SF4: Mentality and core fundamentals


This thread is created for those who want to become better SF4 players. Here I (and hopefully others) will post my own philosophies regarding SF4 strategy and core fundamentals in attempt to help you adopt them to become stronger players. From time to time, I’ll drop a nice piece of knowledge down for people to read and get a grip on.

You can discuss it if you’d like and you can even give feed back and opinions regarding such matters…all things that I accept. With that, realize that this isn’t a complaint thread and this is not the place to start “I disagree with what you’re saying” statements. I’m not here to argue about mash uppercut during open strings or if trade DP > Ultra should be in or out of the game. Other threads like this have been created yet also destroyed because of such moronic comments, so** please don’t turn it into such**. With that out of the way, I encourage players of higher skill to drop some knowledge for those that want it. This one is for the akatsuki (name has been changed, you know who you are).


Stop giving up free damage

There have been many times where I see players lose when they shouldn’t have. In most cases, the statment above is the primary reason as to why this happens. The excuse of “he was plain better than me” can only go so far. In fact the correct school of thought should instead be “he out played me.” Skill can always be measured, however the extent of someone’s skill has to be questioned when you realize that YOU are killing yourself :amazed:. This is a pretty obvious aspect of SF, however it amazes me how often players go off and essentially kill themselves based off of stupid decisions.

In many times these “stupid decisions” are quite obvious. Why did you jump in when he has 2 meters and an ultra stocked? Why did you jump in and give away three things…damage, a knockdown, plus potential mixup options! A lot of players don’t realize the gravity of their decisions. The fact of the matter is that you need to be able to make your opponent **work **for the damage he puts in instead of giving it away.

It’s surprising to see how much this school of thought transforms a player’s overall “skill.” Essentially they didn’t really change anything, however they started playing smarter rather than trying to play “better.” Players that don’t give away free damage require their opponents to out play them and work with their OWN skill, rather than fight with what their opponent GIVES them.

Try to take this mentality on for yourself and realize just how often you lose without truly putting up a fight. With a touch of “risk to reward” thought mixed with “stop giving away free damage” you’ll find the value in understanding the difference of “he was just better than me” compared to “he out played me.” Though the two are interrelated and some what redundant, you’ll find that often times when you lose, the true culprit is none other than yourself.

The moral of the story is to remain patient! Stop helping your opponent kill you. Before making a questionable decision, weigh out the risks and rewards and go from there. Stop giving up free damage and start making your opponent work for the win. When you stop giving away damage, you challenge your opponent to prove that he is a better player than you are. No harm in that. Pack up, lick your wounds and move on to learn how to win next time.


edit: hah, I swear I wrote this as you were posting that Mickey, but it seems like our posts kind of go together on that. Patience/Calming down is essential to upping one’s game.

The biggest thing that I can think of that most characters require is patience. It’s a huge problem for me personally, and I have noticed several other players as well. If you have a huge life lead, there is no reason to go in and be super aggressive the entire time. Sitting back and making them come to you is a sound strategy, and sometimes it’s hard to realize sitting back is exactly what you should do.

I’ve actually started taking really deep breaths during matches to calm myself down in between rounds and also sometimes during a round if we’re both just chilling on our side of the screen. Seems to have really helped me take control of things a bit more and also calm down and make myself realize I don’t need to rush in and go all crazy 100% of the time.


A few general tips:

  • There are 99 seconds in a round. No one is forcing you to rush your opponent down! Take your time and assess the situation before that next jump in! Who has the lead? What is the meter situation like? Why do you need to attack right this second? Before taking initial action, assess the situation at hand to gain more clarity. Why come to him when he might need to come to you? Play the clock for what it’s worth and learn to value patience!

  • A 30% lead is something of huge importance in SF4. With a 30% lead you have no reason to rush down or be overly aggressive if the situation doesn’t warrant it. Instead, adapt a more defensive stance in order to keep what you’ve gained. Work with what is given to you from here, don’t try to claim it for yourself.

  • Block MORE! There are about 2 things that can happen from a crouch blocked stance: an over head or a throw. Blocking allows you to break down your opponent’s moves giving you time to adapt to his course of attack. Throws do about 130 damage where as a standard combo gives up 210. So the next time you’re under enemy fire, wait it out! Block the string and wait for the tech if necessary.

  • Respect your opponent’s options. Attacking on wake up can lead to an easy ultra…no thought on his part when you’ve put in a whole lot of work for that hard earned knock down. All in all, respect opponent’s options, and keep him on a tight leash if you ever suspect a momentum shift in the opponent’s near future. Remember this is escape fest 2010! People don’t like having momentum pressed against them and often the first initial response is to reversal (escape) out. Respect the option and learn how to counter appropriately.

  • After losses, think about the damage that he earned compared to the damage you gave away. Whether it be from random ultra, a well timed focus attack on your opponents part, a mix up option that you didn’t know how to fight against…whatever the case, understand exactly why you lost and figure out just how much of it was the opponent truly

  • Keep your opponent honest! This goes hand in hand with respecting options. I will wake up DP you EVERY TIME, if you’ve never shown me why I shouldn’t. With that, if you can’t anti air me there is no reason why I should stop jumping in. Keep your opponent honest and condition them to think twice about their actions.


Nice tips. I find myself making a lot of these mistakes because I play too reactively without the fundamentals. Trying to slow my game down until I learn to react more effectively to pressure situations.


This is obvious to some and comes in other forms as well (yoga, etc.) but it needs to be said anyway just in case it helps someone.

To me, you are using Qigong or “chi kung” when you take those deep breaths and they calm you down. Its a proven ancient technique of energy work (Qi Gong literally means energy work) that involves mostly breathing in and out properly and standing properly. There is movement involved in the actual exercises but even as a normal every day non practicing of anything person you are still using the technique and reaping its effects. The reason the deep breaths help you is because they go all the way down to your dantien or energy center and help to control your blood pressure and heart rate. You can slow your heart rate and drop your blood pressure right now simply by breathing slowly and deeply all the way in and out for awhile. It feels good too, almost like a cake you can eat and eat and never get sick of.

Why should you listen to me at all about this mumbo jumbo energy shit? You shouldn’t. I am not a chinese grandmaster, but my grandmaster is the 19th generation direct descendant of the Chen family, the creators of Chen style Tai Chi and I have experienced everything I say thru his and his disciples’ teaching. I simply am trying to pass on something I learned in the hopes it will benefit others the way it has me. I am not a teacher nor an expert but I have been at it for about 6 years.

The point I guess is that if you benefit from that simple breathing, you should look into some local Tai Chi or Qigong and go even farther. Constant patience and calmness will manifest after some practice and the art is nothing but beneficial to all who practice it. It changed my life. Now most of the time when I get excited it’s because I want to or I am enjoying myself, not because it is out of my control. I have a lot of headroom to think while action is happening around me, and it kind of slows things down for you so they are not so overwhelming as they happen.

I agree 100% with the original post, I am hoping my post will help legitimize the breathing even further for you and others as well as interest you in going even further physically to help your game. I unwittingly play to lose all the time and don’t even think about it or really even care but now that my practice is shaping up a bit I feel like I want to refine my game and play better and the first thing I realized I had to do was be patient and wait for opportunities while not giving away stupid damage as well, so I really felt compelled to add to this thread because of my independent corroboration. That’s usually pretty strong evidence that there’s something worth investigating.


Also, YES YES YES @ Tsunamiken. People who get tournament jitters would benefit extremely from breathing exercises. I guarantee I would not have gotten 1/4th as far as I did at evo if I had not been practicing yoga and known breathing exercises to slow my heart rate.

Yes! I would like to elaborate on this.

I learned competitive fighting via third strike. A very unforgiving game where in high level a lot of the damage comes from throws. Honestly, the only time people get damaged from normals are bad choices like antsy throw breaks, terrible parry attempts, or just whiffing a stupid ass move to whiff. It took me a really, really long time and a lot of ass-kickings to realize being thrown is not that bad. I would rather lose a match to 28 throws and know he couldn’t break my defense otherwise. Rather than getting antsy and trying to throw tech on wishy-washy situations (would you rather take 150 damage from a throw, or 500 from a panicked throw bait into uppercut fadc ultra?), just let them reset the situation. You get another chance to break the momentum.



Third strike made throws even scarier because you could quickstand. It made the momentum still a random 50/50 between should I tech this knockdown or shouldn’t I? Because there were setups off quick stand like meaty UOH (universal overhead), super, which led to another knockdown. In SF4 the entire momentum situation is reset. Use a throw knockdown to take a deep breath (seriously jodo good shit, people don’t even understand how important breathing is :lol:) and assess the situation. Block! If you’re really panicking perhaps you can try to backdash out of their upcoming blockstring. Backdash is a better choice than throw tech IMO.

I reiterate:

An overhead? So what. Overheads in this game are garbage other than confusing your opponent getting that last little tic of life. There are almost no overheads in this game that lead to any extra damage. Cammy/Rufus’ dive kick? Not an overhead. Burning kick? Not an overhead. Throw? Awesome, a reset situation.

On top of all this, this game has VERY LITTLE blockstun meaning blockstrings should really not be that scary. Any blockstring, I repeat, ANY BLOCKSTRING, that is not chained jabs or shorts (which cannot be combo’d out of!) is interruptible. Reversal, backdash, whatever. Or you know, the best situation: BLOCK. BLOCKING IS OKAY.

Once I understood that it’s okay to eat 10 throws because they still don’t TRULY get momentum because I am not panicking, I improved exponentially. Rather than the previous “oh god I’ve been thrown there’s so much that could happen” it turned into “sweet I got thrown, here’s where I get a quick break from the tension, a place to assess what they’re doing, let’s just block. Oh oops another throw, oh well that’s like 5% damage who cares, they still haven’t landed that super.”

I mean really, which matches do you look back on and frown upon more, the ones where you panicked and mashed on throw to tech a throw while they did some embarrassingly slow bait like neutral jump into fat combo, or the ones where you blocked their mixups and just got outdamaged here and there?


Yeah, I learned the breathing stuff from sports and weight lifiting - and honestly until Cole talked to me a bit about calming down in a match and collecitng myself I had never really thought of applying it to Street Fighter - but it REALLY works. (Thanks again Cole btw, all the advice you’ve ever given me has been solid - if anyone is curious btw, this was advice he gave me after my press start breakdown vs Mac’s Honda. Cole just recommended to sit back, block, and even take a bit of damage while you take a deep breath and collect yourself so that you can do well the rest of the match. Very solid advice)


Good shit, that definately is food for thought for me.

A theory I have discussed before with some of my friends that come to play here seems to apply to this and so it may be interesting, the things said here have helped me define and expand it even a little more:

Moves have mental effects as well as physical (hp damage). I see certain moves as being not just damaging to your character but also to your mental state, like certain moves have demoralizing properties that cause you to think or feel things that wreck your ability to play properly or simply derail your train of thought. A good example of what I would call a strong demoralizing move is Gouken’s counter. When you eat the thing it rocks your entire thought process because of the huge shutdown it puts on you, I can’t tell you how many times I have countered experienced players and they STILL say “Oh, Shit!”. I think a ton of moves in the game have values in demoralizing/moralizing. This is all in your head though, and up to you to ignore eating a big pile of demoralization that did little damage to your character but fucked your head game into uselessness. BE ON THE LOOKOUT for these moves and recognize when they clamp down on your mentality, then you can begin to nullify that effect by recognizing it as a negative aspect of your game. Even though it isn’t really in the game code, it’s in your mental code and that can be rewritten.


Just wanted to say in retrospect on this thread that you guys are tight as hell for being on this other tip, philosophy is a much neglected joy in life, and as vital as technique if not more so.


One thing I see some people do is either they get bored or psych themselves out or something. For whatever reason, they take a situation where they have an advantage and throw it in the garbage. If you’re zoning someone with fireballs with sagat, and they’re failing to get around them, KEEP THROWING FIREBALLS. Don’t randomly dash/jump in or stop. If it’s working, keep doing it.

Don’t try to do something you know you can’t reasonably do. There are training mode combos and there are match combos. If you’re sure you can’t reasonably pull it off, stick with a simpler punish or combo and work on the other one in casuals or training mode when it doesn’t matter. Don’t try to do some random shit in a tournament or serious play situation and cost yourself the match. Eventually if you practice enough you can make combos that were formerly “training mode” combos into “match” combos, but recognizing your limits is important.

Newer players tend to be too aggressive. I don’t think I ever run into a player who’s too defensive or needs to attack more. Newer players don’t know when or how to attack so they just do it all the time, because any time seems as good. Learn to find what is punishable and what isn’t. Don’t just mash out random shit.

Aside from mashing, newer players need to learn to not be so easily baited. I stand on my opponent on wakeup sometimes and mash to make them think I’m attempting to do something. Some people fall for that shit every time and will dp or wakeup ultra. Do not do that shit. Seriously. DP at least you can FADC to save yourself, but wasting an ultra not only gives up a precious resource, you’re probably leaving one of the biggest openings you could have given.

I find the best thing to do as a player is to just have a general desire for knowledge. Just strive to get any tool, any option to beat your opponent. I hear a lot of older players say “I don’t believe in reading forums, watching vids, or looking at frame data”. I’m sorry but I disagree with that. That’s like saying “I don’t throw because it’s cheap”. You’re holding on to a system of honor or a way of doing things because you don’t like to adapt. If you really want to be competitive you will find any and all information you can and make them your tools. Just because you read something or watch something, doesn’t mean you HAVE to do what it says.

One thing I like to do with new players, (we’re talking extremely new players) is to put them in training mode or maybe even just a regular match, and force them to block the whole time. They can block or try to tech but that’s it. Just attack the whole time and try to mixup highs, lows and throws. Force them to learn to block before having them try to learn to combo or do any complicated stuff. You can’t do a combo if you never have an opening, and you can’t block if you’re mashing buttons.

A lot of people straight up do not have ANY idea why they lost. They lose a match and they get pissed. They bitch about the stick, they bitch about the setup, they bitch that their mommy didn’t hug them enough. You know what? Shut the fuck up. You lost. That’s it. I don’t care if the stick was broken in half and someone spilled a coke on your buttons. Grow some fucking balls. You can’t learn while you’re making excuses. Get mad that you lost sure, fine. Great. Let it fuel you to learn, to be better, to figure out what went wrong. Channel it in a positive way to become a better player. Just remember, no matter what never say to yourself or those around you “I would have won if I…”. It not only cheats yourself, but it shows a lack of respect for your opponent.


I just want to chime in with a little bit of my own knowledge.

Positional Advantage: Too often I see players (including a lot of newer players) give up a serious positional advantage for a small guessing game or similar ill-advised tactic to gain damage. Often I believe this is because the player in question isn’t thinking too far ahead of their match and wants to try to get just more damage, as soon as possible, the mentality of “I just need to hit this combo, and then two more!” You need to look at ranges. There are a lot of normals, but through sensing of your opponents tendencies and understanding his characters moves you can determine at which range and for what reason he will try to do move “A”. Thinking this far ahead can let you prepare for that situation and have your own counter move “B”.

Quick example: I am playing Sagat. Near the corner of the screen I land a throw attempt and my opponent is now placed in a really bad spot. I can perform a meaty, bait a reversal, attempt tiger knee pressure, throw meaty fireballs, etc… I have MANY options available, and the best part is they all keep my opponent in the corner still! So why would you attempt to cross up your opponent? Upon success, at best I land the crossup and get a combo in. My opponent is no longer in the corner and though he loses life, I potentially give up a LOT more damage possible if I kept him in. This effect is magnified for some characters (Ryu, Rufus, Zangief, etc) and diminished for some others (Blanka, Guile). If I attempt a crossup and fail (opponent blocks) I am put in a guessing game which can go either way (throw, inv. reversal, block) AND I’M left in the corner, free to give my opponent their own pressure and momentum against me.

The powers of blocking: Blocking can be used as more than a defense. It can carry a greater purpose on offense - that your opponent will show you what he is willing to do to gain damage. With a superior knowledge of the game you can turn this around into damage as long as you’re careful. Read your opponents tendencies, learn his favourite blockstrings and recognize the holes in them. Many opponents will repeat something for many reasons: out of comfort, because they haven’t been punished yet, or they’re currently scared to do something else for fear of losing their tricks. This isn’t every player (you’ll see a lot of rushdown heads who want nothing more than to use every trick they can every chance they get to win, different strategies for different people) but with the right mindset (keep your head in the game!) and clear observations you can take away your opponents momentum or strip their game down to the mindgames level.


one thing frank told me when we were at the utada concert.i was like, “man, i really want to get a picture with her and get my poster signed. id be hella pumped if that happened.” frank said, “it WILL happen.” now, take this mentality and apply it to your game. dont say, “i think i can beat him.” or “i hope i can OCV.” have confidence in yourself and your playing ability. tell yourself “im gonna beat this nigga.” “i can get an OCV.” confidence is key. if you go into battle awaiting a loss, then youve already lost. now, even though i didnt get my poster signed or get a picture, there is still a next time. unless youre gonna die IRL after your match, there will be another time to get the win. keep positive and try to think outside of the box when youre up against a wall (literally and figuratively)


Fuck it, I’m gonna chime in. I fall into the overly aggressive new player category and have won some matches and lost some matches because of this. Now I’m probably not trying to enter any tournaments, simply based on the amount of time that I have to practice. But one trick that has kinda helped me when playing online is that I rotate the joystick nine times during the loading screen and it seems to calm me down and help me focus. I notice that when I do that I kind of “tune in” a little bit more. Kinda have gotten to the point where that physical cue helps put me in a focused state.

But back to the OP. I’m sure that I give away tons of damage because I’m too focused on dealing damage. I remember getting stuck in a corner against a bison once and he just completely overwhelmed me with scissor kick/throw/roundhouse pressure. I literally felt like I was completely trapped and unable to do anything and it sucked. Now I try to be that guy and make my opponent feel like that. Unfortunately this causes me to do a lot of stupid things(sometimes I’m unaware that they are in fact stupid things though), good to read this and get a reminder. Thanks for that :slight_smile:

In fact I haven’t played SF4 for a couple weeks due to recent losing streak where i got bored of rog and busted out cammy. Went and bought soul calibur 4 just to take a break. But now I’m feeling like I should put in some time on SF4 again. I really would like to be decent at the game by the time Super comes out.


the reason u lose is simple.

It is because u dont play enough. and u dont play enough good people to learn and get better.

there is no secret jedi mind trick.

you cannot win by just thinking “I am gonna body this guy” that is bullshit stupid arrogance.


I’m guessing that was directed at me.

I hardly think that I’m arrogant. I know that I’m not good at SF4 and have never claimed otherwise. I was agreeing with mickey that my mindset is something I should look at.

At this point in the game offense and defense are really all I know. I don’t really play mind games except for trying to bait SRK’s or going for tick throws. I’m not sure about positioning other than being in the corner is bad and having someone in the corner is good. My game just hasn’t evolved to the point where I can think about mix-up options, mind games, zoning, etc.

Quite frankly, I haven’t made SF4 that high on my list of priorities. There are a lot more important things that I have to take care of in real life to spend hours and hours on a game. If that is something that is a prerequisite to being here, then I guess I’m in the wrong place. I was just hoping to improve my game on a slightly higher than casual level and learn some things, meet some people, and have some fun.

If you thought that your post was in any way useful, or that you said anything that wasn’t completely obvious, then the only arrogant one here is you.


I find the best thing to do as a player is to just have a general desire for knowledge. Just strive to get any tool, any option to beat your opponent. I hear a lot of older players say “I don’t believe in reading forums, watching vids, or looking at frame data”. I’m sorry but I disagree with that. That’s like saying “I don’t throw because it’s cheap”. You’re holding on to a system of honor or a way of doing things because you don’t like to adapt. If you really want to be competitive you will find any and all information you can and make them your tools. Just because you read something or watch something, doesn’t mean you HAVE to do what it says. "

Knowledge is nothing without execution/implementation. It seems to me that many (older) top players don’t watch videos, read frame data or read forums. Explain this to me?


Hmm, I don’t think what KrazyKoreanFrank said was personal, Stricnine. Just a response to multiple previous posts, mostly not yours. But then, what do I know.

I’m really too new to give much to this thread, but I love the idea, and I will be watching it closely.

Well…there is one thing I decided very recently to start deliberately thinking about that I believe has helped my game more than anything else as of late:
No More Excuses.
Gray Fox already touched on this subject, but it’s my focus point while playing for now. I don’t think I’ve ever been too much of a complainer, but I think everyone resorts to small excuses, even if it’s only in the player’s own mind, before becoming more mature about how they look at the game. In being super honest with myself, I can stop bullshiting around what the problem is. Instead of thinking, ‘well, that should have been an reversal Ultra,’ I recognize that my execution was off, in my timing or in my inputs, and admit to being outplayed by the opponent, a phrase mentioned earlier that I really, really like. That kind of honesty allows easier analysis of the game, and thus faster improvement.
Just tonight for a moment I thought, ‘man, this stick sucks, and is making my execution suck too!’ But I disregarded that idea, and decided that I could make my play more on-point with my own hands. That kind of attitude helped even more than I thought it would.

I think I’ll practice the deep breaths thing when next I get a chance too. :slight_smile:

I’d say the older players received the knowledge already through hearsay and experience alone. They don’t use the newest advances in the spreading of knowledge because they don’t need too.
I know one older player that admitted that he might be even better if he did look at some frame data, though. :wink:
The players that actually discourage checking out that kind of info are just being too pushy with their own views.


I wasnt talking to you. I dont know who u are, and I didnt read your unimportant post.
My post was for mickey to read and respond.


To reiterate my first post, I want to disclaim once again that I’m not here to have a discussion with people. This isn’t “hey what do you guys think of my thoughts and strategies?” I could really care less what people think and I’m not here to debate about what works and what doesn’t. This thread is to be used as an outlet to teach people general mentalities and fundamentals that will help them become better players in the long run.

This is not for your typical SF player…it’s NOT for the typical player in the NW, you may think it is, but it isn’t. This thread was created targeted towards a specific group of players. I’m not here to have a discussion with people.

So drop your knowledge, throw in your 2 cents, but realize that unless you’re saying things that are actually valid…think twice before pressing that “submit reply” button.