Monday, March 30, 2009

Q: How badly do I want this?

A: Very badly.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Theory Fighter: Volume 5: Execution Extravaganza!

A little introduction: Given the amazing success of Street Fighter IV already (it was sold out in Japan on day 1 and is tough to find a launch copy in Canada/USA) and the massive influx of new players, the Street Fighter community is bigger than ever. Even though the game is new, there are already a lot of very good players out there, but for most people, this will be their first Street Fighter in over a decade! To help those people, I welcome you to "Theory Fighter." In each installment I will try to explain some of the concepts that seperate a noob from a pro using practical examples and setups for varying characters. For the most part, these are concepts that can be used in any Street Fighter game, and in some cases, any competitive game period.

Note that this series of articles will very much be geared towards newcomers, so if you're a Street Fighter Veteran the information here may be of limited use. Also note though, that these articles will assume you're at least familiar with the Street Fighter (IV specifically) core mechanics.

Remember, there's a huge difference between a noob and a scrub. A noob knows (s)he's a beginner, but willing to learn. A scrub is convinced he's already good before (s)he's learned anything.

Don't forget to read Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4.


Here's a short list of words I'll be using that you need to be familiar with. You can skip this section if you're confident you understand this terminology.


To do the motion for one move while another move is in progress.  Buffers generally (but not always) lead to a chain.


Theory Fighter: Volume 5: Execution Extravaganza

In our first 4 articles we've been focused a lot on playing the game with your brain. Having good habits and understanding tactics is very important, however it leaves out one crucial factor. Although your brain tells you what you want to do, your hands are actually your only link to your fighter. Without good execution, it won't matter how good your tactics are, because you won't be able to do anything with them.

I should note here that I am not the greatest at executing either. If I had to point out my biggest flaw, I'd probably identify it as execution. However, in my struggle to become more consistent, I have learned a few things about Street Fighter (and SF4 in particular) that I think everyone would benefit from knowing. So here is, in no particular order, some execution tips.

Starting out with Bread and Butters / Chaining vs linking with advanced BnBs

As I stated in
Volume 2, bread and butter combos are your life in Street Fighter. This is especially important for new players because it gives them a way to do consistent (keyword) damage and extend their range. Initially, I would suggest looking for a bread and butter that is EASY. Something very simple like c. MK xx Hadoken with Ken/Ryu or c. MK xx Soul Spiral with Rose. Are you detecting a pattern here? Almost universally (almost), all characters can use this c. MK xx some special move bnb. You can add a jumping attack to it (probably j. HK or j. HP) and, again for many characters, you can usually buffer a super to the end when you get a guaranteed hit.

Eventually, you're going to feel you've progressed to a point where you want a fancier, stronger, better bnb combo. In Street Fighter IV, these often come down to link combos.

When you watch video of Street Fighter, you'll probably see a lot of advanced players use combos like c. LP, c. LK, c. LP xx some special move. These are safer than the average beginner bnb combo because you can confirm the special move (see
Volume 2). They also put the opponent into blockstun for longer and push you to a safe distance which makes them hard to counter attack on block. However, DOING them can seem difficult for a beginner. The LPs and LKs might be easy enough, but sometimes it may seem impossible to chain the special move afterward. Why? This is where you need to understand a key difference between chains (see Volume 2) and links (see Volume 4).

In practically all Street Fighter games, LP and LK are chainable into eachother. So by pressing, say, LP very quickly, you can usually rattle off a simple 3 hit combo before you're too far for the punches to reach anymore. It would seem simple enough to chain a special move AFTER this 3 hit chain to extend it to four hits, right? Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. Street Fighter IV has a strange property that does NOT allow you to chain a special after chained LP or LK. However, you CAN chain a special after LINKED LP and LK. Therefore, to perform these new bnb combos, you must make sure to LINK the LP/LKs and not chain them.

Example # 1

Ryu jumps in on Ken and performs a j.MP followed by rapidly tapping LP, c. LK and then performs a Shoryuken. All the hits connect, but the Shoryuken is strangely absent. This is because he chained the hits before it, instead of linking them.

Now say Ryu jumps in on Ken and performs a j. MP followed by a rhythmic tapping of LP, c. LK.  He chains the last c. LK into a Shoryuken. This time he gets all the hits (albeit much slower) followed immediately by a fireball.

Watch the combo at 3:14 to see a LP, LK link

This will take practice, and many of the 1st and 2nd stage "Hard Trials" in SFIV teach you these combos. The key in this sequence is to realize you are LINKING the j. MP into the first LP, LINKING the LP, c. LK sequence, and then CHAINING the c. LK into a Shoryuken. In this way, the button sequence would sound something like this.

tap, tap, tap, tap-tap.
j.MP, LP, c. LK-Shoryuken

Where commas indicate slower rhythmic timing and dashes represent quick sequential timing. The hadoken motion is quickly input between the last two taps.

Pre-buffering and Juggling Ultras

The term pre-buffering can mean a couple of things depending on who you ask. One definition is using the motion of a special move as a part of a motion of another special move. Another definition is "queuing up" commands so that they activate when the current action is complete. These are both valid definitions and are both extremely useful.

Definition 1 is most useful when you want to chain a special move into a super move. It allows you to repurpose the motion of the special move as inputs for the super.

Example # 1

Say Ryu wants to chain his Hadoken into a Shinkuu Hadoken super. Your first reaction might be to do

down, down-forward, forward + punch 
down, down-forward, forward, down, down-forward, forward + punch

In actuality, the easiest way to do this combo is.

down, down-forward, forward + punch, down, down-forward, forward + punch

Look at that closely. It looks as though we're omitting an entire motion for the super fireball sequence here! However, if you look even closer, you see that's not the case. The two fireball motions necessary for the super fireball are actually in there, but we used one to activate the normal fireball!

Example # 2

Say I wanted to do Balrog's Dash Punch into Super dash punch. This seems impossible since you have to charge BOTH for a full 2 seconds. But, using the technique we outlined above, we can do it easily. The motion would be.

Charge back, forward + punch, back, forward + punch.

In this case, not only are you repurposing the motion of the Dash Punch in the motion of the Super Dash Punch, but you are using the SAME charge to perform both moves.


Definition 2 means to buffer (that is, perform a motion while an action is in progress) a motion so that you don't have to perform it when a move ends. One of the most obvious forms of pre-buffering in SF4 is when using a focus attack. BEFORE the focus attack even lands, you can tap forward twice to dash. Afte the focus attack connects, your character will dash automatically, even though you did the dash input very very early.

Prebuffering is also useful when confirming. When you are performing a bread and butter combo, you can pre-buffer the motion for your special move, but only press punch/kick to actually activate the special move if you see the initial bnb hit. This gives you a safety net in case your opponent blocks your attack. For an example of this, see the Cammy example in
Volume 1.

Prebuffering moves will make your execution life in SF much easier. However, in Street Fighter IV it also presents a problem in one very specific area. Juggling Ultras. You may have noticed elite players performing awesome stunts like juggling Ryu's Ultra fireball from a Shoryuken or Abel juggling his Ultra from a c. HP. However, when you try to do them, you may find that the Ultra doesn't come out or that you end up with a super instead. This is due to prebuffering.

In Street Fighter IV, you CANNOT prebuffer motions for Ultras in any way. This has a lot to do with the fact that Ultras cannot be chained, but even in situations where chaining does not apply, you still cannot pre-buffer Ultra commands. This was the source of much frustration for me until I figured it out.

Example # 1

One of Rufus easiest setups for his Ultra is from a LK xx HK chain combo followed by an Ultra. However, if you try to prebuffer the Ultra command while the HK is still in progress, 99% of the time you will end up with a super (the other 1% of the time you'll end up with nothing). The correct way to do this sequence is to do the LK xx HK chain combo and then wait until the HK is completely finished. Then quickly do the motion for the Ultra.

Example # 2

One of Ryu's easiest setups (one of MANY) for his Ultra is to anti-air an opponent with a LP Shoryuken into Ultra. However, if you start doing the motion for the Ultra at ANY TIME before Ryu's feet hit the ground, you will get an EX fireball. Again, prebuffering is the culprit here. Do not start performing the motion for the Ultra until after Ryu has landed.

Shortcut motions and Input Leniency

Street Fighter 4 allows you to perform some motions inexactly, which can be a help or hindrance depending on what you're trying to do. I haven't found too many, but the ones I know of are:

Shoryuken motion = forward, down, down-forward + punch : Shortcut = down-forward, down-forward + punch.
Tiger Knee motion = down-back, down, down-forward, forward, up-forward + kick : Shortcut = down-back, up-forward + kick.

Feel free to write me back with anymore you find.

Another interesting note is that motions don't have to be precise when doing moves. There is quite a large Input Leniency in Street Fighter 4 which allows the system to interpret technically incorrect inputs as inputs for special moves. This is a general rule for all characters that is especially beneficial to charge characters.

Example # 1

Consider Ken who wants to combo a Shoryuken into a Shoryureppa super. The motion should be:

forward, down, down-forward + punch xx down, down-forward, forward, down, down-forward, forward + punch.

However, as we learned in the previous section, we would want to apply our skill in prebuffering to make this easier on ourselves. But if we examine this, there is no "common place" to put one motion inside the other (because Ken's super is not a double-shoryuken motion). This would seem to indicate we can't use pre-buffering here. However, due to SF4's Input Leniency, the game WILL actualy accept the initial shoryuken as the first input of the Shoryureppa super. So, we can do this:

forward, down, down-forward + punch, down, down-forward, forward + punch.

In other words, all we need to do is a Shoryuken followed immediately by a fireball, and the game considers that the motion for a Shoryureppa super!  This works because the Shoryuken motion is considered "close enough" to a fireball motion by the game engine.

Check out 3:15 to see Prebuffering and Input Leniency at work!

Keeping your charge (with charge characters)

Charge characters are interesting in that they play fundamentally different from "roll-motion" characters. What some beginners don't realize is that you can charge at ANY time during or even before a match. Thus, when using them, you almost ALWAYS want to maintain a down-back charge (since this charges two directions at once). When I say you can charge ANY time I literally mean ANY time.

Immediately after jumping, charge down-back
Aftering being knocked down, charge down-back
During any move, charge down-back
Before a round starts, charge down-back

You would do well to maintain your charge in all these situations. This takes some mental training, but eventually it becomes an automatic reaction.

You can also use Input Leniency (see above) in conjunction with charging to perform some technically impossible feats!

Example # 1

A common setup for Balrog's Ultra is to juggle it from a Buffalo Headbutt.  Technically the Buffalo Headbutt motion is charge down, up + punch while his Ultra motion is charge back, forward, back, forward + 3 punches. These two motions seem to be at odds since one forces you to lose charge for the other.

Or does it?

To correctly perform this sequence, you can perform the Buffallo Headbutt by charging down-back, up-back + punch. By doing this sequence, the game still reads this as a valid down, up + punch motion, but allows you to maintain your backward charge. Then all you need to do is wait for Balrog to land and then perform his Ultra motion. There you have it, a very simple Ultra setup.

Early attacks and "acting vs reacting" in general

Most beginners start out playing reactively. They see something and then block it or counter it. This usually works fine when playing other beginners, but at high level play it's just too slow. Eventually, you've got to start acting on things you figure "will" happen, but haven't happened yet. This is the concept of "early attacks."

Not surprisingly, an early attack is when you initiate an attack to counter something that hasn't happened yet. In a sense, meaties (see
Volume 4) are a form of Early Attack. Early attacks work because by the time your move has gotten to its active frames, your opponent's move will only be in its startup frames.

Example # 1

One of the best ways to win an air-to-air battle is with an early attack. By jumping and immediately attacking, you can win air-to-air battles in which your opponent's move seems like it should win. Consider Sakura's j. MK versus Ryu's j. HK. Normally, Ryu's j. HK would beat Sakura clean. However, if Sakura anticipates Ryu's jump, jumps herself, and immediately performs a j. MK (so that the MK is already out while she is still on her way up), Sakura will knock Ryu out of his attack before the active frames of his j.HK even start. In a way, Sakura has pre-empted Ryu.

Safe Jumping

Jumping in Street Fighter (SF4 especially) is very dangerous. Since you can't block or focus in the air, you are essentially putting yourself in a defenseless position. If you jump predictably, your weakness will be magnified 10x.

In general, try to only jump when your opponent is already commited to a move. Otherwise, jump when out of range. Don't forget to use your straight-up jump to confuse opponents (especially those that like to throw projectiles a lot). If you want to jump straight onto your opponent to initiate an offense, make sure you lock him/her into blockstun first (or make them feel like they are locked in block stun at least). Time some jumps short of your opponent so that they will miss a few anti-airs (therefore putting doubt in their mind about using it). These will all improve your jumping habits.

There is one more technique for jumping, which is called a
Safe Jump. In general, it is a very, VERY bad idea to jump in on a downed opponent, especially those with an anti-air move that has startup invincibility. However, safe jumping allows you to mitigate this risk. A safe jump occurs when you jump in and attack your opponent VERY late in the jump. If your opponent stands or blocks, the late attack will just barely hit them. However, if the opponent goes for wakeup reversal move, you will land in time and block! This works because your active frames are intersecting their startup frames. Even though they are invincible during those startup frames, they are still not HITTING you in those frames. Safe jumping takes very precise timing, but with it, you can very easily bait anti-air moves.

Negative Edge

One tidbit that is not commonly known is that special and super moves in Street Fighter can be activated when a button is pressed OR when a button is released. The latter is called a Negative Edge.

Negative edge is most useful in combos and complex sequences where pressing a button twice would be way too slow. How you apply it and how often you use it is strictly up to you. Personally, find I only Negative Edge about 5% of my moves, and only in combos.

Example # 1

One of Ryu's basic Focus combos is HP Shoryuken, EX Focus Cancel, MP Shoryuken. An EX Focus Cancel lets you cancel the recovery time of certain moves (in this case the HP Shoryuken) by performing an immediate Focus Attack. You can further cancel a Focus Attack with a dash. Thus, this entire sequence looks like:

forward, down, down-forward + HP xx hold MP + MK xx forward, forward xx release MP + MK, forward, down, down-forward + MP.

This is a lot of buttons to press in a short time. However, you can use Negative Edge to make this sequence a bit easier.

forward, down, down-forward + HP xx hold MP + MK xx forward, forward xx forward, down, down-forward + release MP + MK.

You probably have to look pretty hard to spot the difference, but notice we reuse the "release" of MP + MK (the EX Focus Cancel) as the input for Ryu's MP shoryuken. This eliminates one MP button press. It may not seem like much, but in the heat of battle, remembering less is often better. In fact, we can use input leniency AND a shortcut motion (see above) for the Shoryuken to make this even simpler.

down-forward, down-forward + HP xx hold MP + MK xx down-forward, down-forward xx release MP + MK.

In this case we use input leniency to interpret the down-forward, down-forward as a dash (after the EX Focus Cancel) and a shortcut motion to use that same motion for the Shoryuken! Suddenly, by combining these three techniques together, this combo becomes very easy to do!


Option-selecting is a technique employed to perform a motion a certain way so that if it fails, you are still left relatively safe. Although this technique was used a lot in previous Street Fighters, it isn't too prominent in Street Fighter IV. However, there is one very specific (and easy) use that can greatly heighten your game. Teching throws.

A tech throw is the primary counter for a throw. It occurs when you perform a throw very quickly after your opponent performs one, and results in neither of you taking damage. However, if you guess an opponent's throw incorrectly, you often end up with an embarrassing throw whiff animation which can leave you vulnerable long enough to eat a bad counterattack.

To avoid this, you can crouch tech. Rather than pressing LP + LK to tech a throw, get in the habit of pressing down + LP + LK. If you end up missing a tech throw, you will end up with a c. LP. This happens because you cannot throw while crouching, but you CAN tech a throw while crouching. Thus, with this technique, the computer selects the appropriate option (hence the name, Option Select).


Phew, there's an absolute ton of info in there. The key takeaway is that, just like life, you can't play Street Fighter on good intentions alone. All the mind games in the world mean nothing if you lack the tools to act on them. For some, practicing execution is a grueling task, for others it is greatly enjoyable and rewarding. Irregardless, if you want to be good at the game it's something you HAVE to do. My advice is to start in training mode, just to make sure you can do them, but quickly move to arcade mode. The computer isn't the smartest, but it is excellent for training mechanical techniques in real-game scenarios. Once you feel some of these things have become second nature, take your game online or in person and I guarantee you'll see the improvement.

Before I leave you today (for the sunny, hopefully-snow-covered mountains of Whistler, BC), I'd like to point you to an excellent tutorial video I found recently.

It is an excellent beginner's guide to the execution skills you need to perform bread and butters.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Viper IRL

Victoria Beckham?


Monday, March 2, 2009

Theory Fighter: Volume 4: Offense and Defense 102

A little introduction: Given the amazing success of Street Fighter IV already (it was sold out in Japan on day 1 and is tough to find a launch copy in Canada/USA) and the massive influx of new players, the Street Fighter community is bigger than ever. Even though the game is new, there are already a lot of very good players out there, but for most people, this will be their first Street Fighter in over a decade! To help those people, I welcome you to "Theory Fighter." In each installment I will try to explain some of the concepts that seperate a noob from a pro using practical examples and setups for varying characters. For the most part, these are concepts that can be used in any Street Fighter game, and in some cases, any competitive game period.

Note that this series of articles will very much be geared towards newcomers, so if you're a Street Fighter Veteran the information here may be of limited use. Also note though, that these articles will assume you're at least familiar with the Street Fighter (IV specifically) core mechanics.

Remember, there's a huge difference between a noob and a scrub. A noob knows (s)he's a beginner, but willing to learn. A scrub is convinced he's already good before (s)he's learned anything.

Don't forget to read Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3.

Here's a short list of words I'll be using that you need to be familiar with. You can skip this section if you're confident you understand this terminology.

Block String

A series of moves that, when blocked, are difficult to counterattack either during or even after the string is over.

Block Stun/Hit Stun

The state your character enters when they are in the process of blocking or being hit. Functionally, both these states are the same, although hit stun often lasts longer than blockstun. You cannot attack or be thrown while in block/hit stun. To launch a counter attack after a block (or even a hit), you must wait for block/hit stun to be OVER.


A flinch occurs after a one character has blocked a series of moves from another character and goes for a counterattack after (s)he leaves block stun.

Frame Advantage

A state in which your attack leaves you in a neutral stance (i.e. ready to attack again) before your opponent recovers from block/hit stun. For example, if Ryu attacks an opponent with his c. MP, he can recover fast enough to combo into his c. MK before the opponent's hit stun ends. Frame Advantage is crucial for doing Link Combos

Link Combos

A combo in which you let one move recover before you perform the next move in the combo. Link combos are often associated with very tight timing, sometimes affording you as little as 1 frame of advantage to input your move properly. You can practice Link combos in Street Fighter IV's Challenge mode, in the 5th level of the Normal Trial section.


This is the shorthand notation for one move chaining into another one. For example, Ryu's bnb c. MK to Hadoken can be written c. MK xx Hadoken. For the definition of a chain, see Volume 2.


Theory Fighter: Volume 4: Offense and Defense 102

Before anyone asks, yes, I was supposed to do a dedicated section on defense in this volume. But as I thought about the subject, I realized I had a very difficult time breaking up offensive and defensive scenarios. I realized that this is because of Yomi. Just because the situation seems to be in one person's control doesn't necessarily mean it is so. That's when I realized I had my next topic.

A lot of new players lose a lot because they don't understand the objective of Street Fighter. It's to win, right? It's to knock out my opponent, right? Yes and no. While knocking out your opponent is certainly an objective, it isn't your main objective during a match. This is the kind of thinking that makes a player use his Super in a round that is all but over instead of stocking his meter for the next round. This is the kind of thinking that pushes the player with the big lead into a dumb mistake instead of waiting out the clock.

So what is Street Fighter then? At high level, Street Fighter is about managing two things: Space and time. Space is the more obvious component here, but what do we mean when we say "time?" Time extends passed the simple round time. In this article we will refer to it as the time in which your opponent can act on your vulnerability. If you can maintain control of these two factors, then a match greatly swings in your favor.

Controlling space and time

Much like the ancient martial arts that have been practiced for centuries, there are a number of common attack patterns you'll see in Street Fighter. In general, all these patterns can be boiled down to two primary types of offense: rushdown and turtle. A lot of new players like to characterize themselves immediately as one of these styles. However, if you ask them why, they'll respond with something like "I attack a lot" or "I stay back and block a lot." This isn't really what these offenses are. An attack style is characterized by the way you control space. Each of these styles is unique in the way they lock down opponents, and limit their options. In terms of space and time, the optimal way to play BOTH strategies is to limit your opponent to a very small play space, and give him/her only a short window of time to decide the next move.


A rushdown offense works by locking your opponent in a box, which you then attack from the outside. This removes the majority of the play field from his/her control. Everytime your opponent tries to break out of the box, you counter and put them back into it. This last part is very important. Rushdown is less about eliminating all your opponent's options (because in a truly balanced game, this is impossible), but rather it is about pressing your opponent into panic, and then opening up an option you've already determined for them. In the split second they have to make a decision about what to do, they take the bait and you punish. The illusion of choice is the key here, because it demoralizes your opponent and puts them in a state where they start to second guess themselves. Once this happens, even more options open up for you.

Example # 1

Say we consider Ryu bearing down on Ken. Ryu attacks using a series of moves that Ken blocks successfully (this is known as a block string, we will look at this in a few moments). In the slight pause that Ryu looks like he's out of options, Ken launches into a counterattack which Ryu punishes with a seemingly psychic Shoryuken! Of course in this scenario, Ryu is not a mind reader. He actively opened that window for counterattack which he then exploited. In essence, the entire sequence was under Ryu's control from the start.

Rushdown typically works by locking your opponent into a state we call block stun. Block stun occurs, unsurprisingly, when you block an attack. The time from you blocking to the time you return to a neutral state (when you can perform a move) is called block stun. It's important to note you cannot do ANYTHING while in block stun. Block stun essentially paralyzes you. This has an interesting psychological effect on players, because if you can put them into block stun often, in a relatively short amount of time, you create the illusion that they are losing control of the fight. Then, when you open up an opportunity when they are no longer in block stun, you can bet they'll attempt a counter attack, for no other reason than they won't know when they'll get another chance.

Example # 2

Consider Rufus keeping a constant pressure on his opponent with dive kicks and LK xx Galactic Tornado bnb combos. Say at one point he dive kicks in with a LK xx HK chain combo (which can be further linked to his Ultra) that the opponent blocks. A panicked opponent may see this as his/her one chance for a counter attack. However, if Rufus delays for just a half second, and then performs his Ultra, he will most likely catch them on a flinch. Again, this gives the illusion of a psychic attack, but in reality Rufus' rushdown has manipulated this entire situation by leaving an obvious avenue for counterattack.

This is a trick/shenanigan you say? You're absolutely right. But think about it this way. If you do this enough times, will your opponent punish you the next time they block your LK xx HK chain? Probably not. If they stop punishing this chain, then you can now suddenly fish with it safely to setup your Ultra in the future. If they start punishing it again, you can use this trick again! Of course at this point, we get back into another Yomi discussion.

So, how do we keep players in block stun? We use something called a block string.

Block Strings

A block string is exactly what it sounds like, a series of moves that your opponent blocks. What use is that, you may wonder. In fact, having good solid block strings is crucial to playing a good game for most characters. Block strings allow you to have failed offenses, yet return to a safe distance where your opponent cannot attack you effectively. Block strings also allow you to fish more safely for your bnb combo. If even one part of the block string hits, you can chain that hit into further hits. Most importantly, block strings allow you to create the illusion of opportunity for your opponent, which you can then capitalize on.

What goes into a good block string? A "true" block string is a link combo that gets blocked. Link combos, by their definition, leave no true "space" for your opponent to counterattack, yet because they're so slow, they often create that illusion. False block strings are just as important. These are moves which you either can't link together, or purposely don't link together (say by slightly delaying your next move). False block strings create the illusion of opportunity that you want your opponent to act on. Of course it should go without saying that you want to always end a false block string with a quick recovering move, or a move that gives you Frame Advantage (otherwise you really ARE leaving yourself open!).

Mixing true block strings with the occasional false block string confuses your opponent, making them think there are windows where there aren't, or handcuffing him in situations where you are truly vulnerable.

Example # 1

In this video, Ryu makes almost abusive use of his block strings to keep his opponents anchored down in block stun. His opponents have so few opportunities to counterattack, and even when they do they are relatively small panic attacks just to get Ryu off them. Some of the strings, such as c. MP, c. MP at 1:26, and then forward + HP, c. LP only a second later, are true block strings. Dhalsim has no chance to retaliate. When Dhalsim finally does land a MK after that, Ryu is already starting his Focus Attack which he uses to finish Dhalsim off. This highlights the strength of block strings in a rushdown offense. They give you time to plan for your opponent's next move, while simultaneously pushing them into a panic state.

You can also look at the sequence at 2:03. Ryu performs a true block string, Focus Attack dash into c. LP, c. HP, EX Hadoken, c. MK, EX Hadoken. There is a miniscule delay after the final EX Hadoken in that sequence, creating the illusion of opportunity, at which point Ryu shuts it down with another EX Hadoken. By keeping the opponent locked down in block stun, Ryu is able to control the match by opening pockets where he deems fit.


A lot of beginners like to fancy themselves as rushdown players. It's flashy and impressive, no doubt, but control is the key between a true rushdown player and a player who's just mashing buttons.


Contrary to popular belief, Turtle style is not the opposite of Rushdown style. If you think about it, this makes sense. Why would you actively put yourself in a corner and only attack opponents who came near you? It's reactionary and, in principle, that's just silly. The true aim of turtle style is to control as much of the playfield in front of you for as long as you can before your opponent reaches you. When (s)he does reach you, you can either change styles or run away and continue.

Example # 1

Some characters are better equipped to play Turtle style than others. Akuma is the ultimate turtle character in Street Fighter IV (although Sagat certainly gives him a run for his money). His air Hadoken covers a huge diagonal portion of the screen, his horizontal Hadoken covers the entire horizontal field (not to mention his Red Hadoken eats other normal fireballs), and his Shoryuken covers a vertical right in front of him. Add to this a teleport (for quickly getting back to turtle distance) and you have a character built for controlling a huge amount of the playfield without putting himself in almost any risk.

Turtle style is about making as much work as possible for your opponent. You want to test his/her dexterity and execution. The very best turtle players hover just inside their maximum range of attack, while keeping their opponent just outside theirs (also known as zoning). Even in a mirror match this is possible by walking/dashing in and out of optimal range (which is a phenomenon many players call "dancing on the sweet spot). From here you can poke at your opponent's defenses, searching for weakness.


You should always be looking for your opponent's weaknesses and actively testing his/her defenses. One way to do this is by poking at them with safe attacks. There isn't much else to say about this really, save for one. Make sure when you poke your opponent at the maximum possible range of your poking move. Naturally this requires a certain comfort with your character's move set. Returning to the above video, notice that Akuma often keeps Ryu at midrange rather than across the screen. Why? Because this is the maximum range of his air Hadoken and his c. MK, his two most effective pokes. Notice with his c. MK especially that Akuma almost always connects it so that only the very tip of his foot hits the enemy. This way, even if it is blocked, your opponent almost has no option quick enough to retaliate.

Example # 1

Consider Guile, who's basic gameplay is arguably designed around a zone. Guile has the unique ability to follow his projectiles instantly (other fireball wielding characters have recovery). He also has a good long range poke in the form of his c. MK, and a useful overhead that has only slightly less range. Due to his instant recovery Sonic Boom, Guile's effective range is anywhere he can follow up his Sonic Boom! His entire game is built around throwing a Sonic Boom to lock down his opponent and then following up with a standing HK (to initiate a hit or block string), c. MK (to hit low) or walk forward and do a forward + MP overhead (to hit high). If the opponent tries to counter, (s)he'll be hit by the Sonic Boom. If (s)he blocks, Guile scores a free block or hit depending on how they block, which gives him time to charge another Sonic Boom. If the opponent jumps, Guile can use MK at range or c. HP up close. If they block the entire sequence and wait to counterattack, Guile can retreat with his b + MK command move and start the sequence with a Sonic Boom again. Thus, Guile has locked his opponent into a zone far outside his opponent's effective range and can control the match from this position. Like the rushdown offense, he can leave a purposeful space anywhere in this sequence, and then counter with a high priority Flash Kick, or he can break the sequence and go for a throw.

Check out this video of Dagger_G playing and see if you can pick out the different instances he zones his opponent.

Even when playing Turtle style, you are still forcing your opponent to make quick decisions about situations that you actually control.

Zoning on wakeup

Being knocked down is a very disadvantaged situation for the downed player, yet too many offensive players allow this opportunity to pass them by. There are many ways to put pressure on a downed opponent, but here we will only focus on one. Meaty pokes.

Meaty Pokes

Meaties refers to a general situation when a player throws out an early attack on a downed opponent so that only the tail end of the active frames intersect the opponent as they rise up. Meaties enable you to "stuff" your opponent's counterattacks, because you will be hitting them with your active frames while they are in their startup frames. There are only two ways to defend against a meaty attack. One is to block, but this puts you at further risk as your opponent is sure to go into a block string. The other is to perform a reversal move with invincible startup (such as a Shoryuken).

As the name suggests, a meaty poke is when you poke an opponent as they wakeup from a knockdown. You still want to be very cautious about your range, but when done correctly, meaty pokes can score you free damage on opponents who think they can counterattack you. Even if they don't go for a counter move, a meaty poke leaves you relatively safe and, once again, puts them into block stun.

However, a meaty poke can be defeated with a high-priority wakeup move (such as a Shoryuken). As such, you don't want to be throwing them out too predictably. However, you CAN use meaty pokes to bait an opponent. At high level play, simply standing over their body will no longer be enough to bait a Shoryuken (as we did in Volume 3). Instead, you'll need to give them something to bite on. An extremely early attack on a waking opponent, one that looks like it will be a meaty, is the perfect way to get them to commit. Mix up real meaties with bait meaties and soon your opponents won't know what to do.

As an extension to this, one of the absolute safest ways to put pressure on a downed opponent is with a meaty fireball. This is a basic, barebones tactic that seems obvious, yet goes unused by many players. As an opponent rises from a fall, throw a fireball (preferably a slow one) so that they stand up into it. More often than not, you can follow up with a second fireball (a fast one) that is all but guaranteed to hit (or at least be blocked). This is a simple sequence that keeps opponents locked in block stun (or at the very worst, performing a Focus Attack), giving you the initiative.

Again, this is all about forcing your opponent to make split second decisions about situations you have control over.


An important takeaway from this article is that styles are not mutually exclusive. The great Fei, I mean Bruce Lee, once said that the greatest form is to be formless. Even the most offensive rushdown players zone and poke, and even the most defensive players need to initiate some kind of offense (otherwise how would they win?). To play a complete game you should understand the situations when you need to use both these forms.

More importantly than that though, remember that your style/form is not an indication of the speed that you play or the rate at which you attack, those aren't important. Whether it takes you 100 Sonic Booms or 2 Ultra combos, the only thing that matters is that you walk away with a win. The important thing is to remember that these styles are a generalization about how you control a match's two most important resources. Space and time. You want to command as much of the play space as you can, while forcing the opponent into options that you've carefully laid out for them. It's like cornering a hog. You surround him and leave him with only one avenue of escape, right into a waiting net.

Then you have bacon.

Next time: An execution extravaganza!