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.

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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.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

AC Dair Rest

AC dair rest

It is possible to autocancel puff’s dair and combo to rest at low %s.

Dair’s last hit is on frame 26 and it autocancels as early as frame 39. This means that if you hit with the last hit of dair and can land on or very soon after frame 39 and the opponent is still in hitstun after your 4f of landing lag (for a total of at least 17f of hitstun) then you can combo AC dair to rest. You need 23f of hitstun for grab. You can look up what % that is per character here.

The frame advantage of AC dair happens to be effectively identical to L-canceled dair HOWEVER with an AC dair you maintain enough control to steer puff over the opponent regardless of their hitstun animation, allowing you to combo dair to rest at low %s. AC dair will combo to rest on spacies from as low as 20% after the dair. Remember, spikestun is useful because it allows us to hit-confirm based on the predictable animation but with AC dair's low profile and extra drift control that is not necessary.

Similar to the spikestun setup, the last hit of dair is the only one that’s important and any hits before the last one increase the likelihood that your opponent will SDI out of the combo. The biggest drawback to AC dair is that it is much more difficult to execute than an L-canceled dair. It’s difficult to set up and it’s difficult even to see how close/far you are from perfect without using frame counter. For the time being, AC dair rest is not worth practicing for tournament use. But it is sick AF.


* SH DJ dair FF

* FH dair FF

* shield drop DJ dair FF

* from a late double jump

* from the ledge

* SH ff dair off top plat
(you also can reach this height with SH DJ from side plat or a FH DJ DJ)

* fall through slight delay no ff off top plat
(you also can reach this height with FH from side plat or a FH DJ)

Obviously other intermediary/stage specific setups are possible and will require different variations on timing/ff. The setups listed above are only the most obvious reference points.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

MAC Approach

MAC Approach (Mindfulness Acceptance Commitment Approach)

I personally used to have a very very difficult time performing in tournament to the point that I developed a strong dislike for singles and rarely if even entered anything but doubles. Soft recommended TMGoP to me and it helped my conceptualization significantly but I still had lingering issues. I decided to research more and eventually came across the MAC model. I read the book, took notes, and completed a course through Since integrating the MAC Approach my mental-game is my strongest asset. I use the principles every day and haven’t found anything else that approaches its usefulness or efficacy. It is, to my knowledge, the superior mental tool.

Following, I will present a summary of MAC principles. It’s necessary to stress that knowing the principles is completely different from internalizing them, but reading and seeing just how cohesive the system was very exciting for me, so an illustration of the model is merited.

The Psychology Context

In sports psychology it is generally accepted that personal superior performances are a product of total concentration marked by a “peak” or “flow” state. For this reason, it has been more and more common for athletes to undergo psychological skills training designed specifically to best achieve a peak performance state. Traditional psychological skills training in sports uses methodology including goal setting, imagery, mental rehearsal, arousal control, self-talk, and pre-competitive routines to enhance performance by attempting to reign in peak states to a replicable routine as well as reduce anxiety and negativity, psychological roadblocks. However, these approaches carry subtexts implying a) that negative internal states must be controlled or reduced before a positive internal state can take their place and set the stage for flow and b) that flow is a fickle mistress impossible to achieve without perfect preconditions. Neither of these hold up to recent research and these traditional methods have been demonstrated to have no or even negative empirical support (i.e. they don’t actually work lmaooo).

The MAC Approach, a development of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for sports, is a program of psychological skills training designed to remove this subtext and teach relevant, empirically-supported skills. Rather than remove or control internal states, MAC aims to enable our control over focus and behavior despite internal states, that it is not the avoidance of negative states but the degree of experiential acceptance that enables peak performance states.

MAC has seen increasing use and study over the past decade, including in olympic athletes, tennis players, and professional basketball, volleyball, and even esports teams.

Mindfulness and Acceptance

It is tempting to identify our thoughts as our selves or our emotions as pervasive. But in reality, these are small events in a much broader landscape. Thoughts and emotions are just flashes of chemical/electrical activity not so different from other sensations such as sounds, touches, gravity, temperature, balance, vision, etc. All of these can be understood as Internal States. Internal States (including thoughts and emotions) are like water-bugs skirting over a much greater depth. They come and they go. They are inherently temporal.

Fixation on internal states can be disastrous for performance. Imagine that there’s a parade of internal states in front of you. If you fixate on one thought/emotion/etc even after it passes, you can’t respond to those that follow. You’ve created a mental traffic-jam between your focus and the new present. This is why it’s so easy to fall into a downward mental spiral.

If the goal for sports psychology is to maintain a high-focus present-moment/task orientation (i.e. peak/flowstate) then the foil is a self/future/past orientation. The emphasis of traditional sports psychology is to censor or to remove potentially harmful internal states so that they can’t interfere with your focus. But remember, the emphasis of MAC is to engender the skill of maintaining your focus despite internal states.

There is no reason to censor your feeling angry any more than there is reason to censor feeling cold or hearing someone talk. You’ve already experienced those things, they’re already there in your mind. This relates to my post on Tilting. It’s a bit ridiculous and small-minded to worry about censoring every little bump in the road. It's also mentally-taxing and actively turns our attention from the task to the self. If instead we see and accept temporal internal states for what they are then they have no power and there’s no need to censor them. This work is done primarily by dispelling cognitive fusion.

Cognitive Fusion

Cognitive fusion is the habitual act of treating thoughts as though they are what they say as opposed to treating them as the simple internal states that they are. Reacting to feelings as if reality is what you feel. Reacting to thoughts as if reality is what you think. When put this way it’s easy to recognize how inherently irrational cognitive fusion is. Thoughts aren’t reality, they’re just thoughts. Feelings aren’t reality, they’re just feelings. Now it’s just a matter of making it a habit to by way of mindfulness consistently recognize the onset of cognitive fusion and to instead perceive reality as it is. This is simply a less reactive and more accurate way to engage with the present-moment. Within MAC, you accept that emotions occur naturally and for the most part uncontrollably. Instead of wresting with your emotions in order to set the stage for your mental state in order to set the stage for correct behavior you simply commit to correct behavior.

It’s not “I feel/think __ SO I act.” It's “I feel/think __ AND I act.”

Ex: Thinking “I can’t work with this person” isn’t necessarily reflective of reality. Thinking instead “I am thinking that I can’t work with this person” is un-fused. It doesn’t buy in to habitual schema and instead allows you the opportunity to divorces your focus and behavior from mindless reactivity. The capacity to make mindful, reality/value-based choices rather than mindless ones is mental toughness or Poise.

“We define mental toughness as the ability to act in a purposeful manner, systematically and consistently, in the pursuit of the values that underlie performance activities, even (and especially) when faced with strong emotions that we as humans naturally want to control, eliminate, or reduce.”

Imagine yourself in a last stock last hit scenario. You feel psychological arousal, fear, excitement, anxiety. Now you’re going to make a choice between correct behavior (clutch) or letting your emotions dictate your focus and behavior (choke).

Commitment/Value Driven Behavior

If you aren’t basing behavior reactively on internal states or schema then what are you basing it on? In the MAC model, you base your behavior on a system of values. Values are distinct from goals as values are principles used to enhance experience and behavior whereas goals are end-points that direct experience and behavior in a direction but diminish the present-moment experience (This is basically a Destination vs Journey orientation).

In sports, the method is the body and the end. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
Similarly, how you use your time or effort determines the value of that time spent. Consider:
1) What do you want to get out of this time-spent? Why? (Why?)
2) What would you want someone to say in your obituary if you died tonight?
3) How do you want your effort to be remembered?
4) What matters to you about your sport/occupation?

The answers to these questions identify our individual values (what the Inner Game of Tennis identifies as the Inner Game). Engagement with these values not only makes our time and effort spent more gratifying, but also provides direction for behavior independent from internal states (including motivation!). Success in the inner and outer game is a measure of our commitment to our performance values.


The alternative to Commitment is Avoidance. When the going gets tough or confusing, it’s natural for humans to avoid difficulty. It's an evolutionary necessity. Just like I avoided entering tournaments to avoid feeling disappointed in myself, it is extremely easy for us to shy away from trying or painful situations and we often engage in avoidance without even realizing it. Every time we do we are coloring if not determining our behavior with avoidance.

But it is important to recognize that the cost of avoidance is growth.

It’s impossible for humans to learn without stretching their limits. We have to brush up against what we can’t do and extend into the impossible in order to grow. The mentally-tough athlete leans in to difficulty and embraces it— accepts it— not as problematic but as an opportunity. That’s exciting! It’s best conceptualized as akin to weight-lifting. The value of lifting weights isn’t in having hoisted something heavy, it’s in overcoming the difficulty in order to grow. By recalling our values, persevering through pain and difficulty and managing to do something at the edge of our capability our muscles get stronger. That’s the worth.

In MAC, difficulty takes an identical role. The bulk of MAC-training is done through open monitoring meditation. In this meditation you develop awareness and practice your capacity to direct your focus despite internal states without succumbing to the temptation to avoid them AND to recover that focus readily and with forgiveness when it wanders. You accept the states as they come and go and commit to the attention-training. Every time we overcome a bad mental habit, every time we redirect our focus and behavior from reactive to valued, it’s a rep and we get stronger.


By rooting itself in open monitoring meditation, the MAC Approach develops a lasting and pervasive utility not only for sports but also for life-goals and day-to-day experience. It takes and instructs the perspective that success is not a matter of what you are, rather, that what you are is a reflection of how you do, as informed and motivated (i.e. cultivated) by your commitment to value-driven behavior. This kind of approach is both liberating and empowering. It provides tools to make meaningful progress in the pursuit of excellence as well as fulfillment and does so with a model that is elegant, comprehensive, cogent, and enjoys empirical support. I for one have a fuller competitive and otherwise life for it.

As mentioned, initially I got The Psychology Of Enhancing Human Performance: The MAC Approach from the library. It has since been uploaded as a pdf here.
I started to do things by myself based on the material contained but eventually shelled out $25 for Weldon Green’s arrangement of the program at It was well worth it.
Additionally, is built from the same model. The first 10 sessions are free. Afterward content is $5 a month. I haven’t used more than the 10, personally, but there’s a lot of content there and apparently it covers a wide range of focuses and it’s all very high-quality and similarly well-grounded in research.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

TIGoT Thoughts/Notes

I had a free afternoon, so I re-read The Inner Game of Tennis and took notes.

- - -


I did not enjoy TIGoT. It seems like a transition out of a worse sports psyche but nonetheless I thought it was clumsily written and frequently misleading to the extent that any nuggets came across as accidental.

I have three primary gripes and two primary likes.


1) The entire Self1/Self2 dichotomy is a super shitty model.
It’s an attempt to personify anything good or bad for mental game into one of two selves that you can then more readily accept or reject while maintaining a superficial surrender of control. But because this doesn’t hold up to any amount of scrutiny it’s simply a bad model. Sufficient maybe, until you actually think about it at all. Any attempt to reconcile with science or self-awareness requires tedious and stupid translation that reveals how ham-fisted this artificial and oh so convenient self-fissure is.

The better alternative is to identify a present-moment/task/experience-orientation as superior to a past/future/self-orientation for performance/learning/experience . This is a direct, demonstratable truth rather than a messy illustration. It would solve all of the same problems better.

2) TIGoT is not honest about what it’s actually about.
The structure of the book is pretty straight-forward. It decries a necessarily strawman traditional learning/performance approach but not because it’s ineffective, rather because it’s unsatisfying. Then it describes a more satisfying approach to learning with anecdotes. But because there is no evidence of efficacy, Gallwey is forced to move the goal-posts from peak performance to satisfying experience, implying that they are sufficiently the same. In support, he throws in a chapter about how the goal of tennis doesn’t have to be to actually win the game of tennis but to discover a new internal game to prioritize. That is problematic for a book that says “The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance” right on the cover.

The book actually describes an attitude for maximizing satisfaction. It does not necessarily involve (and thus doesn’t necessitate) the pursuit of excellence.

While it is possible for IGoT to lead to some improvement, its paltry methodology reveals that its primary goal is actually to change the subject from how good/bad you are to your direct experience. This is supported by the surprising number of scrubs that recommend it—the number of recommendations from people that are advanced remaining proportionate to the number that would have been without the book. Disproportionate are those that have a new-found satisfaction in learning and performing period (not at an escalated rate). That is valuable, but not in the way that it is portrayed.

3) TIGoT is inarticulate.

TIGoT is pocketed with powerful and valuable ideas that I recognize from my reading about CBT and cognitive science in education; Little truisms that started to reappear in writing and research in the 70s. But much like in The Art of Learning, none of these ideas are sufficiently expanded on. These writers have clearly experienced what they’re talking about but aren’t able (or aren’t willing) to organize that experience verbally. The lack of a clear context or expansion on these ideas comes across at best as vague and at worst as inarticulate. You could say that Gallwey’s coaching method of expanding as little as possible with words has evidently seeped into his writing.

MAC is a mind-bogglingly better organization.


1) Gallwey’s coaching model is very good.
He’s constructed a methodology that readily matches the intensity of the student’s motivation and is instructive without being overwhelming. By reconfiguring instruction to bolster experience rather than the other way around, he teaches a more total game of tennis at a clean and individualized level.

2) Gallwey’s description of the Inner Game as intrinsic motivation (chapter 8) is great.
It's completely different than the Inner Game described elsewhere in the book, but is a wonderful description of why games are worth playing. Obviously by better understanding our intrinsic motivations we can better fulfill them. Not everyone wants to be the best in the world and sometimes they need some direction or introspection to discover exactly what it is that they do want and how best to go about it.

- - -

Raw Notes

Self1 = Teller, Self2 = Doer
In a bad relationship Self1 doesn’t trust Self2 and uses up all the resources, preventing Self2 from doing its job. Improving the relationship between the selves is synonymous with translating instruction to action, but Gallwey finds it easier to emphasize dumping instruction as much as possible. Maybe that’s appropriate, I don’t know. Well, definitely for performance. For learning that seems a stretch. Or you could, you know, use a better model lol.
A cheat is to distract Self1 by focusing on breath, noise, looking at the seams on the ball, etc.

Self2 is like, “the real you,” a you that is disconnected from unrealistic standards.
Shifting focus to self 2 allows for real expansion/evolution of the real self (as opposed to an unreal self)

Is the reader really so unaware that the idea of unconscious competence is radical? I guess presumably he did teach a lot of people with different levels of competence/experience…

Identifying the body or the unconscious etc as a second self is in effect alienating. It isn’t a second self at all, it’s a part of a total self. That isn’t emphasized at all in this book. Misleading.

Anything outside of the model gets lumped in as the pseudo-mystical ability of Self2…..

It’s mostly to do with complexity. Simple tasks don’t get so convoluted because they’re simple. Something like a forehand, with 50 parts, is too much to manage consciously, so Gallwey identifies a way to instruct AND to accept the notion of intuitive learning and mastery.
Good form is incredibly complex. It’s /necessary/ that self2 be allowed to learn and to execute because self1 simply can’t handle it.
Self1 interferes with the complex intuitive wisdom of the body.
Instruction -> Action -> Result. If bad result and good instruction then we believe bad action and then place the blame on ourselves for bad performance.
But the error was in not trusting Self2 enough and relying on Self1’s control.
wtf kind of conclusion is this? Sure, micromanaging experience rather than accepting and experiencing it is to your detriment but how does it follow that it requires a revamping of learning itself? Sure, maybe learning needs revamped but this is just fallacious.

Rather than as opportunities, Self1 considers mistakes as signs of identity.
Lousy serve->I’m serving badly->I have a bad serve->I’m no good.
This is just cognitive bias! Not some methodological weakness! Not inherent to anything, it’s literally a bad mental habit that’s totally solvable!
“Then self2 lives up to it” But I thought self2 was supposed to be shut out.
How helpful is it to identify conscious thought/effort with cognitive biases and any/everything bad for mentality? That’s disingenuous.
Bad understanding or at least bad representation of psychological principle.

Explicitly identifying instruction with fear and doubt. Wow. Wtf kind of anti-intellectualism is this?
Over Control, Thinking/Trying too hard. Sounds like being back in public school….
Instead harmonize with your “natural learning process.” But there's minimal description of. Very bullshitty.
Ask why someone's forehand is good today and it apparently stops. Maybe if they aren’t self-aware. I guess that’s not unusual. But then the problem is their lack of awareness, not their awareness. Disagree with this assertion.

Should statements and expectation as distracting from current moment.

Compliments are the negatives of insults, they too imply judgement/expectation. Expectations are food for Self1.

Traditional Learning Structure
(total strawman, but whatever)
1. Criticism
2. Instruction
3. Effort
4. Judgement

IGoT Learning Structure
1. Observe Existing Behavior
2. Picture Desired Outcome/Process
3. Let it Happen
4. Observe Results

Instead of identifying what is wrong and giving instruction, Gallwey asks you to put your attention on where the racket head is and when the ball hits the net.
So: If the goal is to train the unconscious then train the unconscious. Rather than instruct the body, simply ask it to do what is necessary.
The obvious utility of “observe->let learn” is taking the attention from a goal or result and focusing it on process and experience.

Rather than “Hit the ball with your arm fully extended,” his instruction is “Notice the degree of bend in your elbow at the moment of impact.” No suggestion, just awareness. Any correction that will happen (is motivated) will happen. This is obv a more total method of teaching/learning. Won’t work without effort being matched/exceeded by the student, as it doesn’t teach anything directly but instead offers the opportunity to problem solve under direction (guided ground-up learning. Pretty powerful).
A good teacher, then, guides experiential discovery.
Instruction should not limit or define action, it should guide experiential learning. Marrying an intuitive level “why” and “how” rather than simply providing a “what.”
Rather than break habits, make new ones. But this is followed by a posit: to unlearn, identifying bad habits is irrelevant compared to awareness of process.
Clumsily written. Should be: prioritize process-engagement over correction-engagement.

Mirror. You need to see yourself. Need for experiential bottom-up learning.
Dwelling. The mind need not dwell. Move forward on pace with the present.
In this book “feeling” is sometimes a (bad) word for a more total, experiential or procedural knowledge. Introduces ambiguity.
Present moment orientation (Return to Breath)

! ! !
Removing Self1 to get to total Self2 immersion is identified with flowstate. TIGoT says that its goal is to approach flowstate, but it then says that flowstate comes when it will and is actually prevented by intention and thus can’t be intended… so the book can help you not help yourself which can but won’t necessarily help you. Nice.
This is just an untrue premise. Not sufficient understanding of flow, maybe because the book is dated. ! ! !

Relaxation of control, what’s the point? To avoid tightness. Judgement produces tightness. Tightening = choking. But this is better said as choking = diverting attention from the task and onto self or onto expectation and that tightening is a symptom. Don’t treat the freakin symptom, cure the disease.

Blegh. Visualize the result and let it happen. Then an anecdote (x_x )
There needs to be a distinction between visualizing process and visualizing results. Obviously imagery/visualization is amazing for learning. It’s more total and literally more real than words. But there’s a big difference between visualizing the process as a learning tool and visualizing a trophy. The first is task-orientation, the second is expectation.

1) clearest picture of a desired outcome
2) learn how to trust self 2
3) learn to see non-judgementally, “what” rather than “how well/badly.”
all subsidiary to relaxed concentration, a state of being and of doing in the moment.
Yes. This is Centering.

“thought intervenes with original unconsciousness.” No. This is Stupid Zen.
There’s a difference between not thinking and non-verbal thought.

stupid note about the expanded self by adopting the opposite “style”
there are a lot of strats here that seem best NOT for improving performance or even learning but to increase the perception of, the amp up the FEELING of improvement/enjoyment NOT the results. This necessitates the inclusion of the chapter at the end about NOT playing Tennis, but an Inner Game.

someone that needs IGoT and actually improves is the exception. What improves is their self-preception. Even without improved results people often feel improved with the IGoT method because it is forgiving and experience-oriented so it’s more/differently satisfying. It cuts out tying results to self-worth, which is liberating.

the impulse that a loss “doesn’t count” if you didn’t try etc. This implies that something matters more than the result itself.

Games People Play on the Court. Fantastic Chapter.
Winning the Inner Game (intrinsic motivation)
but funnily at odds with the rest of the book
Gallwey identifies the value of winning as largely vitalism. Means he’s a vitalist? lol

actually he describes two Inner Games
the first is a palty and weird mentality guide
the second is an examination of intrinsic motivation

That is, that when you enter into a game of tennis or melee etc you have a certain intrinsic motivation. The mental game is subservient to the game of tennis which is in turn subservient to but independent of the intrinsic motivator. Thus, you can lose the game of tennis while still satisfying your intrinsic motivator. Naturally, this makes playing tennis more fulfilling by virtue of engaging the real underlying why.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

FAQ: Falco

FAQ: Falco

Thus far I’ve all but refused to make matchup guides in short because I think it’s a fool’s errand and resent the format. Because the web of knowledge contained in a MU is complex and often situational, any summary guide is doomed from the start to be insufficient and misleading. Answers without the right context/questions are just exploitable limits. That being said, there are common scenarios that get asked a lot about and it’d be totally appropriate and helpful to expand on them in order to point the questions in a more productive direction.

1) Dealing with lasers

In order to mitigate laser effectiveness you need to identify what their goal is and how he’s setting them up. A FH double laser =/= close range SH laser =/= full screen SH laser etc.
Falco’s lasers are used primarily to
a) momentarily interrupt your movement so that falco can safely assume a better position
b) build damage slowly/incentivize you to approach
c) lock you in place/hit confirm into an approach of his own
Highest SHL
Lasers are out on frame 13, every laser is at least a 26f commitment including jumpsquat and landing lag.

Some key anti-laser points:
• if you aren’t moving as soon as possible out of hit/shieldstun then you’re making lasers better than they really are. Practice.
• Falco can’t reliably laser the first 20f or so of puff’s crouch. This also makes powershields much easier IF you let go of crouch just before shielding (by raising the center of the shield).
• A high SH laser will hit a jumping puff but not a standing/running/crouching one. A lower laser will hit a standing/running puff but not a jumping one.
• As puff, it’s easier to deal with lasers from the ground by waiting to jump until you have enough frame advantage to get over the laser before it comes out, that way you don’t have to guess if it’s high or low.
• Much like how peach can float above SH lasers to avoid them, Puff can use the side platforms. This is the primary anti-lasers strat and tends to make neutral extremely simple/tedious.
• Lasers do very little damage. It’s much better to take laser damage or get shined than to get uptilted/baired/etc.
• Because their frame data on aerials/laser is similar, generally, if both characters jumped at close range at about the same time then whichever character jumped first wins the exchange.

2) Getting comboed

Usually wank DI away or SDI away is best, but not always. The goal is to make it as hard as possible for him to follow up and that can vary depending on what move he uses. Very labbable, though.

3) Being shieldpressured

means that you’ve already soft-lost the situation. Usually hitting you or hitting your shield is a win for falco. However, there are some outs. Because falco’s shine is relatively small you can use shield DI to make it whiff. A whiffed shine is a free grab for puff. You can also use a lightshield to the same effect, though it will of course has a visual tell. A high aerial on shield (or a rising one) is a rest OoS. You can also often trade aerials with upsmash, WD out of the way, or roll away, but all of these are relatively high risk.
Keep in mind that getting hit by shine is preferable to getting hit with anything else that might happen in the pressure. Likewise, falco dairing Puff is his best case scenario because it easily combos into more dairs/massive damage

4) Getting downthrown
GTO: 50/50 DI up and in (loses to uptilt/upsmash) OR tech behind (loses to preemptive SH dair)
(you can can DI up and in and if you miss tech then that’s what you get)
If falco is late to do his fsmashes then you can exploit by neutral tech shield but that’s a hefty risk.

5) Getting upthrown
Wank DI the lasers up
depending on % falco may still be able to follow up but this makes it the most difficult.

6) Punish game on falco
It’s almost always exactly like vs fox (+1%)
refer to
You can easily lab out the best followups vs different DI in the most common situations. The biggest distinction is pre/post-36% (bair knockdown)
. The better your punish game the more impact winning neutral has.

7) Edgeguarding Falco

The biggest deal here is Falco’s double jump. Because Falco goes so high so quickly it is not usually possible to cover a double jump side/upB with other options on reaction. For this reason edgeguarding falco is usually a 50/50 in which you either cover the ledge with a fair/dair right away or you jump above the ledge empty and then react should he have done something tricky like a shinestall or an early double jump. That being said, there are some situations (including from a backthrow) that can be labbed to cover everything (except shorten lol) on reaction. Keep in mind that falco’s sideB is too fast (5f faster than fox) to reliably bair on reaction but other aerials are possible.

8) Approaching Falco/Hbox Strats
Hbox’s strat for approaching falco is almost based largely around descending with frame advantage on top of a him to draw out a a) shield b) dash away (and lose stage) or c) uptilt. All of these lose to well-spaced bairs. After poking at about head-height, Hbox will drift away outside of counter-attack range. He then whiff punishes any counter-attacks and re-initiates pressure with a rising FH bair. To avoid being predictable with his timing he will occasionally delay the FH or WD away first. This isn’t foolproof, but it is foundational.

9) Falco AC bair/uptilt/laser/dair
bair is active 4-19 (after 5f jump squat), ACs at 24
uptilt is active 5-11, IASA 23
dair is active 5-24 (after 5f jump squat)
earliest laser/ff is active on 13 (after 5f jump squat), ACs at 19

Falco's bair and uptilt are used similarly (to wall out an approaching puff). Uptilt is easier to punish because it can't be faded back but it has a higher reward (can combo to a kill). Both of these are beaten most reliably by spacing just outside and then whiff punishing with a bair. That is, if you are losing to AC bairs and uptilt that means that you need to space your bairs better.

Falcos will mix up bair/uptilt with retreating lasers or advancing dairs specifically to punish you for zoning to punish bairs. The primary answer to dair/laser is to give up the opportunity to punish a potential bair/uptilt and back a little further away.

10 )Falco on ledge with inv
I don’t like this situation lol. His options are very good and cover each other well. I think that the best practice in lieu of a read is to jump outside of ledgedash nair range and then try to punish whatever he does /after/ his ledge option on reaction. But this gets more flexible if his inv runs out.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

10 Different Bairs

10 Different Bairs

Puff’s bair has decent frame data (hits 9-12, IASA at 31, AC at 25, 10f Lcancel lag) and good range (I know I know, it looks ridiculous when isolated but honestly that’s pretty standard for a good move in melee). But when you combine the raw frame data with Melee’s 1f of hitbox drag and Puff’s aerial mobility you end up with a move with great utility/flexibility.

In years past, Hungrybox would usually answer questions on smashboards with “Bair more.” The phrase wasn’t exactly wrong, but it was definitely unhelpful and contributed to a bad culture for learning. In order to bair better (or as Puff’s opponent, to punish bairs better), it’s important to recognize the different tasks that bair is used for.

To that end I’ve compiled a list of 10 fundamental uses for bair in neutral and attached a brief description to each.

1) retreating AC bair
This is basically a quick retreat that drags a huge hitbox behind you. Puff can choose mid-jump how much stage to give up based on risk-assessment. It is difficult to punish on reaction, but carries a stage cost. It can be punishable with a read. Note that with practice Puff can SH bair DJ bair. This makes it a little bit better on defense and offense.

2) advancing AC bair
This is a quick and flexible poke. Because Puff can be active as soon as f18 after hit (or SH bair DJ bair), it is particularly great for combos past a certain %. Puff can choose whether to continue to fade forward or begin to retreat as the hitbox comes out. Advancing AC bair is easily punished with FHs, CC, some OoS options, etc.

3) neutral rising FH bair
This is a flexible, relatively noncommittal poke. It’s generally used as a method to protect the ascent to FH height from an immediate attack from the opponent, at which point puff has more mobility (can immediately choose to go up, down, left, or right). It is difficult to punish, but can be blown up with by preemptive FH dair/nair or by running forward after the bair and pressuring Puff to retreat.

4) retreating rising FH bair
This is a quick retreat that is safer than an AC bair with a bit higher stage-cost and a different end position (puff at FH height rather than grounded). It is very difficult to punish directly but very easy to punish indirectly (just walk forward and take the free stage).

5) descending low bair
A spaced, low-as-possible, L-canceled bair is a great poke because it is almost never directly punishable except out of CC. It carries low reward until the % at which bair forces tech, at which point it earns at least hefty stage on hit. On some characters a low bair is safe on shield even when non-spaced provided that puff buffers a crouch. A descending bair is punishable with a preemptive attack/FH (think: dtilts), CC (difficult), or an indirect threat (example: Puff tipper low bairs Fox’s shield. He can’t get anything immediately OoS, but he can WD or SH and force her to shield/jump away/etc).

6) descending high bair fadeback
If puff chooses to bair at head-level as opposed to feet-level then she has time to mix up her drift pattern before landing. This kind of bair is especially strong against many character’s shields and can often shieldpoke, but because of the extra endlag from falling farther it is very bad against CC or on whiff.

7) descending high bair crossup
This bair is identical to the above but instead of fading back puff does a crossup. It is universally less safe and you normally don’t see it unless the puff player is a) bad or b) cutting corners because they’ve conditioned a level of respect. It’s worth noting here that a descending upair works in a similar way.

8) in place aerial DJ bair
When Puff is in the air, she can use a DJ bair to protect her air-space from attack. This is whiff punishable and can often be traded with.

9) fadeback aerial DJ bair
When Puff is in the air, she can use a fadeback DJ bair to protect her air-space from an attack more safely at the cost of a little bit more stage. The fadeback makes it effectively immune to trades and very difficult to whiff punish without a read on the drift.

10) low DJ bair
If Puff is descending (from any position, be it a FH, SH, or otherwise), she can DJ and bair at the last moment. This creates a situation very similar to a rising FH bair, with a couple notable differences. First, the bair does not hit as low. It won’t hit many crouching characters and will whiff completely vs shorter characters. Second, it comes out faster by virtue of not having any jumpsquat. This bair is often used to the FH effect and/or as a read on an opponent's FH, especially in the corner.

The next time you play or watch Puff, keep an eye out for these techniques and watch how they accent puff’s other options. Additionally, watch for any opportunities that her opponent takes or loses to punish any obvious bairs via option coverage or reads.

Friday, June 23, 2017

How to Combat Puff Planking (and Save Melee Kappa)

How to Combat Puff Planking (and Save Melee Kappa)

In order to promote understanding, jump-start meta development and accurately demonstrate planking’s strengths and weaknesses, I’ve put together the relevant frame data for Puff’s ledge options and outlined a methodology for creating counter-play.

First, we need to examine Puff’s options.
All frame data assumes perfect execution with ledge invincibility, thus any vulnerability listed is minimum.
Keep in mind that melee is programed with a mechanic that prevents characters from regrabbing ledge before f29 after letting go (with some exceptions), guaranteeing Jigglypuff a minimum of 8f of vulnerability.

• Empty Refresh (with or without sing), not active, vulnerable 30-38
• Fair Refresh, active on 9, vulnerable 30-42
• Bair -> Sing Refresh, active 15, vulnerable 30-50
• Ledgedash, actionable on 21, vulnerable 30+
• Poke w/ Fair L cancel, active 9, vulnerable 30-44
• Poke w/ Bair L cancel, active 34, vulnerable 30-44
• Poke w/ AC Bair, active on 16, vulnerable 30-44
• Poke w/ Pound, active 14-29, vulnerable 30-47
• Poke w/ AC Upair, active 11-14, vulnerable 30-47
• Poke w/ AC Dair, active 7-29, vulnerable 30-47
• Ledgejump, actionable on f40, vulnerable 30-39+
• Hax/Softdash (Let go, DJ, hold forward to grind up against the stage until you pop over, waveland backward, buffer a FF. Multiple frame perfect inputs, not tournament viable), not actionable, not vulnerable, regrabs on f30
• <100 Getup Attack, active 20-24, inv 1-30, vulnerable 31-56
<100 Roll, inv 1-29, vulnerable 30-49
• <100 Empty Getup, inv 1-30, vulnerable 31-33
• >99 Getup Attack, active 43-59, inv 1-39, vulnerable 40-69
>99 Roll, inv 1-53, vulnerable 54-79
• >99 Empty Getup, inv 1-55, vulnerable 56-59
• Let go->DJ->delayed attack, variable frame data
• Nothing, actionable at any point after first 8f, vulnerable on 38+

As is clearly demonstrated by the above, puff has a large number of options from the ledge with similar levels of viability. However, as her opponent, the number is not actually overwhelming because the principles (when/where she can attack and when/where she can be punished) are very similar. Most of these options are slight variations on each other. The options themselves are not especially good or tricky, it’s her potential to change the timing. Let’s say that you decide to put an attack over the ledge area at frame 31. Fantastic, that can punish most everything. However, Puff’s aerial mobility is profound enough that she could be in any of several places and depending on what you’ve committed to this could avoid or change your punish. Additionally, with an empty let-go -> double jump, Puff can sacrifice invincibility in order to alter the timing of her attack. She can burn her 29f, stay out of the way, then should you attack where she would have been on frame 31, she can whiff punish you by delaying the attack until let’s say f40. This is the primary sense to the mixup. It’s not What so much as When.

Thus, there are three main timings of vulnerability to attack
1) Just before Puff grabs ledge (not possible for her to be inv or to have a hitbox out and grab)
2) About 30f after Puff’s commitment from ledge (whiff punish)
3) 38f after Puff grabs ledge (start of vulnerability should she do nothing)

So the question for the opponent to consider is: what are the primary tools that the character has to engage with the above three timings? What are the options that have a high enough reward attached to a low enough risk to make this very simple version of the neutral game unprofitable for Jigglypuff? Are there options that will straight up win? It is also important to consider how much cheating you can do via reactions. That is, if this is like a game of rock paper scissors, can you use an approximate human reaction time of 20f and delay your throw enough to win without guessing? Can you cover multiple options at the same time or stagger them (i.e. if A whiffs then immediately do B and it’ll cover a second option).

I’m not going to do this work for you 'cause it's a time investment, but I will say that finding the solutions is as simple as making a list of proposals, checking to make sure that they can collectively cover everything, then eliminating any needless crossover until you end up with a group of 3-5 or so that will cover everything with the best risk-reward. Generally, any angled projectile invalidates planking on its own. Long range pokes work well for 1 and 3. FH aerials work well for 2. Additionally, you can use shield/CC/WD to space around attack timings and threaten to grab ledge and eject the Puff into an invincible bair of your own. There's a lot of flexibility.

Here is a group of non-character-specific counter-play ideas

• Shoot projectiles timed to beat regrab.
• Wait on side plat, react with fall-through bair.
• Wait on side plat, fake SH fallthroughs until you can react with fall-through bair.
• Run up CC.
• Run up shield.
• Run up shield pivot, WD onto ledge.
• Walk up f/dtilt.
• Backwards FH, wait to DJ or bair or grab ledge on reaction.
• Run off double jump aerial.
• SHFFL ledgecancel -> DJ

Again, none of these or any additional, character specific options will be enough by themselves. However, in every MU a group of 3-5 should be more than sufficient to turn an irritating stalling tactic into a high risk high reward scenario, if not a more winning low risk medium/high reward one. At that point, beating a specific Jigglypuff is just a matter of matching the ratio of your mixup to the ratio of her refresh options and/or practiced execution.

• Although it is pretty frame-tight, Sing regrab can sweetspot under spaced fox dtilt (but NOT mid dtilt).
• Punishes don’t always have to be direct. Taking center may be just as valuable as getting a hit. It depends on context/priorities.
• Remember, with the new 20xx replays it is extremely easy to practice scenarios exactly like this one.
• 8 minutes = 686 puff fair ledgegrab refreshes. There is no reason that puff should give you hundreds of opportunities to punish any of three timings without your engaging and profiting from the situation. Rather than a pain in the ass, look at this as an opportunity to gimp the ungimpable character or at least to get good damage after forcing her off.
• Obviously combating marth or sheik or another character’s planking will have different frame data, but the process for developing the best mixup will be the same.
• As the Puff player, the same process should be gone through with an eye not for sustaining the situation but for getting stage control or a nice punish. Puff's planking is a gimmick. It relies on an opponent's bad understanding to work. Puff can do better.

Monday, June 19, 2017



Flowstate is a name by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (a chief creativity researcher) for what is popularly called “being in the zone.”

Flowstate is characterized by high levels of focus on the task at hand and low self-consciousness. It’s that state where you get sucked into the task to the degree that you lose track of self and time and experience your highest performance. For this reason, achieving flowstate is the goal of traditional sports psychology.

Contributors to flowstate:

• Structure
• Realistic, achievable goals
• Unambiguous progress-markers
• Task-focus
• High challenge level
• High skill level
• Intrinsic motivation
• Feeling in control

• Anxiety
• Self-focus
• Feeling out of control

• Intense focus
• Little to no self-reflection
• Merging of action and awareness
• Don’t care/notice time passing
• Could you hold a conversation? If so you're not even close.

While similar, flowstate is sometimes distinguished from what we’d call “total absorption,” in which your awareness of everything but the task fades out completely. The easiest way to tell the difference is whether or not you feel like you’re coming to your senses when leaving the state. If you were so unaware of your senses that they seem come back to you as if to fill a void, that’s absorption. If you were aware of them but they weren’t as central as your hyper focus, that’s flowstate. At first this distinction seems like hair-splitting, but consider the following: Who is more likely to succeed? 1) A competitor that is focused on the game and his mind is committed to thought/the screen or 2) a competitor that is focused on the game while 100% present in the moment? Different question: Who is more likely to get hit by a car? A car crash isn’t likely, but surprises are all but guaranteed. Being mindfully focussed rather than totally absorbed preserves your capacity to deal with them.

All this being said, flowstate as a concept is a somewhat problematic because, to my understanding,
a) its theory and research is somewhat nascent and scattered.
b) its chief context (traditional sports psych) is to some degree badly conceived.
c) the cognitive science isn’t developed enough to provide many mechanical answers to the pragmatic questions. Flowstate itself is too nuanced.

The primary problem with the flowstate concept is the subtext that it is outside of your control. The belief is that you cannot control the state itself, you can only lay out the conditions as best you can and then trust that it will show up. This is easily illustrated by describing the primary problem with traditional sports psychology in general. In summary: the primary purpose of sports psychology is to provide psychological skills training that will achieve flowstate on game-day. Because flowstate has been thought to be impossible to achieve with anxiety, these psychological skills usually involve a huge amount of self-correction i.e. self-monitoring. As a result of trying to eliminate anxiety, they actually introduce a secondary flow detractor, self-focus. Traditional sports psychology has been demonstrated to have very weak efficacy. That is to say, if conditions are perfect then the athletes go straight to flow. But should conditions be any less than perfect the athletes are just as distracted by their self-corrective focus than they would have been on their anxiety and while they are better able to handle themselves psychologically on the long-term, they show NO performance increase, sometimes even showing a decrease. This matches my personal experience with traditional sports psych skills.

There is an alternate perspective that rejects the notion that flowstate is uncontrollable; peak. Peak and flowstate are effectively interchangeable terms, but the circles that use peak tend to be less micromanagey. They do not subscribe to the methodology in which you control conditions in order to prime for the optimal mental state in order to prime for the optimal behavior in order to prime for optimal performance. Rather, they choose to skip first few steps and focus on optimal behavior or things directly related to it. Chief among these is MAC, a method increasingly used by olympic athletes and champion sports teams. In the MAC model, psychological skills are used not to eliminate anxiety, but to instruct athletes on how to avoid changing their behavior if anxiety is present. This is obviously more consistent than the alternative. In this way, peak is controllable and, should the skills be effectively learned, very consistent. It becomes an artificial or approximate flowstate that may or may not bleed into a deeper flow/superfluidity, but always has a very high baseline.

The takeaway here should be that a high-performance state is not up to chance. It is not reserved for experts or geniuses. Rather, where and how your focus rests can be easily cultivated just like any other skill or habit. The smallest effort to that effect will go a long way!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Legality and Controllers

Legality and Controllers

In the following article I will be laying out a rational examination of the issue of legality concerning Melee controllers. I say rational (not objective) intentionally, for reasons that will be expanded on below.

While I’ll try to be brief and clear, I also want to be comprehensive. If you take issue with a line of reasoning or have an issue or solution that I didn’t think to add to a section, please email me. I always sincerely appreciate corrections/discussion.

Function and Fairness
Box Controllers

Function and Fairness

Before talking about controllers, it’s important to frame the conversation with two concepts; Function and Fairness.

First, what is the function of a controller? As was laid out in Mental Game and Execution, the performative aspect of Melee as an esport concerns translating our ideas into the game itself via execution. Essentially there’s a clean progression from our conception of the game to our strategy to our mental performance to our physical execution to our controller/hardware to the software to the results. If any one area suffers then results suffer. As competitors, our want for hardware is simple; ideally, a controller should seamlessly translate our fingers’ commands to the game exactly as they were input. We want any blame to lie on us.

This demand is a reflection of our need for fairness. Fairness is a competitive hallmark.
If a game isn’t fair then it isn’t competitive.

Fairness requires that
i) the only meaningful variable between competitors is the skill being measured.
ii) other differences are either negligible or irrelevant.
iii) rules are maintained to preserve fairness.*
Basically, “Anything that you can do, I can do too.”

Competitive games measure skills objectively, but which skills they mean to measure is a subjective judgement shaped by rules. Frequently, difference in subjective judgements is at the heart of a rule disagreement. In these cases there is no right or wrong answer. Either position can be defensible, depending on your personal priorities. But subjectivity does not imply irrationality. The two are not identifiable.

Any discussion on the legality of controllers needs to primarily (if not exclusively) address this framework in order to be relevant or productive.

Throughout this post I will make frequent reference to the relevant competitive hallmarks as well as subjective judgements because I think it is the only to make clear, rational, and responsible arguments. I read recently that for humans, a contrasting idea is processed in the brain exactly like a physical threat. We experience an impulsive, emotional reaction/rejection. But it’s definitely possible and necessary to examine ideas (especially our own) rationally for coherencethat is, examining them outside of that emotional reaction even when they’re subjective/value driven. My opinion on several of these topics changed as I examined them against the context, and I hope that you can be as forthcoming while reading/reflecting.

* One blanket statement that follows from the third fairness principle, the rational NEED for rules. Rules that don’t exist can’t be followed. While I am in no way advocating for needless bureaucracy, it is an inherent responsibility for TOs to address issues of unfairness. TOs ABSTAINING FROM MAKING RULINGS IN THE FACE OF A FAIRNESS ISSUE IS A DISSERVICE TO COMPETITIVENESS/COMMUNITY. Those rulings need not and should not be impulsive or immediate. A rational, well-reasoned, well-documented, as-scientific-as-possible explanation is of course the top priority. But refusing to engage with a (meaningful) issue by definition damages fairness and competitiveness. That being said, the word “meaningful” can be a bit fuzzy can’t it? Hence the difficulty and the need for cogency.


Dashback is an in-game mechanic that interacts inconsistently with controllers because of how they are manufactured/break in. Having good dashbacks in game is low in skill and high in dependence on luck/controller. This hardware issue is competitively highly undesirable as it introduces variance as a small, additional layer between your understanding and results. If everyone had access to good dashback controllers or some method to consistently create them this would be a non-issue because it’d be an even playing ground. However that’s not the reality. The playing ground is decidedly uneven. Reportedly, only some 1-3% of controllers are top performing dashback controllers, and only after some amount of use. Finding one essentially becomes a controller lottery that hugely favors top players that are popular enough to utilize better resources. Thus, good dashbacks are not a reflection of skill at all, they’re a reflection of luck/resources. They are by definition unfair and hurt competitive validity.

So the relevant question is how relevant dashbacks are. Traditionally, the answer would be “somewhat.” Good dashbacks have historically been a small advantage enjoyed by a handful of players, but not an advantage that is overly influential OR (and this is important) one with a clear solution. However, opinion and circumstance has shifted recently. Dashback controllers have become a hot topic in part due to Armada dropping out of Dream Hack Austin “because his controller was not properly malfunctioning.” While a resource detailing a statistical advantage enjoyed by dashback controller users does not exist (and would be overly difficult to make), Armada for one considers this mechanic to be important enough that he refused to compete without said advantage. Mew2King, Hax, and other top players have expressed similar sentiment, and this is not unreasonable.

The biggest recent change (besides awareness) to the dashback issue is that it can be solved with software. However, individuals have taken issue with the idea that solutions create a new controller disparity, the means involved, and over the integrity of the game.

Disparity: When the smashbox was announced, some individuals claimed that the advantage offered by created a new controller disparity in which players will have to purchase a special controller or mod for good dashbacks. This particular argument against special controllers does not hold water simply because as described above the disparity already exists and is exactly the fairness issue in question. If anything a new market of dashback controllers lessens the disparity.

Means: This is a somewhat relevant concern. Dashback can be solved for by making certain that the stick doesn’t register on its way to smashturn from center, but how this is done could be potentially problematic. Creating software on a per-controller basis with Arduinos is a viable solution, but arduinos are problematic for other reasons (detailed below). Arduinos radically lessen but do not totally solve the disparity problem. The more complete solution would need to be implemented through the game itself via a Magus Code or similar variant. Currently, the resources exist to run a tournament in which each console has code running to universally equalize dashbacks. This cleanly eliminates the disparity for all participants. However, some individuals dislike this solution as it alters the game that we play.

Integrity: Part of the appeal to Melee is that it’s an older game that hasn’t had any patches. Every issue that’s come up has been solved for by the meta or lived with. Software fixes (namely 20XX:TE) exist, but haven’t found widespread use in tournament. Melee = Vanilla Melee and always has. For someone that subjectively values that integrity more than competitiveness, running a code (that would be considered a small software patch to compensate for hardware inconsistency) to equalize dashbacks is undesirable. For another individual that subjectively values competitiveness more than the integrity of the game, that trade is acceptable. Thus, which side of the fence you’re on depends on your priorities, including how big of a deal you think dashbacks are.

Personally, I value the game’s fairness regarding to dashbacks more than I value the game’s integrity. Were I still actively TOing I would implement the Magus code, as the integrity issue is the only argument against the code that I am aware of.


Similarly to dashbacks, manufacturing inconsistency renders some controllers better than others at shielddropping with consistency due to the angle of the gate relative to the stick box (this is not as well-known, but the upward 45s are similarly inconsistent at upB without double-jumping). While good shielddrop notches ARE a distinct in-game advantage, unlike dashbacks, getting them is not prohibitive. The problem is easily remedied by filing your controller gate to the desired value.
I’ve personally filed give or take a dozen controllers. It takes a file/exacto knife, one of the two most recent versions of 20XX or a Magus ISO, and 10 minutes (alternatively: a friend that has these). For this reason shielddrop notches are not meaningfully unfair because by way of notching their controller, everyone has reasonable access to them. The playing field is effectively even. There is some talk of implementing a software fix and while that change would also be viable it is not especially necessary.

The trickier problem comes from additional notches, such as those for perfect wavedash/firefox angles etc. These are also a distinct competitive advantage via consistency. Additionally, these mods are utterly intentional. Unlike dashbacks or shielddrop notches, no controller has them from the box. But while you can pay someone to do these mods for you, in this case disparity is actually irrelevant because reproducing them is relatively easy for anyone with a file and 20XX. I’ve done 4 myself. They take considerably longer than shielddrop notches because it’s more involved but the process is not really any more difficult. In this case, the question is whether the competitive advantage offered by the boon in consistency performing very valuable and otherwise difficult tactics (perfect wavedashes/firefox angles) is dramatic/relevant enough to merit a ban. The answer depends on the degree to which you value precision as a skill compared to consistency of execution. For some individuals, the left-thumb techskill involved in locating precise angles without the help of additional notches is a highly valued skill. For others it is not.

Personally, I do not have a problem with additional notches specifically because
a) the in-game advantage is not severe. It offers consistency, which I value, not anything that is otherwise impossible. It does not overcome decision-making. I personally come from the perspective that muscle-memory related techskill is more like an arbitrary barrier/time-investment than a valuable skill to test. I don’t devalue techskill, but I wouldn’t prioritize it over creativity or consistency.
b) it is easy to do yourself should you desire it.


Arduinos create software solutions on a per-controller basis. By virtue of being cheap and relatively simple to install, they are not a disparity issue. The interesting problem with Arduinos is that they force two issues: how much we value techskill as execution and cheating.

Arduinos can fix a controller’s dashback, 1.0 value dash, and shielddrop inconsistency in one fell swoop. They level every playing field and are in that way very good for fairness.
However, as mentioned in the section on dashbaks/PODE, dashbacks, 1.0 dashes, and shielddrops by a memory card or like game-bound software patch (as opposed to a controller-bound patch) is cleaner and inarguably better in terms of fairness. The only reasonable argument in support of Arduinos but against a Magus-like code is inherently sentimental in that it rejects the cleaner solution with more universal results in order to preserve the game’s integrity.

Beyond fairness, though, a few Hax Arduino functions (those for easier perfect firefox/WDs as well as for the downward) are described as effective input-map alterations. These are philosophicallythough not pragmaticallyproblematic in comparison to any mods mentioned so far because they go beyond patching for hardware inconsistency and instead aim to address in-game consistency, to the degree that it is a pronounced competitive advantage somewhere beyond notches. It seems to me that Hax is using the input-map alterations to intentionally push boundaries, most likely to justify some of the B0XX’s functionalities.

Then there is the issue of cheating. The biggest problem with an Arduino is that it can do anything. It doesn’t have to only have dashback etc fixes, it could just as easily have perfect multishine/waveshine/angles/SHFFLnair/etc macros programmed to a specific button or combination of buttons. You could easily program instant ICs jump or tilt desync to X, for example. That kind of abuse is why macros have always been banned. While the use of Arduinos does not make macros legal, their use does bring macros as well as some gray areas to the surface by virtue of being difficult to detect/distinguish from more legitimate use.

In my opinion, Arduinos with the proposed changes are not necessarily ban-worthy. They mean to patch for consistency (level the playing field) and buff angle consistency (which, again, is fine unless you value left thumb techskill more than consistency). However, as a preventative measure, it would be better to ban Arduinos categorically and implement the hardware consistency solutions through an alternative means (i.e. Magus code).

Box Controllers

Note: everything written here on this topic pertains only to the Smashbox. I cannot comment on the B0XX because it has different design principles and is rumored to have some drastic divergences. Without more detail it is not possible to review its competitive validity.

Box controllers have been a huge source of controversy almost solely because of Analog -> Digital inputs. Because the Smashbox replaced an analog stick with a group of digital buttons, the team had to design a method to achieve precise angles. That system is interesting, but like the Hax Arduino raises the issue of extreme software consistency because with digital inputs far beyond being less likely (like a notch) it is not actually possible to miss an angle. As a consequence of its design, the problem with a smashbox is identical to that of notches/angle consistency. How much do you value left-thumb techskill compared to consistency? If you think that left-thumb techskill is a very meaningful skill then the smashbox, which doesn’t require said skill in the same way, is undesirable. If you value consistency over left-thumb techskill, then the smashbox’s digital inputs are desirable. In fact, if the precise control offered by a smashbox is severe enough then like a dashback controller it creates a disparity that is unfair in proportion to its prohibitive cost (but to be fair relative to other games $200 is not especially prohibitive).

In my estimation, advantages offered by a smashbox are not severe enough to merit banning. Once more, the design is to offer consistency, not anything that is otherwise impossible. The other advantages (dashback consistency/1.0 dashes/shielddrops/etc) are obviously not unique to the smashbox, so it would be disingenuous to ban it for those reasons. The only defensible reasons to ban the smashbox are 1) if the community values left-thumb techskill over consistency (as well as in this case accessibility) or 2) if the smashbox offers some other competitive advantage that breaks the game.

Because smashboxes are not yet readily available, tests for game-breaking smashbox tech are not possible, but the most frequently referred to is broken burst MSDI. On that note: I cannot cite it because as far as I know it was not published, but I read of a comparative test between keyboard MSDI and practiced Wank DI that got effectively identical results. Wank DI is actually preferable, as all of its inputs are approximately in the same direction. It will be interesting to see what tests surface after release.

To prevent abuse from smashbox-based variants, I was briefly consulted by Smashbox Dustin re: a ruleset. Using one discussed by a group of content creators/frame data nerds as a basis, I gave him the following:
• No Macros.
• 1 to 1 mapping only (This means that you can only have 1 A button, 1 B button, 2 jump buttons, etc).
• Analog may be converted to Digital BUT it must include only ONE North, South, East, West set attached to ONE stick OR wasd. NO additional 45 degree buttons. Modifiers are acceptable.
• No Digital to Analog Conversion.

In my opinion the Smashbox is a very interesting and potentially hugely beneficial development. I personally value its offer of consistency and accessibility to currently alienated players (including FGC members as well as those with hand issues etc) more than I value left-thumb techskill. Should any tech appear that is game-breaking then a ban can be discussed but a preemptive ban would be lazy and sensationalist rather than well-reasoned.