HDR: Becoming a True "A" Rank Fighter

I’ve always asked myself what is the “magic” that separates a complete A rank player (aka Afrolegends, Thelo, ARG) from other players who practice just as much.

There has got to be a reason for two people practicing an equal amount of time, yet one always being recognized as a “B+” player, yet the other becomes a “A” player.

I don’t believe it is simplistic as saying “practice”. I’ve fought people who’ve started SF with World Warrior and STILL not be better then me since I started with Super Street Fighter II.

“Playing in Tournaments?” - a very limited amount of practice time against pros

Also, does it help to learn other characters even though a person only mains one character? To become a “Master of One” or a “Jack of Many”? Does this approach help in any way?

I really wish that HDR had a “Record” Mode like SFIV, since this could be immensely helpful in learning to react to an opponents move. Any chance of a patch? LOL

Any insight or tips on moving from being a “B” ranked player to an “A” ranked player would be highly appreciated.

Unfortunately, it’s just something you’re born with.


Aka the right mindset.

Playing simple for the sake of playing versus playing with the goal of becoming as good as you possibly can become.


This might interest you.

Edit: Damnit, Shari beat me to it,

Definitely not, it’s the attitude you have towards playing, losing and improving.

No, it’s a proven fact that certain people carry what they call the ‘SF-gene’. It usually is more predominant in males, but regardless it ends up being passed on to the offspring.

I think it’s like any game:

  1. figure out what key factors are needed to win at a high level,
  2. make sure to have those factors within required thresholds,
  3. execute and win. (or at least perform within an overall level)
    be one of the freak anomalies who can win despite not fitting the mold.

Also, I assume you are talking about becoming good with a character as opposed to consistently placing high in tournaments.

So, for Street Fighter HDR, let’s look at the “key factors”.

Matchup Knowledge.

Find out who the top players are with your character in HDR and ST.

Find and download top level videos with your character piloted by top level players.
Make sure you can consistently physically execute ALL the moves (combos, strings, set-ups, etc.) that these top players can perform with these characters.
Make a list of the most complex moves, talk to a top player (who is at the level you are targeting) and confirm these are all the moves needed, see if you can do all the final list of moves.
If you cannot, then practice (or whatever it takes) until you can.
If you cannot even after practice, then you cannot expect to be as good as them.

Find out who the top players are with a second character in HDR and ST.
Find and download all the videos you can with your character and their character being piloted by top players.
Watch a video, and check how many times during the match your character does something that did not seem like the exact choice you would have made.
Check EVERY second. Whether that means your character edged back or ate a cross-up or executed a ToD.
If you cannot account for EVERY move at every second of these top players make (even their mistakes), then your matchup knowledge is not on par with theirs.
If your matchup knowledge is not on par with theirs, then you need to build up your matchup knowledge.
Buy Yoga Book Hyper, study matchup videos and compile flowcharts for different scenarios (how to start round, what to do after throw, what to do to deliver damage, how opponent delivers damage, spacing, normals used and set-up, etc.; all matchup specific), read posts by top players, and start playing in Quarter Rooms or with top players, etc.
If you cannot follow the moves of top players, then you cannot expect to be as good as them.

Next comes focus.
If you are not playing to win, then you are a lot less likely to win.
So make sure your focus is on target.
Playing with a high quality of opponents often pushes competitive players to maintain a high focus.
If your focus is not on target, then you cannot expect to bring your dexterity and matchup knowledge to bear.


All the above really won’t teach you how to be a better player in itself.
But it WILL help you figure out what you are missing.

its a combination of all things that people have mentioned plus using a character that does well against the whole cast. Also time, not the amount of time you have been playing the game, but the amount of dedicated time you put in to learning the aspects of the game and practising with people who are also high level, who show you ur weaknesses so that you can turn them into strengths.

But also remember that just bcos somebody is a professional player, that dosnt mean that they cant be beat by a regular joe, its unlikely, but it can happen and also, somebody who you just happen to come across on xbl can show you things that might have not been convered or mentioned in the usual street fighter repositories.

Street fighter is a game that is played globally, so I’m sure theres top level players out there who have never entered a tournement or are not well known by the wider community, but can play just as solidly as a pro player. BUT pro players will always be better in the long run bcos they spend more didicated time improving their game and playing other top level players

Excellent post, as usual, but I would add just one tiny little thing that probably falls under “matchup knowledge”: mind games.

You have to know what your opponent is most likely to do in a given situation and you have to be able to “lure them into your web”, so to speak. Being able to out-think your opponent is the key to being able to put them into a situation that favors you.

I might be stuck in 1995 or 1996 when James Chen and I broke down “The Components Of Skill”, but I’m thoroughly convinced that mind games are the final frontier of skill. You have to be able to play them in order to win in high-level play. Once you get them where you want them, the better your execution and the other factors that you mentioned, the faster you’ll end the round.

i definitly think theres something to say about reaction timing. even when i am baiting certain things and expecting it, i will still be too slow on my execution at times. there are some shoto players that react with DP’s at what seems to be the very last possible moment that it can be slipped in. being able to react like that takes many options away from the opponent.

i would think how fast someone’s brain can see, process, then react to things is the only physical limitation that may prevent people from reaching A+ level. im not sure if this is something that can be cured with tons of practice. it kinda goes along with thelos post about reacting vs anticipation. obviously reacting is better than anticipating since you know the outcome before you execute. if someone has a brain that processes information quicker than most, plus has the dexterity to execute with very little time to do so, this person is going to be an above average player.

how impoatant as a factor of success is the choice of character as opposed to level of skill? For example somebody with exceptional timing, focus, reactions, would their skill still be as beneficial if they were using a lower tier character against a top tier character agaist other players of approximatly the same skill level.

and if akuma wasnt banned at evo, would the top 5-10 evo been all akuma’s?

Depends on if you are interesting in becoming a “A” Rank player in regards to your character or in regards to winning tournaments.

to be the best, it comes down to this:

-practice. consider a game like sf4, and someone like daigo. people automatically think he has something others don’t (which could be true), but he readily admits to practicing the game 5hrs a day, 5 days a week. that’s 25hrs a week, pretty much like a part-time job. have you even put in that much time playing top rank opponents? and even then, it doesn’t gaurantee he will win every tournament he enters, but it gives him an edge

-becoming good under pressure. this doesn’t happen overnite, and it has to be built over time. the best way to do this for a game is by playing in tournaments, or playing in matches where something is on the line (money, etc). how else can you be put on the spot to produce results?

game knowledge and choosing the right characters. knowing the game inside and out and little things that can give you an edge like counter picking or knowing how to escape certain situations is a must during tournaments etc. and let’s be real, character choice is a big issue as well, because if it wasn’t, shouldn’t we be seeing more of a variety of characters winning tourneys? would mago be as good as he is if sagat wasn’t as strong? daigo, a known ryu player, uses ken instead for 3s, why not try to build ryu into a powerhouse? or say muteki in st, an expert with guile, but i don’t think he’s ever picked or done as well with o.guile, strictly sticking with n.guile for the benefits etc. of course you should also consider choosing characters that work best for you.

other things that need to be strong and well developed:

control of space

zaspacer for president.

awesome posts, this just boosted my mental focus for every game ten fold.

Zaspacer, Shari, SNK-player, Irrepressible, Fresh OJ: Thank you both very much for the very-much needed insight.

From what I can garner, the elements to becoming an “A” Ranked Street Fighter Player are:

  1. Practice: This is the only thing that can teach a person such things as timing, spacing, rhythm, and execution of moves to the point of being able to do them automatically without thought. But it can’t just be blind practice, it has to be analyzed and feedback drawn from it. Boxers have coaches who will point out weaknesses, but if a person doesn’t have a coach, they need to be their own by analyzing their own fights or having an outside pro give you their insight.

As I read comments, one thing dawned on me: What environment is being practiced for? If a person is training for a tournament environment, then a person has to train in an environment similar to one, or create the atmosphere needed.

SNK-player: Nice thoughts on the creation of pressure. What if a training environment is created where something could be lost or gained by the outcome of a match??? What if money was bet or some reward given?

If you are trying to be the best XBL player, then its just a matter of playing in a casual environment. I don’t think a strict XBL player, used to the silence of the home, can possibly concentrate effectively in a tournament setting, but this is only important if training for tournaments.

  1. Attitude: The saying goes: “If you think you can, you’re right. If you think you can’t, you are also right.” I was also reading “Playing to win” link provided by Shari, and think this is required reading for any fighter trying to become the best, for example, a person’s attitude towards throwing can hold them back from reaching full potential. A fight that could have been won by a walk-up throw can be ruined by the so-called “honor” code of not throwing, creating loss to a shameful c.lp by a ryu player.

  2. Mind games: This seems to also be a key point. Being able to get into the opponent’s head and predict their moves, or creating pressure to make them move in the desired manner.

  3. Character: This appears to be a matter of winning in tournaments specifically. This makes sense, it is like saying “Does it make sense to drive a Honda (no pun intended) in a street race full of mustangs?” Granted, HDR has rebalanced a few things for many characters, but not all characters are created equal and is put in “tiers”, and thus a character should be chosen on their ability to win tournaments. But if a person is not training for that environment, then they can dedicate themselves to being good with any character they have in mind.

  4. Know the Opponent: Know the matchups and how to deal with them. Watching videos seems to do the trick. As GI Joe states: “Knowing is half the battle.”

  5. Support: I think it helps to have a practice partner who is just a serious as the fighter. This partner can train to help build reactions and reflexes effectively. For example, being tripped repeatedly, and learning the timing to reverse on recovery.

I have 2 questions:

Would training with another character help? I specialize with Claw, would say playing matches as Chun help me get better with my main? Would it help me understand how to deal with Chun better???

Mikiedge made an interesting point. What if one player is just “naturally” better at reaction. It dawns on me that most pro Boxers retire at 30’s due to natural slowdown and the fact that the competition is just younger and more conditioned. Would this apply to SF?

What is the demographic of the top tournament players??? Are they in their early 20’s, late 20’s, early 30’s? Maybe physical limitations could actually be a viable factor towards reaching the top.

Thanks in advance.

Johnny, the SF gene is more dominant in males and girls who are more manly. LOL

For what it’s worth, I almost exclusively play online, yet had no real problem with tournament play at a local tournament and at Evo.

You can practice playing while your mom or girlfriend or wife is yelling at you. v:smile:v

same here well except i couldn’t go to evo. I DO NOT PLAY CASUALS WITH LOCAL PLAYERS just play online then go to tournaments and beat everyone. :lovin:

Experience is the biggest key factor, IMO.

Without question, I was at my best during the time I went to Southern Hills Golfland every week. My peak in terms of skill level was during the CvS1 and Pre-Roll Canceling CvS2 days. I honestly think I’m a SMARTER player today than I was during that time, but without blinking an eye I can say I was a BETTER player back then. Why? Experience.

A lot of things mentioned here – mind games, reaction time, matchup knowledge – all come from having experienced it all. The reason why guys like Choi and Valle can play a new game and still win is because they are familiar with the situations that are presented to them, and similar solutions apply. Most players who aren’t “top tier” are the ones that run into situations where they get to that point of, “Oh shit, what should I do here?” I truly believe that top players never get to that point. There isn’t a situation they haven’t been in, so they always are ready to try what they know should work, so you can’t bait them, you can’t predict them, and you can’t train them.

The other factor, as well, is always having someone of your skill level or higher to play with. If all you do is beat up on scrubs all day, you’ll be content to continue winning with what works. It’s a lot harder to get better if you don’t have someone else as dedicated to you to get better. Having someone to help push you is a tremendously helpful thing. Going to Golfland every week and losing to Valle game after game is a great learning experience. The biggest danger is becoming complacent with losing to players better than you, something Majestros talked about a lot. If you just accept Valle is better and are content with losing to him because, hey, everyone does, you’ll never get better. Even if you still keep losing to him, you HAVE to believe that someday, you’ll beat him and you’ll always have to keep trying harder to beat him.

So while a lot of things mentioned already are important, I honestly think that experience and quality opponents are two of the biggest factors for becoming an “A” player. And both of these, I think, have been made a TON easier with online play, looking at guys like Thelo as proof that you can become an “A” player through online play. By playing a lot of match ups online, he’s seen a TON of things and gains a bunch of experience, so fewer things will surprise him. And by playing a lot online, you find the good players and play against them a lot, and there will always be players better than you online. Online has definitely helped level up the overall strength of the community, but you DO have to wade through a lot of scrubs to reap the benefits.

  • James