.

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Oh wow, it all makes sense now. Six paces per beat, six stages of attack, rallying troops... Thanks!
actually, it raises attack by 12 stages., as it raises your attack from -6 to +6
Only if you're already at -6 to begin with