Monday, April 2, 2018

Crossups vs Shield

Crossups vs Shield


Shield Pressure
Why Crossup?
Vs Shieldgrabs
- Delayed Aerials
- Vertical Aerials
Tangential ideas
- Pokes
- Grounded Crossups
- Empty Land Grab

Shield Pressure
By shielding, your opponent severely limits their pool of options. Effective shield pressure exploits this limitation. Shield pressure is fun and interesting because out of shield options are manageable in number and relatively balanced, so the mixups involved are varied and can contain a lot of depth. Within this rough design, crossups can fill a valuable role. However, if misused or misunderstood they can also give your opponent a free punish or out. This article aims to clearly articulate their use and design.

Because different characters have different drifts, fall speeds, and options, crossups will work a little differently per character and even per MU. In the interest of brevity I won’t go into many exceptional specifics. Rather than the universal rules, consider the content of this article as the context.

Why Crossup?
There are two primary reasons to consider a crossup.
First, characters can’t shieldgrab behind them. Even though they can still shine/upB/bair/etc, the absence of high-reward grabs renders shield pressure more effective.
Second, crossups can be used to re-establish footing closer to center stage. Even if you’re hit away immediately after, it’s generally better to be hit toward center than off stage.

Vs Shieldgrab
The process of crossing up after an aerial without getting grabbed can be tricky, but the basic idea is: All aerial crossups are grabbable if they take 7 or more frames to pass behind someone after shieldstun. That sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. Shields are pretty wide and that distance takes time to cross. In order to spend less than 7 frames within grab range, you usually need to reduce that distance by bumping shieldstun back and/or attacking more vertically. Let’s look at each in turn.

1) Delayed Aerials
Let’s say that it takes 20f for your character to cross up a shield and your nair has 10f of shieldstun (I’m making these numbers up fyi). If you do the nair early then that still leaves 10f after shieldstun, which is 3 more than it takes to get grabbed. You’re gonna get grabbed basically every time. But if you delay your nair until after you’ve already started to cross up then you can nair when there are 16 or fewer frames of travel time left and your crossup is guaranteed to be safe (from grab). Pretty simple, but often contrary to your muscle memory. This technique is vulnerable to preemptive grabs/attacks, which are rare in this scenario so used semi-sparingly it’s very very strong.

2) Vertical Aerials
Let’s say that you attack a shield vertically from above. If you hit closer to the top of the shield, the drift needed to pass to the back of it is minimal. In this case avoiding the shieldgrab is easy peasy and the difficulty comes from keeping the drift slight/ambiguous enough that it isn’t telegraphed, i.e. if they see the crossup coming then they can just WD/roll/etc and you pull no profit.

It should be noted here that the big caveat to both of these ideas is Shine OoS. Shine is fast enough that usually a spacie player will opt out of any ambiguity and just shine anything that touches them. You’ll have to look at this on a per MU perspective to see how that influences things.

To emphasize: early, horizontal aerial crossups are almost never safe. Because they’re a free grab or bair on recognition they aren’t a mixup so much as a pretty darn low knowledge test. It’s a very common bad habit, particular on floaty mains.

Tangential Ideas:

Because of their posture, many characters’ hurtboxes are most vulnerable to pokes at the top of the head or the back heel. On a per MU basis you can err your timing toward a poke during your crossup or at the very least you’ll have easier access after.

Grounded Crossups
If you are running at an opponent and they shield in expectation of an attack, you can instead run through them at which point you are threatening their back rather than their front. You can then punish them directly (by grabbing/attacking their back) or indirectly (by looking to punish their following option on reaction). Grounded crossups work because the opponent doesn’t have the time to react to your staying empty before you pass through them. As such, characters with high horizontal speed can do this well but it is not viable to attempt with slower characters. Should the opponent react to or guess your intention, they can grab or attack into it preemptively.

Empty Land Grabs

Empty land grabs work very similarly to grounded crossups. A well-executed empty land grab is done quickly enough that the opponent can’t react to your having landed empty in time to avoid the grab. In order for this tactic to be consistent, your opponent has to be watching for low aerials on shield. Otherwise they will recognize any emptiness as an empty land and FH away. If your aerials are habitually high then your empty land grab attempts are not a true unreactable mixup.
Note: it doesn’t matter if you empty land in front or behind the shield. In fact, landing behind the shield might make it slower. Usually grabbing from behind is a psychological idea rather than a tactical one.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

analysis batch

I've been doing more match analysis on flowfeedback, lots of different MUs featured.

Reminder too that I do analysis/coaching, and that the pricing/format is flexible to meet your personal needs. Just shoot me an email noting what you're looking to learn and we'll go from there.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Watching Puff Matches

Watching Puff Matches
Some foundational things that you can think/talk about watching puff:

1) Hbox is far and away the best Puff. Why is this?

The real, practical reason is that hbox’s high-level experience is insane. He’s been at the tippy top of the game getting more and more top-level experience at every opportunity for a decade. The tournament grind is first nature to him and he’s turned into an incredible competitor. Neither can be understated. No other puff is in the same dimension or will be for a long time. Every puff that has come close to top level with the exception of Mango (who obviously switched chars) has had to take breaks/steps back in order to pursue irl goals to the extent that the majority are at least semi-retired (including King, Abu, Soft, Tekk, Darc and 4%). As such, it’s not surprising for hungrybox to continue on and for other puffs to stagnate as that experience gap widens rather than closes.

Second, the player pool of puffs is small. This is likely due to a combination of how weird/subtle puff is compared to other characters, and frankly how mean individuals can be to new puff players. It takes some resilience to continue to play at all let alone play puff in what is not universally but can locally be an unfriendly environment. If less people play puff than falco then of course there are less high level puffs than falcos.

Thirdly, the fox matchup has a super high learning curve and is very trying. There have been tournaments in which I’ve lost to the first two foxes I’ve run into. As such, it’s to be expected for puffs to fall out of bracket earlier if they have consistency problems against the most popular character. I firmly believe, and our experience shows, that it’s not a terrible MU for puff, but it is an intense hurdle. More on this later.

Lastly, this year we have the super new faces in Legend and 2Saint rounding out top 100, but the experience/opportunity gap is even wider for new puffs. That gap is their primary barrier. It can be overcome, but it would take an extreme learning-trajectory. Enter: a barrier. Hbox has ALWAYS actively refused to spread his game-knowledge, so it’s fair to say that jigglypuff players have traditionally had absolutely pitiful learning resources. It’s been my goal to remedy this, and thankfully due to the move from smashboards to chats, the advent of 20xx/netplay, my blog/organization, and what other privileges that we broadly enjoy in 2018, hbox’s self-interest is no longer a meaningful barrier to the spread of high-level information. However, it was for long enough to make a big difference, and ultimately in order to close that incredible experience gap, new school puffs will have to make much smarter use of the new tools than the old-school players have or will.

2) What makes Puff unique? What makes her standard?


All characters are unique in some way, largely determined by their individual mobility. Many characters use their dash dance to space and play footsies horizontally. Other characters (think sheik/fox) use their FH to weave around an opponent vertically. Puff is interesting because she doesn’t exactly have either. Instead she has a weird hybrid between horizontal/vertical. Think about that for a second. Her mobility isn’t good enough to actually dash dance in the air, but it’s exactly good enough to space precisely around things (with prediction/reaction) horizontally in the air while slowly floating up or down. It’s a little weird to say, but puff’s neutral is like sheik’s FH turned sideways. Now, when you combine this with the multiple jumps, you get slow but extremely dynamic movement. It’s very interesting.

Puff has a few additional qualities that combine with her mobility in an interesting way.
First, she’s light. That makes her difficult to combo but easy to pop. Every character’s goal is to pop the balloon. Second, her ground speed is garbage. That paints a target on every single land she does. That being said, she can protect her landing spot with her amazing aerials or even with her deceptive crouch. And she has to do this in an unpredictable way or she gets popped. Third, she has multiple jumps. That means that she can go off stage with low risk. Yeah, that gives her extra edgeguarding tools, but more importantly having multiple jumps changes the dynamics of the corner. Because she can’t be bullied off the stage, the advantage of having stage control vs puff is not to edgeguard her, but to remove her capacity to land safely. Often times people feel like a defensive puff is giving them an obstacle course, that they have to dodge a bunch of safe bairs to get to the balloon. While that can be true it’s only half of the truth. Every time puff commits to a zoning aerial she has to fade away to keep it safe. And every time she fades away she gives up that much more landing space. If you punish her safe aerials indirectly, by pushing her into the corner or up in to the sky with an exposed belly, you’re actively narrowing down her landing range, and that much closer to sticking a nail in the balloon. And of course, if she moves forward instead of backwards then that drift is punishable (primarily OoS or vertically). Perceiving this task is of course the first step to completing it.

So what you end up with is a character that’s exceptionally flexible/slippery but that lives on a timer. A lot of the time her opponent can attack her indirectly by attacking her timer. Then… POP! That’s really interesting, especially in such an “accidentally good” game.


Puff epitomizes risk reward. As a general principle, higher reward plays in melee generally need a higher risk launcher or read to get started. In rest, we see this in the extreme. Rest brings a new level of dynamism by introducing the ultimate reward attached to the ultimate risk. In context, puff’s punish game gets rounded out with nasty deterrents ("Grab this crouch, I dare you.") as well as incredible rewards to risky reads, all attached to explicitly high stakes. This creates a palpable tension that would not otherwise be there and an incentive for both players to stay one step ahead. Yeah that’s hella stressful but it’s also hella cool.

Besides rest puff’s punish game is very standard. She has combos that require reactions to DI/techs, some that require reads on double jumps, etc. She can optimize her combos with move choice (pay attention in particular to when she uses upair and soft fair) and edgecancels. It can be lackluster, but it should be mentioned that even in those cases she can effectively apply the same incremental method used to punish her own jumps to steal stage away and anticipate a harder punish in the following exchange. This isn’t unusual in melee.

Puff’s punish game combines with her aerial-based neutral to create an extremely dynamic character with a wide range of potential. Just like fox, falco, or any other character she can play hot or she can play cold. She has rock, paper, and scissors.* As a result of all of this, Jigglypuff emphasizes adaptation. In this game, controlling the pace of the game, recognizing patterns, and seizing opportunities is essential to winning. I think it’s gratifying to see this principle play out so explicitly with this character.

* A while ago S0ft said “if you’re playing rock paper scissors, always attacking with scissors isn’t cool or aggressive, it’s stupid.” You have to use rock and paper to make scissors effective. I think that spectators forget that.

3) Some Puff vs Fox notes

• Watch how she (protects her) lands and how fox responds. This is foundational.
• Is fox lasering? If so, what is the reason? Is he doing it for damage or for incentive to move?
• Watch how fox uses his FHs. Is he trying to escape or is he trying to threaten her vertically? (This is also an opportunity for puff to read the FH and upair it. Generally, FH upairs are reads.)
• Look at how she uses the side platform as if it was a FH. She can now descend unpredictably!
• Is puff drifting forward during her ascents? Her descents? Both? Why is this?
• When puff stays farther away than 1/3rd BF she’s trying to react. When she goes inside this range she’s trying to predict. Watch how both players dance around this invisible line.
• Look at what she does differently when fox is under 40 vs over 40 (bair knockdown %).
• Look at what both characters do as she approaches her % landmarks. (50s=upthrow upair, 70s=jab upsmash, 90s=upthrow upair goes away)
• If Fox CCs bair then he is +9 minimum. That’s a free grab. But it’s harder for him to react to an empty land.
• Part of what makes this MU difficult for puff, particularly for non-hbox, is that fox’s horizontal speed is just barely manageable. Think about it this way; because grounded puff sucks she wants to jump or WD out of fox’s way to avoid an attack. That means she has to go through jumpsquat. That means she has to press jump 6 frames earlier than you even begin moving. Switching a drift direction takes a similar amount of time. In order to properly react to Fox’s movement, you have to be playing on point. If you aren’t focused enough to interpret and react on time then the MU gets so hard so fast. It’s a fine line that depends on good preparation, good execution, and above all a good mentality. That’s illuminating, no? As a direct result of the reaction speed required to maintain good positions, a good mentality is a prerequisite to playing this MU well. It’s not just maintaining your will to win, it’s maintaining a very high baseline task-focus required to get certain openings in neutral. That’s pretty cool!

related posts:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Two Ways to Look at Stress in Competition

Two Ways to Look at Stress in Competition

Competition is naturally stressful, even for veterans. In fact, the difference between beginners and champions isn’t the amount of stress you experience, but how you deal with or use that stress. To help illustrate this we’ll examine two complimentary ways to think about stress levels in competition.

1. Arousal
The first is arousal. In this context, you can think of arousal as how worked up you are on a scale from tired to having a nervous breakdown. With a higher level of stress/anxiety/excitement/etc, your body and brain will undergo a number of changes to prime an appropriate response. The simplest illustration is the more extreme hyperarousal commonly called fight or flight. In response to an extreme challenge, you get a rush of hormones and neurotransmitters, notably cortisol and adrenaline. Among other effects, you experience tunnel vision, increased blood flow, increased metabolism and muscle tension, especially in the limbs. You are thus prepared to make a more explosive action, be it fight or flight. We experience lower intensity forms of arousal by and large every day and the physiological responses have practical utility as well as their evolutionary benefit.

Everyone has an optimal arousal level at which they perform best, i.e. peak. That zone can vary widely across activities. Humans are better at difficult tasks under higher stress, but better at easier tasks under less stress. Additionally, more physical activities generally require a higher arousal for peak performance and somewhat lower arousal for activities that require better reaction speed and concentration. Naturally this means that the sweetspot for different sports are as different as the sports themselves. The physical+mental components of sprinting is radically different from soccer is radically different from esport. On the whole, peak performance in esport is closer to moderate than to high.

That being said, the optimal arousal level also varies among individuals. This is in part due to the COMT (worrier/warrior) gene. You can think of it as if your brain is accumulating all these chemicals as a resource. People can burn through those resources quickly or slowly. Slow burners can easily get overwhelmed at a higher arousal level, while fast burners can underperform without arousal. It is worth noting here that this gene does NOT determine results. Slow burners can train their response to stress to an equal level of competence. Fast burners can train their discipline to keep up training/results in non-arousal to an equal level of competence. But it is good to know how you respond to situations so that you can respond better. Depending on the person and depending on the match, peak performance might be a matter of amping yourself up or it might be a matter of calming yourself down.

2. Fight or Flight
The second way to look at stress doubles back on fight or flight. After the initial chemical rush, hyperarousal has a cognitive component that manifests in one of two directions. You fight back or you flee. Consider for a moment how similar this binary is to the familiar dichotomy of “playing to win” vs “playing not to lose.” It’s the same process. As competitors we intuitively understand that we play much much better when we’re playing to win. The science backs us up. Would you rather take a penalty kick when the score is 2-3 and missing makes your team lose or a kick when the score is 2-2 and scoring makes your team win? You prefer the win. Everyone prefers the win. But even though the kick itself is identical, the relative success rate is 92% to 62%. That’s how big an impact this cognitive binary has.

So how do we benefit from this knowledge? The key is in our initial response to stress. Remember, hyperarousal technically precedes fight/flight. First comes the rush, then comes the binary. Studies have demonstrated that we can consciously influence that choice by choosing to interpret a challenge as an opportunity rather than as a threat. It can be as simple as taking a breath and thinking “I’m excited to be here and have this chance to perform.” Remember, excitement and anxiety are initially chemically identical! The difference is mental, and that makes it controllable.

This brings us to a truism of sorts. LEANING IN TO DIFFICULTY

If I could single out one thing from all my reading and experience with sports psychology, from MAC to Tao of Jeet Kune Do, it’d be what Josh Waitzkin calls leaning in to difficulty. In essence and in practice, sports is a sort of sandbox in which we can test our personal boundaries and learn about learning with few real consequences. You will lose fights, but you won’t die. In esport you won’t even get hurt. You can only learn. Sport is a very powerful setting in which it is explicitly clear that difficulty is the realest learning there is. In this way, personal growth is a direct result of overcoming any personal or psychological fear of difficulty and instead embracing it. We only come into being our best when we commit to the strain that equates to growth, be that sitting down on the big stage excited to play a better player or even sitting down to practice instead of goofing off. The habit, built up on the small things and culminating in the big, is transformative in itself.

- - -
For more on the topic and related stuff, I highly recommend Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing. It’s a very fun and very interesting read. If you’d prefer a summary my notes are here.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

ToJKD Notes

ToJKD Notes

Notes on Bruce Lee's Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Some quotations, much paraphrasing, some running with my thoughts. Fun read because it has nice harmonics with texts on both sports psychology and mysticism that I’ve been reading.

This book opens with a grounding of his training experience in a philosophical paradigm. He means to articulate the spiritual (take the word with a grain of salt, he’s a professed atheist) practice that informs his martial practice, just as his martial practice informs his spiritual practice. As such, the content isn’t immediately useful. A bit like waitzkin (who is also deeply rooted in Tao, so you could say exactly like waitzkin, lol), you can’t just know it, you have to live it. It bears fruit exactly proportional to its cultivation. As such, the bulk is not a worthwhile read for someone that wants “7 effective habits for a good performer.” Stick with The Mental Game of Poker for that.

After discussing zen, the book proceeds to describe JKD training, essentials, tactics, etc. Some of that is of no use outside of martial arts and some is. I parsed what I thought key/interesting.  

- - -

Jeet Kune Do = The Way of the Intercepting Fist
with the mottos “Using no way as the way” and “Using no limitation as limitation."
A free style has no limits. No limitations breeds a free style. Nothing is freedom.


void and acceptance. Like Simone Weil. A living void that does not exclude or oppose exp is a loving void. In this way negative is positive.
To see a thing as it is, without heeding desire, is to see it as it is.

Thoughts move. They move from the past through the present into the future, unbroken. This continuum by non-attachment is an original nature.

Six diseases
1 desire for victory
2 desire to resort to technical cunning
3 desire to display what has been learned
4 desire to awe others
5 desire to passivity
6 desire to rid disease
Desire is attachment. To desire not to desire is attachment too. But paradoxes are only absurd in the imagination. "All goals apart from the means are illusions.”

“we acquire a sense of worth either by realizing our talents, or by keeping busy or by identifying ourselves with something apart from us— be it a cause, a leaser, a group, possessions, or whatnot."
We have an impulse to avoid responsibility or to justify our own actions in relation to the good of others (or the will of god/good/etc). Schema.
This extends to the choices that we attempt to refuse by imitating others or imitating teaching/tradition. Schema.
These are unreal barriers between ourselves, action, and ourselves.
Better to accept impotence than allow falsity to take root. temet nosce
But the route through impotence is action, which is itself because it is always in motion and it is distinctly not imagined.

Eight-Fold Path
elimination of suffering by elimination of fallacy
1 understand what is wrong, right view
2 aspire to correct, right purpose
3 speak as you aspire, right speech
4 you must take action, right conduct
5 livelihood does not conflict with therapy, right vocation
6 therapy is sustained at critical velocity, right effort
7 seeps into all mental corners, right awareness
8 with the deeper mind, right meditation/concentration
“not by seeking knowledge, but by discovering the cause of ignorance"

Explicitly platonic model. Behind the limitations of perceptible/imaginary lies the thing in itself. Recognition and expression through no(pre-conceived)thing is the (re)cognition of truth. In this expression, essence is allowed to manifest.

"intellectual proficiency does not cover the whole ground” What we think consciously is such a small part of consciousness. What we know declaratively, while obviously important, is still just a part.


"The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action.”
There’s a difference between self-consciousness and cognitive fusion and the mindful/flow awareness of everything. I think it's mostly solved by MAC vocabulary. The problem isn't self-consciousness, it's self-orientation at the cost of task-orientation. You can be in flow and still experience thoughts about yourself etc, the difference is that in flow they aren't orienting, the task is.
The localization of the mind freezes process. The mind is a tool for action, moving, assessing, working. The process is the art.
Absorption is distinct from attention. Attention is not exclusive, it expands instead of containing. 
“Seeing everything that is happening and yet not at all anxious about its outcome with nothing purposefully designed, nothing consciously calculated, no anticipation, no expectation.”

“It’s not, ‘I am doing this,” but rather, an inner realization that ‘this is happening through me,’ or ‘ it is doing this for me.” It’s a matter of acting, not being an actor. Action as a vehicle. The self as a vehicle for action. Again, the partial dissolution of the subject object via reversing the relationship. 

“To be of no-mind means to assume the everyday mind."

He says in buddhism there is no place for effort. Eat, shit, sleep when tired. That is, special effort isn’t ordinary behavior. It is staged. 
To give up thinking as if not giving up, to observe as if not observing. That is, take action without staging actions.
The oneness of all life: that there is no compartmentalization. The self is the self is the self. The actions of the self now define the whole self. “Leave sagehood behind and enter into ordinary humanity.”
Masters of an art must first master living, because the living soul generates the art. In this way, the art cannot be perfected because it is merely a reflection of the living, which cannot be perfected--only experienced. Outside of imagination (in living) there is no ideal.
And for us the temptation to complacency is ever at the doorstep, dressed as security. Death is at the door, life in the moment. In martial arts, you let an opponent break your bones so that you might take his life. Is my spiritual today so different?
Active choices always that we may or may not recognize but always make.
There is a distinction between the death result and the death moment. And so life and death can be looked at indifferently. This is easier to comprehend out of the imaginary. Consider flow. Flow might exp emotions, but these do not disturb/distort (like god’s anger is not disturbed, it is still and infinite, consequence). That kind of thinking, free of bias and gravity (disturbance), is characteristic of zen because it is identifiable with clarity/lucidity. It might be cultivated, just as flow might be cultivated, into ordinary living.

fallacy must fall away
imagination must fall away
vagueness must fall away

Practicing Martial Art

"The height of cultivation runs to simplicity. Half-way cultivation runs to ornamentation.” Full cultivation permeates and transforms, half cultivation adorns with certain additional habits. Similarly, it is easy to break bad habits, but difficult to change how you see/think/are/operate thus act.
A top competitor performs at top speed all the time. Thus he cultivates his upper ability and his upper attitude.
Not from techniques into totality, but totality seeping into techniques. This is expansiveness.

Do not gain, do not seek. It will come. Do not avoid. Do not establish anything for yourself, be quiet and present in this moment now. (fall 2017 hbox for sure).

strength in martial arts is a product of hard work and comprehension. With understanding of the movements of living things, you may comprehend and exploit an opponent. The heart of martial arts is in understanding techniques, in comprehension.

"Simplicity is the shortest distance between two points.”
And this is the virtue of no style. No limits. Only a direct problem met with a direct solution.
In the same way that forms/styles (as well as likes and dislikes) are inherently restrictive, it is tempting to pursue spiritual or mental ideals/theories that after elaboration, abstraction, and desperation are also oh so far from a simple, active truth. There is a gulf of unreality between “should be” and “is."
Freedom from conditioning is simplicity.
Lee substitutes cultivation of the body and of awareness with classicism.
Non-attachment as having a mind that does not select or reject. It is deliberate in that it hangs no thoughts, does not condemn or approve, simply observes in action.

Having no form evolves from having form. Engagement comes from depth of experiencing details.

Rejection of tradition is reactive in itself.

combat is fluid and alive. It cannot be lived and dissected simultaneously.
Knowledge is accumulated in the past, whereas knowing is a movement in present, as is learning.

I wonder why there is such a clear manifestation of these ideas in martial arts as a violent, destructive pursuit? Maybe it is just because martial arts require an ultra-focussed self-mastery.
"To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person."


Lee claims that the cultivation of the human person is often neglected, though it has the greatest impact and is the entire objective. Changing oneself (physical, mental, holistic) is as necessary for growth/change as learning skills. Intensity conditioning. And familiarity with what harms as well as what helps.

"not daily increase but daily decrease! Hack away at the unessentials!"
"The more aware you become, the more you shed from day to day what you have learned so that your mind is always fresh and uncontaminated by previous conditioning.”

warming up reduces a muscle’s resistance to its own movement and primes bodily resources
tightening makes the muscles bad at their work, causing error.
Movement is employed to overcome resistance.

Ease is characterized not by the small effort spent doing, but by the great effort not spent overcoming superfluous resistance. This is good form. Always train in good form.

training is simply precise repetition to reinforce neural paths. We learn and remember by doing. Naturally we learn and remember correctly by doing correctly and incorrectly by doing incorrectly. As such, it is important to train fine skills with a sharp focus.

It is important not to have any unnecessary preparatory movement attached to a given action.

1 Alternate splits
2 push ups
3 running in place
4 shoulder circling
5 high kicks
6 deep knee bends
7 side kick raises
8 twisting sit ups
9 waist training
10 leg raises
11 forward bends

integrate intensity into everyday opportunities (take stairs, walk to destination, visualize, stand on one foot, etc)

The purpose of training is to make an action automatic so that consciousness can be free of it.
In JKD, you learn a technique not to use it, but to let the mind do what it will.
“Sharpen the psychic power of seeing in order to act immediately in accordance with what you see. Seeing takes place in the inner mind."


"Tactics require the ability to think at least one move ahead.”

Experience what the attack feels like. Before, after, during. Observe yourself and the opponent. Experience what the defense feels like. Before, after, during. Observe yourself and the opponent. Recognize the problem, the pattern, the solution. Solve at the correct moment. The perfect moment is sensed rather than perceived.
Aquire and practice the feeling of the above. Practicing the feeling is more total than just the knowledge or action.

reactions are faster when you heighten attention (“get set”)
choice reactions are slower than simple reactions.
consider tactics in which you have simple but they have choice reactions. (including feints or things that look like several things)

Types of speed
1 perceptual speed
2 mental speed
3 initiation speed
4 performance speed
5 alteration speed
(6 low opportunity cost)

reaction time is slower when
1 untrained
2 tired
3 unfocussed
4 emotional
5 immediately after an event
6 conflicting ideas
7 misdirected
8 inhaling
9 uncommitted/withdrawing

In this way an equal opponent that is caught in a rhythmic exchange has accepted a pattern and can be beaten by breaking the tempo (by slowing down), etc. This rhythm can be explicit or not. It may be relational or individual (muscle memory for L canceling is disrupted by a lightshield).

A good technique involves quick succession, variety(use a broad system), and speed.


Feints protect attacks from being singularly overcome by counterplay. It is characterized by being most concerned with what happens immediately after. In martial arts it has no substance in itself.
Feints may look like movement or evasive attacks as well as direct attacks, but they always resemble a real and meaningful threat.
A feint must be rapid, precise, deceptive, threatening, done naturally.

1 to open a line in
2 to represent a threat in the space in front of you
3 to provoke a response to be punished.

It is composed of a deep, false thrust followed by a short real thrust(short because fast and distance is closed). Long then short (then short). 
Short->long might look like one unit, then additional short punishes response.

Opponents that don’t react to feints lose to attacks.
You should lead with economic attacks to prime for feints.
The solution to a feint/situation that feels bad is to change the engagement.

Drawing (a bait) requires and is best used aggressively, thus coupling with advancing movement. The objective is to toe inside edge of their effective range then out at the moment of reaction+execution speed.
Like attacks, use when necessary. Just enough is enough.

Counterattacks, to be effective, are not improvised. They are learned actions/responses. The too are consequences of understanding the opponent(’s tactics)

consider positioning as implied movement


spacing is a primary skill. Adjustments are rapid and profound, changing attack ranges and potentials.
Remaining within range for an amount of time assumes that you can overwhelm your opponent. The ideal is to where you can react with initiation or counterplay in time.
The purpose of moving is to make your opponent misjudge distance.
Movement is a commitment that has opportunity cost, thus it’s best to do so incrementally unless the reasoning for a bigger commitment is clear. A feeling that is calm and precise.
Effective movement confuses your opponent’s scheme.

You attack at the distance that they will be the moment before they can react. If you sense you have that opening, commit wholly.


Facts of JKD
1 economy (no telegraphing. No wasting energy.)
2 artlessness
3 broken rhythm
4 bodily fitness
5 direct attacks without repositioning
6 light on feet
7 unpolished (in that it’s not precious)
8 strong tactics
9 all-out contact training
10 continuous sharpening
11 individual expression, not patterns
12 total rather than partial
13 continuity of self behind movement
14 pliable not lax
15 constant flow
16 exertion as balance

Attack when they are preoccupied, not when they are expectant. Attack in the rhythm of concentration withdrawal. Attack his preparation to attack. Don’t attack readiness.
Know when to attack and when to allow attack. It is a science.

1 attack when the will senses it
2 to punish weakness
The rest are feints, but not in excess. Exactly what is necessary. 

The intelligent fighter defeats his opponent using the weaknesses apparent in the system before him. Mercilessly. Recognizing this system is the mental battle. The purpose of training is to allow him to work in this way without heeding execution.
"Coordinate all power to attack his weakness."

"The difference between an expert and a novice fighter is that the expert makes use of each opportunity"

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Being Articulate
How to structure a more productive discussion re: SSBM ruleset dev

Games are an assessment of skills.

Rulesets are artificial limitations that are specifically designed to
    a) preserve fairness (“anything you can do I can do too”) or
    b) better measure subjectively-valued skill (coin-battle tournaments would also be competitive, but we as a community subjectively value stock-battles more).

Usually this is very straight-forward. Banned stages are easy examples. Icicle Mountain’s atypical design includes ice, walkoffs, way too many platforms, and phases of rapid movement that disrupt player vs player engagement. While it is fair—anything one player can do the other can as well— it centralizes gameplay around atypical strats that have more to do with fighting the stage than fighting the player. We value player vs player more than player vs stage. Because this is an easy assessment, it’s easy to justify banning Icicle Mountain because it is clearly, objectively detracts from the measurement of subjectively-valued skills.

Sometimes though, issues arise that are ambiguous or complex. These decisions are harder because it is harder to define exactly what is unfair, exactly what is desirable vs undesirable, or exactly what matters. In some cases these decisions are even harder because the change in question has multiple sub-issues or multiple effects. Some of those effects could be desirable while others are undesirable, requiring judgement calls that some people will like and others will dislike based on their priorities. In such an Accidentally Good game, more messy issues like these are inevitable. But that doesn’t mean that they are unsolvable.

In all of these cases, the best solution is to work it out by being articulate. In this context, arguments should NOT be centered around support of or disagreement with a proposed change. Rather, they should be centered around a collaborative ARTICULATION of what a change does for fairness or subjective-values.

Box-type controllers are a great example here. Box-type controllers have spawned extremely ugly conduct because they’re a bundle of ambiguous and complex sub-problems. If you’re more invested in supporting a position than delineating the problems then it’s easy to jump from one sub-issue to another on impulse, resulting in an incoherent if not toxic mess of an argument. At its heart, the box-controller discussion is one of weighing costs against benefits, and some of these are fringe value-judgements. Is left-thumb-techskill something that we as a community should value to a significant degree? Is a box-controller work-around a meaningful departure from a valued skill? Or is it just a workaround that isn’t practically significant? Do they offer a practical unfair advantage? How much do we relatively value accessibility? How much do we value consistency? Has this position changed over time or with the addition of other recent rules? Can the ruleset be altered to curb in-game or out-of-game negative effects? All of these questions can be discussed and worked out productively, but certainly not all at once and certainly not without a collaborative commitment to delineation and articulation over argument for argument’s sake.

Additional Notes:
• for example, non-comprehensive example of delineation of subjective value areas in context:
• Just because something is in the game does not mean that it has to remain legal. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for Nintendo to do our thinking for us with patches. Thus, something that is unfair, non-competitive, or undesirable can be justifiably banned.
• Tradition is important. It gives players consistency. It contextualizes wins in a continuum. If we switched to coin-battles tomorrow then new results would have little to do with old results, and this would be a huge loss. That being said, tradition is not infallible. It’s just one thing that we value. Whether tradition gets priority over another value is situational.
• You should frequently check your thinking and those around you for logical fallacies and/or cognitive biases. They are cancer.
Remember, the presence of a fallacy or bias does NOT make someone wrong, it just makes their argument misleading. Pointing out a fallacy doesn’t make you right, but it does make it much much easier for everyone to stay on the same page.
• The human brain is terrible at changing beliefs, even when presented with a rational argument supported by facts. Consider the hypothetical: could someone, if they had evidence to support it that trumped previous evidence, convince you that white people are a superior race? That would be difficult for me because the premise is so contrary to my beliefs. The point here isn’t whether or not that’s true, but that if it was true I’d have a harder time accepting the truth than I want to admit. When you enter into a rational argument, you have a responsibility to be mindful of and to do your absolute best to overcome any personal biases.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Preemptive Play and Counterplay

Note: Neutral/Positioning is a bit of a prerequisite. This article is a second tier.

Preemptive Play and Counterplay
A discussion on and vocabulary for Player vs Player neutral interactions in SSBM.

The usefulness of a Preemptive Play/Counterplay model is best illustrated by delineating the weakness in more generalized vocabulary. Consider the worn dichotomy of Aggro and Campy playstyles. When you get down to it, descriptions of aggro/campy provide very little usable information and is often little more than misleading. Is dash dancing campy if done for 5 seconds but aggressive if it’s only done for 2 seconds? If Falco repeatedly AC bairs in front of your dash dance is that aggro or is it campy? Is a SH dair in place at the edge of your DD range aggro or campy? Is an approaching laser followed by a dash back aggro or campy? The more specific you get the less meaning the words have.

The FGC footsies model of Poke<Whiff Punish<Movement is far more specific than aggro/campy and is a great starting point to understanding fighting game mechanics. But the Poke<Whiff Punish<Movement model also runs into ambiguity and its usefulness runs out when looking at more complicated situations, particularly those in which frame advantage or situational move-mechanics make their use multi-layered. It’s not so much that you can’t consider a CC grab or a shielddrop bair or even a preemptive FH dair a whiff punish, rather, “whiff punish” isn’t the best descriptor. Because their game is relatively simple at its core, Street Fighter players can make due by introducing additional vocabulary like counter-pokes, anti-airs, command-grabs, etc, terms that correspond exactly the the conscious design and use of the move— a luxury that Melee simply doesn’t enjoy.

At the heart of it, Melee is too speedy and complex for either of these models to suffice. Sooner than later, specifics outgrow their usefulness and you start trying to fit an organic process to a foreign model at the cost rather than at the service of understanding. For this reason I propose an alternate vernacular built specifically to handle a greater depth of learning and description. This vernacular is organized around the interplay between Preemptive Play and Counterplay.

Preemptive Play (PEP) can be understood as intending to land a hit or otherwise act preemptively.
Counterplay (CP) can be understood as looking to punish something.

This model is derived from two principles by which it overcomes the weaknesses of Aggro/Campy and Poke<Whiff Punish<Movement while profiting from their respective utility.

1) Specifics are more powerful than trends. This is the strength of Poke<Whiff Punish<Movement and the weakness of Aggro/Campy.

2) Understanding why moves are being used is more important than the identity of the moves themselves. This is the strength of Aggro/Campy and the weakness of Poke<Whiff Punish<Movement

The form that these intentions take will vary and there is some gray area between the two, but nothing destructive or distracting. It is a clean, effective, and flexible structure.

Let’s look at these concepts a bit closer.

PEP can range from SHHFFL attacks to defensive zoning tools. Its defining characteristic is that it is preemptive and its intention is to initiate a play in this moment. CP can include deep to shallow dash dances, run up shields/CCs/FHs, run away lasers, etc. CP is defined by what it intends to punish in a future moment, usually on reaction. PEP can lose to CP in the same way that pokes generally lose to whiff punishes, but not uniformly. Some PEP is safe vs some CP. For example, a shallow, zoning aerial is technically a PEP poke, but it’s primary purpose is to initiate in order to gain or keep space, not to start a combo. Thus, a deep dash dance or crouch cancel intended to CP a deep aerial does not directly win against a PEP shallow aerial. Similarly, a close dash dance CP will beat shallow attacks but lose to—or at least drop the opportunity to counter—deep PEP. Consider how a player can take center stage with an attack, an empty wavedash, or even with a run up shield and all of which could require different punishes. In this way a player has to prepare for not just what the opponent will do but how they intend to do it. For this reason much CP is as specific in its intention as PEP. An opponent that is committed to CP is waiting to react to something specific. But they aren’t robots, they’re humans with human reaction times. They can’t keep track of every option at once. If you do something unexpected then they can’t punish you immediately.

That being said, there are two main ways to color these interactions and avoid having to guess as frequently. Remember, maximizing reward while minimizing risk wins tournaments. Both of these methods are more fully understood as development within a PEP/CP context.

1) Option Coverage
In order to cover multiple options, players have to develop tactics or use a sequence of moves designed to do so. This is why sheik players will initiate with a PEP zoning ftilt but hold down during its endlag or falco players will PEP laser then jab and then dash back. These sequences are favorable against multiple options, including common CP. Specifically designed option coverage is the only way around tunnel-vision and reaction times in neutral. It’s obviously strong but has its limits. It’s very rare for a tactic to cover every option. Additionally, any given player will have only internalized so many tactics.

2) Staggered Punishes
PEP and CP are most useful in neutral situations when both players have access to many unreactable options. When one character has significant frame advantage then it is more consistent and advantageous to use what I call staggered punishes. In a staggered punish, you recognize frame advantage and make an immediate, gut judgement whether your next punish is solid or not. At that point you either take the punish or DD and wait to reactively punish what they do next. Let’s say for example that Fox nairs in front of Puff. A mediocre Puff will try to grab every time, but a better Puff will recognize when the grab punish isn’t guaranteed and will instead use the nair's landing lag as a sort of buffer in order to react to (or read) and punish what fox does after the nair. However, if you passively DD too often then you can drop this opportunity to dash aways or immediate attacks.

By frequently introducing a 50/50 between attacking or reacting, staggered punishes are obviously related to the PEP/CP model. The significant distinction is that while in a purer neutral you may have to interpret your opponent's behavior and guess their intention, a staggered punish allows you to make those decisions based on frame advantage and character states. That being said, I don’t think that you should worry too much about the mixup part of it, at least not initially. You should just prioritize keeping up on it until such time as you’re sufficiently practiced to develop that decision-making.

Internalizing staggered punishes is extremely gratifying. Getting into the flow of them is identifiable with NEO! mode. Neutral and punish game blend together and you start to see and feel the logic of the game.

Case Study:

Leffen vs Hbox at GOML (Game 1)
(at the time I did it I used the word Initiation instead of Preemptive Play. Exact same concept.)

Using It:

A solid matchup gameplan should have PEP tools to initiate successfully against common CP strats (at least a positive expected value if not winning), PEP tools vs common PEPs, tools to CP common PEP, and tools to CP common CP strats. That sounds like a lot, but it’s actually quite manageable. Additionally, the exercise can reveal and patch foundational holes in your gameplan. But the biggest advantage to examining all four thoroughly is that you will very quickly notice patterns that are true to the game’s mechanics across MUs. With familiarity, those patterns make it much much much easier to recognize and crack an opponent’s strategy in real time!

What does this look like?

PEP vs PEP: (most often identified as scuffles)
    You mean to initiate and win despite the other player also initiating preemptively. This requires better spacing, move selection, or situational awareness.
    Examples: In close range falco SH laser vs puff SH bair, whoever jumps first wins. Puff can also space so that the bair will beat laser and uptilt. Spacies using uptilt to try to trade with or beat Captain Falcon's aerials.

• PEP vs CP (most often identified as tactics)
    You mean to initiate preemptively and win despite counterplay. This requires you to either identify and subvert the counterplay method OR to have a tactic that beats multiple options.
    Examples: A deep aerial that starts as Captain Falcon dashes away. Captain Falcon can’t turn around and whiff punish. He has to keep running, get hit, or shield. Holding down during the a move so that if it's punished lightly you can immediately ASDI down and grab.

CP vs PEP (most often identified as DDing or whiff punishing)
    You mean to scout out and punish an attack. This requires you to space outside of the threat but close enough to punish an overextension.
    Examples: Dashing outside of an attack's range then grabbing it. FHing on platforms then falling though with an attack on a whiffed aerial.

CP vs CP (most often identified as a bait or disrespect)
    You mean to tease out and reactively punish a failed attempt to punish.
    Examples: Spacing outside of a shieldgrab and punishing. Walking forward and downsmashing.

Note how all of these ideas are very familiar and are very complimentary. All top players frequently and deliberately commit to all of these in order to punish tendencies and cut the right corners at the right times. Note too how they are complicated but not overwhelmed by the addition of option coverage, staggered punishes, and even positioning. They’re still lush descriptors/mental signposts even at high specificity/complexity.


The usefulness of this vocabulary, as demonstrated in the case study linked above, isn’t to put arbitrary labels on things. Rather, it’s to provide a succinct and more relevant vocabulary that better identifies how and why we make decisions so that we can recognize patterns faster and improve that decision-making. If these patterns are recognized correctly, then you can quickly, effectively and safely(!) adapt your gameplan to harshly exploit any imbalance. It’s a methodology for attacking a player’s understanding and I’d be hard pressed to locate a more core fighting games principle than that.