I posted something about bad habits and abused tactics on another forum recently. Most of it is not directly related to what you’re asking but maybe you can get some ideas
This is mainly targeted at players who are just beyond absolute beginner level:
The “revenge” reversal
The most common type is when you get hit out of the air and you close to your opponent. Many newer players instinctively prepare to do a reversal (“everybody always DP’s” ;)) to catch their opponent if they try to throw/poke them. This is generally a very bad idea as it leaves you wide open if you miss. It’s usually better to just block low and prepare to tech a throw. This gives you an opportunity to read your opponent’s reaction. If they are cautious, then it’s probably a good idea to steer away from revenge reversals, and maybe just go for a back dash, low poke, jump away, or even just walk up and throw if they’re just sitting there. Conversely, always trying to attack the opponent as they land from a reset (ie. after they get hit out of the air) is also a very bad idea. Another typical revenge reversal is the fireball after a teched throw. If the opponent is watching for it they can easily jump in, focus dash, or even use a special that’s immune to projectiles to punish you. Always keep your spacing and your opponent’s habits in mind before you throw a fireball. One last example: your opponent does a move, you block, but then they FADC. Going for a reversal at this point is very risky. If they backdash or block they can punish you very badly. In some cases it’s almost a 50/50 situation so whatever you decide to do should be based on reading the opponent’s actions and play style.
Mashing reversals under pressure
Very common amongst characters with an SPD or DP-style move (this is exactly why newer players like T.Hawk, Ken and Zangief). For some reason, noone likes to block in this game. They just prefer unsafe reversals. There’s at least one player I know of who will try to reversal DP 99% of the time after he blocks a jump in. In fact I don’t even think he cares if he blocks it or not, he’ll just mash DP anyway. This is a very bad idea for obvious reasons. Mashing reversals definitely has it’s place in this game, but you have to understand the risks behind it. Or you need to be able to FADC to safety in case your opponent blocks. This applies to jump-ins, blockstrings, or any attack that forces you to block. It’s amazing how easy it is to score damage just by baiting mashed DPs.
After newer players learn that trying reversal everything on wakeup or when they’re under pressure is a bad idea, they usually start abusing jabs, or trying to counter-poke everything they see. This is nearly as bad as mashing a reversal. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the worst habits to develop (and hardest to break) as a player. If you mash on jab as you wakeup, you will lose to meaties (eg. your opponent does a sweep/throw as you wakeup), and you will get counter-hit. If you do delayed jabs to be able to defend against meaties, you will lose to delayed blockstrings, frame-traps and counter-hit setups. It also gives you less time to react to jump-ins if your opponent decides to jump. And if you’re being really predictable, your opponent can just step out of the way of the jab, then step back in and throw you. Even if you follow-up the jab with a another poke (say Ryu’s cr.mk), you will lose to focus attacks (Akuma and Sakura are especially at beating counter-pokes with focus attacks because they take a slight step back when they do it). Jabs are usually a much better idea than random reversals on wake up or under pressure, but you can’t abuse them for defense. Defense should be varied as much as possible.
Trying to jump out of block strings
Easy to abuse because you’re usually at a good range to do a cross-up, and your opponent will still be in the recovery animation of their last attack. This can be baited and punished very easily though. Some characters can vary their blockstrings so that there’s enough of a gap to enable you to jump, but you’ll still get hit out of your pre-jump frames. (eg. linking jabs instead of chaining them with some characters will leave enough of a gap for a jump). Also, if you’re being predictable, the opponent can just do a neutral or back jump + punch/kick to knock you out your the air. Or even jump forward and air throw you (hello Guile).
Jumping out of pressure in the corner
It’s natural to try to escape when you’re cornered, but you always have to assume that your opponent is waiting for you to do just that, so think twice before you try escaping or jumping back defensively. Trying to jump in the corner is probably the most predictable thing newer players do.
Holding back too much
Turtling is a strong tactic in this game, but you need to know how to turtle properly. Just holding back is a weak turtling strategy. Some players have a habit of taking a step back every time you walk forward (you’ll notice this a lot if you’re a Blanka player). In many cases it’s because their strategy relies on punishing mistakes rather than creating offensive opportunities. eg. It’s tempting to jump in on someone who is walking backwards because it looks like their mindset is focused on running away or maybe their spacing looks like it’s awkward for them to attempt an anti-air, but often it’s just bait to get you to jump or throw a fireball. This type of gameplay is easily defeated by walking forward to force them to adjust their spacing. They’ll end up in the corner eventually. If you notice you’re being walked to the corner, stop holding back and change your strategy. Hold your ground and start zoning them (with projectiles or normals), or walk forward and start using footsies. Whatever you do, try to avoid the corner.
Not understanding how to capitalize on punishment
If someone misses a DP (for example), there are generally much better ways to punish than a sweep or a throw. But in some cases it’s actually better to go for a sweep or throw or a less-than-max-damage option because it sets up better offensive opportunities. eg. characters like Akuma, Zangief or Ibuki should strive for untechable knockdowns because it sets up their strong okizeme game. Ryu has many damaging combos, but sometimes it’s better to end your combo in a tatsu because it pushes the opponent to the corner. If Ryu lands a f.throw he can setup an ambiguous cross-up that can lead into another one with the right spacing. Or if you’re playing against char with weak reversals, throwing the opponent into the corner can be a good idea (Blanka hates the corner). If your character has good zoning (Guile, Dhalsim, Sagat), throwing them across the screen can also be beneficial if your opponent has a hard time getting in on you. Don’t turn your nose up at sweeps and throws, or lesser damage punishment. Understand the options they provide and choose one you think is best in that situation.
Giving up momentum
I always find it odd when an opponent knocks me down (especially in the corner), then runs away to the other side of the screen. Running away can be a good thing, but if you’re playing against a character with a weak wakeup game, or your character has strong okizeme (good options on an opponent’s wakeup), then press the advantage and keep up the momentum.
Jumps inside footsie range
This is very common against opponents who play characters with quick jumps or strong cross-ups (eg. Cody, Blanka, Juri, Balrog etc). The general tactic is to whiff a poke at footsie range, and when the opponent tries to counter-poke they jump in (ground-to-air footsies). Or they’ll poke till you’re out of range, then jump. This can be annoying to deal with, but patient opponents who have good reactions and execution or who play characters with strong anti-air defense, will beat this tactic more often than you can land it, especially if you’re being predictable (Blanka loves it when you test his EX V.Ball). Mix up your offense instead of just relying on jumping over counter-pokes.
Abusing crouch tech
You’re gonna get frame-trapped. It’s virtually impossible to defend correctly every time, but if you make it obvious that you’re always going for crouch tech (even delayed techs, which are basically your best option), it makes it much easier to frame-trap you. Vary your defense, and don’t forget about standing and teching! It provides better defense against throws (but obviously loses to low attacks).
Predictable block-strings/tick-throws/wakeup pressure
You’re just begging to eat a mashed DP/SPD. And I don’t just mean doing the same attacks all the time, I mean using the same timing as well. If you watch how some of the pros play, they often leave gaps in their blockstrings to bait reversals, or they take a small step back so that even if the opponent reversals they can’t FADC because it’s out of range. This also beats “revenge” pokes (see “Pressing Buttons”), because the poke will whiff and you can get punished. Delayed pressure on wake up will also beat this and wake up ultras (when the Ultra activates, your buttons are “deactivated” so you’ll be able to block).
Relying on gimmicks
Gimmicks are usually unsafe mixups, or strategies that rely on the opponent’s ignorance. Rule of thumb: If the probability of eating big damage after a failed mixup is high, then it’s probably a gimmick. eg. Blanka’s rainbow ball, whiffed greenhand/condor spire into SPD, fullscreen overheads with Balrog, mashing a special after a previous move is blocked, Ryu’s aerial EX Tatsu into DP, various reset mixups etc. Even good players will fall for gimmicks occasionally, but good players will see the setup a few times and then punish heavily you for trying it again.
Abusing focus attacks
Focus Attacks are a versatile tool, but they’re inherently risk/reward based. Many players always go for focus attacks at predictable times eg. after you block a few quick pokes, or if you jump in from certain ranges. It can lead to good damage because a crumple basically means a free combo, but they’re also incredibly risky. If your focus habits are predictable you’re going to get punished heavily.
Relying on cross-ups on wake up
Auto-correct specials are easier to do than you think. Learn a few safe-jump setups with your character instead of blindly crossing up. Or if your character has a safe meaty option against an opponent, try that. eg. Balrog and Dudley (without meter), can’t do anything to hurt you if you do cr.lk on their wakeup. This can be hit-confirmed and option-selected to beat backdash attempts.
It can get beaten by a range of moves including jump-ins, option selects, specials with forward momentum (eg. tatsus). It also moves you closer to the corner. It’s a strong defensive tactic, but don’t abuse it.
Probably the most common problem. Even after playing for months, many people still don’t understand their own characters’ set of normal moves and options (how often do you see people use Ryu’s close MK?). They’ll rely on big combos and gimmicks, but neglect simple techniques like zoning and footsies. Sure, execution is a fundamental skill, but it’s pointless practicing complex combos if you can never get an opportunity to land them. Here’s what you every player should do: Go to training mode with your character and set the dummy to do different moves. Now with your own character see what happens when you both do certain moves at the same time from different ranges. Check what normals you can use to punish if the opponent whiffs, if you block. Ask yourself what your combo options are? Can you knock them down from this position? etc. Then switch sides and see what the opponent can use to punish you. This knowledge is essential in understanding your own character’s ground game. Next, setup different jumping attacks and see what normal moves you can use to beat them from different ranges (you don’t need to DP everything you see). Once you understand this, you’ll notice how much more your game will improve. You’ll also notice how many opponents will just jump themselves to death every round because they don’t know what your options are at certain ranges. I’ve basically won matches just by spamming Blanka’s far standing jab 80% of the round because people don’t know how to deal with it so they back themselves into a corner or jump into my cr.mp/neutral jump hp. If you find that a certain move or tactic is troublesome, setup a scenario in training mode and figure out your options. Not every move has to be reversaled…
Waiting too long for a reversal/jump
Patience beats players who mash, but once someone has shown that they’re not keen on reversals, counter-pokes, or jumping in then there’s not really any point in waiting for them. There’s nothing that stops them from just walking up and throw you. SFIV is very peculiar in that you have to learn to master the art of delaying offense for just a few frames. Give them just enough room for try something, but no more. Also, if you’re sitting in crouch block at certain ranges and not doing anything, you’re making it obvious that you’re waiting on a jump or fireball. This gives your opponent more time to close in on you (or run down the clock if they’re ahead). You should learn to watch the ground and air at the same time, but focus more on the area you think the next attack will come from. This will vary between different players and characters so it’s something that can only be built with experience.
Not respecting the opponent’s reactions/execution
Some players are really fast and can pull off very tricky moves. If they’ve shown you they can counter a certain tactic on reaction, it’s foolish to try it again, no matter how often it works on other players. Figure out another strategy. If you find that you keep doing the same thing instinctively, then you might be playing on auto-pilot (next item).
Playing on auto-pilot
This is a trap that’s very easy to fall into if you play against weak opponents because they don’t make you think about how you play. You can beat them with gimmicks, or weak strategies because they don’t know how to counter it. You can perform pre-emptive counters because you know what their next move is gonna be (eg. trying to jump out of the corner). These are bad habits and they can fool you into thinking that you’re actually good at the game, when in fact the truth is that your opponent is just really lousy. If you find you’re beating people with gimmicks or moves that are easily beaten/defended against, find better opponents or handicap yourself in order to improve other aspects of your game. eg. If you’re throwing someone to death every round, try playing without throws. Or if they can’t ant-air you, play without jumping. Even better, tell your opponent how to beat your strat. This will force you to switch up and it will improve their game. Win-win.
Poor meter management
EX meter very important in this game, so you need to manage it properly. Unless it’s the last round, don’t finish the opponent off with an Ultra if you don’t need to (definitely don’t use a Super or EX move). Rather use a combo that will build the most amount of EX meter for the next round. An advanced tactic is to combo into a special move that you know will be blocked, but the chip damage will kill them eventually. You obviously need to weigh the risks here though. In some cases ending with an Ultra actually builds a huge amount of EX meter for the opponent (eg. Akuma’s Raging Demon). Also, don’t use EX moves when you don’t need to (there’s no reason to use Blanka’s EX horizontal ball unless it’s to beat projectiles…). If time is running out and your opponent is turtling on a huge life lead, use the opportunity to build meter. Alternatively, try to get them to waste theirs by doing moves that can only be countered with a Super. Or, you can get the opponent to build yours. eg. if Blanka has no health left and Akuma has an Ultra stored, he can start doing Blanka balls at close range in order to get Akuma to do a reversal Raging Demon. This builds a lot of meter (actually, I need to recheck this in SSFIV but I’m pretty sure it’s still true). If he doesn’t reversal, you build some meter. If he messes up a counter, you build even more and he loses health. If he does a raging demon, you’re well-stocked for the next round.
Focus Attacks on a stunned opponent
This really limits the damage potential of your combos. If you have time for a jump in combo, go for that instead. Sometimes though you can use the crumple to setup a reset mixup. But as with most mixups you can’t get predictable with it.
Not knowing when and how to lame it out
If you have a big life lead and the clock is running down, you don’t need to attack. Conversely, if you’re behind on health, don’t run away and expect the opponent to chase you. That’s not the right time to be playing lame at all. If you’re convinced you can’t win that round, spend the last few seconds building meter instead. Otherwise figure out how to approach safely. This is one of the most challenging parts of this game. But standing on the other side of the screen taunting your opponent hoping they’re going to attack you is probably not going to win you the match. Also, if you’re laming it out and your opponent is throwing fireballs, don’t forget that you can neutral jump as well. In many cases this won’t lose you any ground and the clock will just wind down further. You don’t have to block/focus every fireball. There’s no reason to jump forward either.
If you have the opportunity to land a free-combo (eg. after focus crumple or whiffed move with long recovery), you don’t need to hit-confirm it. eg. It’s kinda pointless doing jab, jab, jab, DP with Ryu when there’s the more damaging f.hp, (cr.hp xx) DP, or cr.mp, cr.hp xx DP. Hit-confirmation should only be used if you’re not sure your combo is going to land.