From casual to serious - how get more competitive

First of all this is my first thread in this forum, plus i’m a foreigner, plz don’t be harsh on me…

I was 4(or 5) years old back then, my brothers had a home console(cant remember which one) and played on SFII turbo everyday. I was too young to play properly, always lose and rage hard. Then my bro told me to practice pulling off hadoken. Those controllers didnt have analogue stick(like PS2), and made my left thumb hurt a lot while inputting the arrow keys. Due to the pain(physically) of practising hadoken, I was put off by it. (and didnt play SF3 series during my childhood)

When SF4 was released, my bro bought it and we played together once in a while, He told me I have been using fireball characters(ryu ken etc) too much, and told me to start exploring with other characters. Since then my main character is random(?), lots of fun against my bros and friends cos i surprise them a lot by either playing exceeding well or being a punchbag. I found the fun of playing SF by playing with as many characters as possible.

Unfortunately, when SSF4 was released, my best friend got serious about it, he spent time on using FeiLong as his main, and became better at this game. I can only barely compete against him by using Blanka/Vega to turle/punish his moves.

I bought SSF4AE recently for myself so that I could explore more about this game(yea i only play SF when people are around, never had a SF game for myself). Now my main is Blanka and my second is Makoto(very difficult to use). I can play those two characters against hard CPU, but barely win in online matches(Disadvantage = Panic = Input incorrectly). Really want to be more specialised in using characters.
Are there any general tips to improve in this game? I’ve been practising simple combos(only with Blanka and Makoto) and watched a few matches on youtube.

I remember those days, I had it on the SNES and doing it on the standard SNES pad killed my thumbs, I practiced all day and ended up with friction burns on my thumb from the dpad!

Anyway: Newbie Saikyo Dojo

How to become competitive?

Master your basics.
You can get through most of the fluff players (about 70% of those that compete) just by having your basics down to a tee. Footsies, zoning, spacing, and poking… After you have that, can you now learn the advanced stuff.

By playing a lot while open and acceptable to change. Playing against the same people over and over again could possible be the worse thing you can do and it wouldn’t hurt to at least try out each character for kicks.

Just need to make a conscious effort to get better. Browse this site for like 20 minutes and you’ll get an idea of what you need to work on. Just playing over and over won’t get the job done.

learn your BnBs/footsies/block strings/tech throws.