Practice can go above and beyond the regular “trying to get a move out”…IMO, the only practice done at home solo should be the basics of course, mostly execution and getting it to top notch condition…you can also try finding out new setups although the higher lvls require that you have a buddy with you to counter against it or make sure it’s not only doable on the CPU (you can sometimes cheat, ie. tie a rubber band around the analog on a DC pad while practicing unblockable with Sent in MvC2).
I think the ideal way to get better is the practical applications of finding a style that best suites yourself…you can see this best in arcade setting, but that’s just me personally.
Also, getting to a point where you really don’t practice anymore is somewhat common at higher lvls, but if you feel “rusty” there’s no harm in getting back into the groove by playing against other people, or if you want to expand your tools then you can go back into training and find new stuff out (also by just jacking stuff seen in videos).
Basically it comes down to this IMO:
Practice at home = combos/execution/etc.
Arcade/play with other people = seeing if your stuff “works” and the ability to adapt to their style of play.
I’ve seen some old geezers in the arcade who just play ryu and just do fireball over and over again…ok so he gets double perfects and all, but to me that’s just dull boring play…most people would either get bored of it or try new stuff out in those scenarios. But some people who are sick of losing get that one lucky win and feel like a million bucks, so they’re either happy and stay that way or get bored and either experiment or quit, but that’s a totally whole 'nother topic.
It really depends on the comfortability lvl of yourself and how content you’d be with your current way of playing. Me personally, I would get bored winning using the same stuff over and over again, trying the more difficult stuff is more a challenge, and I always have fun losing to more advanced players as unbelievable as it may seem.
But to answer the main question, it usually takes me anywhere from an hour (for known stuff) to several hours (for new unlearned techniques) if I want to get the dexterity down. The real thing that is most important thing in my opinion is to see if you can do what you learned at home in a different type of environment with people who have brains.
A good example I like to use is going over to a friend’s house where you have him as a very good example b/c apparently he can guide his brother through troubleshooting on the computer while owning my ass all day. Best of all, the arguing and constant bickering between him and his sister at an annoyingly large decibel level is what I use as an example of a tourney setting where people normally yell. This may sound facetious to some people but it’s just what works for me.
What other people in this thread talk about is similar in essence. I don’t really have any motivation for practice if there is no competition, and evidently I quit a game if there isn’t any and nothing grows (ie. CFE in my area). I have been meaning to “practice” in Marvel to get some new techniques, but for the mean time I play casually at in a very lazy boring state where I mainly rely on my fundamentals and outreading the other guy to try and win. Although that doesn’t really cut it nowadays where one fuck up means the game. Interestingly enough broken controls does teach patience and innovation IMO b/c you either have to be delicate, or resort to other methods. But then again that’s just me.
btw, this may be a bit too off-topic so…