Just posted this to reddit.com/r/sf4 as well
Alright so this is something that really rattled me the first time I ever encountered it and had completely no understanding of before I played SF4… I always thought wakeup buttslam should beat every meaty attack and clearly this is not the case.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given about the game is from a really talented Ibuki/Cammy player called KillaCam who I don’t really know much about but he was the first person I ever played at Bison’s Auto Shop which is a small but powerful fighting game community casual meetup in the city of Waterloo in Ontario.
After he raped me about 10-0 he said “you have a lot to work on, but the best thing I can tell you is don’t always do something on wakeup, sometimes you just have to block”.
a standard jump in / safe jumps
So lets look at that statement on it’s own for a second; What happens when you block a standard jump-in normally? Well a normal attack doesn’t do any chip damage when blocked. You take block stun, and what he does next determines whether you now have the ability to strike back or not.
If he does nothing, he is likely bating an unsafe attack from you, putting us back into the vortex. If he does a frame trap, he can hit you if you flinch and press a button, and potentially knock you down, and put you back into the vortex. If he throws you and you turtle, he can knock you down, and put you back into the vortex. or he can just apply a frame-tight block string and potentially chip you, resetting the game to neutral.
Seems quite unfair doesn’t it? of course we know it is not, but it almost seems like a way better option to just go for the reversal and avoid the entire situation. But depending on who you play and who your opponent plays, this is likely not going to be a feasible option. The best players will only go for something unsafe if they’ve got you on tilt. After all, isn’t that really what a good vortex is all about?
You need to keep wakeup reversal options in the back of your head and don’t forget about them because they are still going to be useful. Sometimes it is smart to “play dead” and make your opponent think you are on tilt so they go for that unsafe move that you know how to punish, especially if it is Ultra/super/big damage punishable. that is one way to get out, but will cost you some precious damage and likely some meter. Sometimes I do this if I really just can’t get into their head quickly enough. It is a good way to build data too. But I want to try and emphasize building data and not using the prior option because this way we may end up sacrificing nothing later on in the game and continue to build out lead.
remaining calm is very important when trying to build data on how they are playing their mixup. without adding in the crossup element (we’ll get to that later), you have high, low, throw, or hit. those are basically the 4 things you need to be looking for.
Standing overheads are ALWAYS slower to come out then things that hit low, always staying low and watching for overheads + blocking high is something that you can 100% react to in time. Actually doing it is quite difficult, but the patterns that they come in can be downloaded. alternatively, it’s almost (probably is humanly impossible) impossible to be standing and react to a low attack from the instant it comes out to the time it hits you for the most part.
someone who goes for a tick throw is ballsy because it is unsafe, however, someone who goes for a frame trap should be considered equally ballsy because you should have some sort of reversal that can fit in the window between hits. one thing to know about tick throws is some characters are pushed away after 1 or 2 blocked jabs, while others have great throw (or command throw/kara throw) range and can throw you after 3 ticked jabs. in my experience, it is ALWAYS better to eat 2 throws before you start teching against certain characters like Ken, Cody, or Cammy. Of course this can be downloaded into your opponent, but some of the OS’s in this game are so powerful you much better eating 2 throws and getting a read from your opponent so you know how to react next time. One last thing about frame traps is you should learn the setups, there is always going to be at least 1 jab in the beginning and normally its the 2nd attack where they are hoping you are going to press the button so download that spot where the gap was and if you anticipate it’s coming again go for your reversal.
So after reading that entire paragraph the one thing to take away is that THIS PLAYER IS AGGRESSIVE. someone who applies that type of pressure right off the hop is going to continue playing like that. There are archetypes who will sit on life leads after putting on insane pressure so keep that in mind that when your health is low and theirs is high they are likely not going to risk their lead for unsafe pressure when the clock is low especially. this is another thing you need to download. this archetype should not be reacted to by chasing down with your own aggression because this is actually exactly what they are looking to bait and punish. You need to be patient, walk forward and try not to take any risk until under 20 seconds, use any meter you have to try and regain the lead safely. i normally take a time-out loss over taking a risk because a lot of people panic in the last 10 seconds expecting a jump in and sometimes spam neutral jump, so again this is another thing to download, watch how they play the last 20 seconds of a match, it’s very important.
Conversely you can say the player who puts safe pressure off the bat is a more PASSIVE rush-downer. they will play very safe, take basically no risks, but still rattle you with a vortex. This is how infiltration plays, this is basically how akuma should be played in general because he has such low health.
So that is a lot to download off of one jump in, but let me assure you, it’s all very valuable. There is absolutely no way you will ever know how they are going to approach the next one, but it is absolutely possible to know which options they have. You are going to be put into situations where you are going to have to guess, but I would say until you have a better understanding of the player you are better to do nothing except hold back. which leads me into the next section:
A divekick is annoying because it changed the timing and trajectory of a jump in, it’s really as simple as that. You were expecting that, taking off from x distance, cammy would land behind you and cross you up… so you blocked backwards and got hit in front. So my first piece of advice against a divekick character is simply just don’t block crossup way. You are better to block normally, you should actually have time to react if you see they aren’t dive kicking and block the cross up. The majority of players I have seen will go for dive kick meaty on wakeup before any sort of cross up to see if you are going to fall for it. it’s a lot safer, so you might as well.
My next tip is dont bother standing up, because divekicks aren’t overheads. the only disadvantage you suffer from this is that the divekick is more likely to cross you up, or do that bullshit where it hits you in front and then the character lands behind you. the majority of the time, the opponent is not even going to know which side hes going to land on in that situation which seems really cheap/annoying because he can still somehow manage to hit confirm into ultra (RUFUS!!!).
Getting a handle on those situations is so tough and is almost impossible to get a handle on, because they can change the trajectory of the divekick depending on what button they pressed. so the smartest thing to do is still look at where they took off from and which jump they used. if they are far away but still in crossup distance, then you just stay blocking forward until you see no divekick is coming. if they are right next to you and neutral jump, stay blocking forward, but if they are right beside you and they jump forward you need to immediately start blocking crossup way. One thing to know is its insanely hard for the opponent to hit in front with a divekick and land behind you every single time, so you can normally just keep blocking forward after he has attempted to cross you up.
timing is the other issue we need to cover. Gouken and Akuma are easy to defend but you need to learn that timing… the reason they are easier is because they have a flip they need to initiate before they do a dive kick. so the move is fairly easily telegraphed you just need to react later. cammy is not the same story. Since I’m honda, i will talk about ex headbutt, as it’s my best anti air. when looking to punish jump ins against a good cammy, I actually normally don’t punish the non-divekick jumpins because a divekick will blow it up… and worse case scenario if she goes for standard jump in and I don’t activate exheadbutt in time well then I just waste a meter and chip or simply block her. It’s a gamble but it’s part of the download. It sucks because you just let her in (so thats why I normally spend the bar to bounce myself away) there does seem to be a sweet spot in the timing where I activate LP Headbutt and i can catch both but how reliable that is im not 100% sure.
air tatsu and kunai pressure
eating an air tatsu on wake up is annoying. It blows up many reversals. However it can be crouched and the landing can be punished, but now you’ve just opened yourself up to a jump in. so therein lies the mixup. There is 1 particular spacing where the setup works perfect because if he tatsu’s you get crossed up and if he jumps in he hits in front. it is really important to find that spacing, if you don’t know it you are at his mercy. If he jumps from anywhere but that 1 spot, it’s going to be really obvious what side he’s hitting you on. It’s pretty much at the very closest of his jump in range where he can hit you without crossing up. If he keeps jumping from that range, then he is going to keep mixing you up with it. Now again I want to emphasize that blocking the normal way is the best way to start out because it is possible to react in time and switch your blocking but more importantly getting hit in front can lead to brutal combos, where as getting hit from behind will knock you down. So this is why you don’t see Ken using this so much because it doesn’t knock you down and there is no follow up. One last thing, EXPECT AIR TATSU when they are trapped in the corner because they obviously aren’t going to like being there.
Kunai is the last thing I want to talk about for today. Kunai is really annoying because you can get hit in front by it and then be attacked from behind. if you didn’t know this, you need to know this - YOU ALWAYS BLOCK THE OPPONENT, NEVER THE PROJECTILE. it can be tricky because she can pass over your head 1 frame before the kunai hits meaning you have to block it the other way so the trick is to learn at what height she throws the kunai determines which side you want to block on. If it’s early, its gonna be in front, if it’s at the top of the jump its gonna be behind. So this cleans up a lot of the ambiguity of the mixup. You have to understand at what distance she activates super jump will leave her landing behind you, which is pretty much the go-to to Ibukis; you throw either early or late kunai, and land behind. They don’t often like to land in front because it makes the mixup too obvious. So if she throws early, you need to block normal in front, then look for cross up or throw upon landing. if she throws late, just block crossup the whole time and it will end up being an easier mixup to dodge. It feels very intimidating especially when you throw the high-low kick mixup and combine her overhead, but keep in mind both overhead and the high-low kick move can be reversaled (in between the 2nd and 3rd kick there is a big gap).
Please feel free to make any corrections as I know this is not perfect but it is pretty much everything I could think of that I have learned in the past 3 or so years playing this game. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps some people out, and let me know if you have any questions about anything I will always be around to help.