Timing on punishing unsafe moves


The more I play the more I realize how bad my timing is. A simple example is blocking and then punishing unsafe moves—how do I get better at timing the punish consistently? I am thinking about sf4 in particular but my question probably applies to all fighting games.

To take an example, suppose I’m playing Rose and I just blocked Bison’s Psycho Crusher so I’m at +8 frame advantage. I’d like to do her standard cr.hp xx spiral punish (200dmg), which starts up in 5, so there’s a 4 frame window for me to land it. 4 frames would be easy for a combo, but this isn’t the kind of timing you can get in your “muscle memory”, because your muscles aren’t doing anything; you just have to look/listen to the game to judge when to start.

Two additional problems is that if I miss the timing (in either direction) I end up doing a point-blank spiral, and now I’m the one at -8. Also, unlike combos, I think there’s hundreds of these to get right because every character has multiple unsafe moves with different frame disadvantages.

So how to you guys approach this? Here are some possibilities:
[]Just take one move at a time, go into training mode, and practice each character/move separately. This sounds ideal, but is impractical.
]Use a reversal move. Punishing with hp shoryuken (and then maybe FADC ultra) is pretty easy because of sf4’s reversal window. Unfortunately I play Rose and she has no applicable reversal moves.
[]Just mash throw. This is easier but does less damage. Also I doubt anyone can hit throw every 4 frames by mashing (you’d have to mash 15 times a second) so you could get reversaled through it occasionally.
]Look at that little sparkle/glint around the health bars that tells when you are coming out of blockstun. Does anyone find that helpful?
[]Double tap the beginnings of all punish combos. I don’t really see the downside to this, other than I can’t do it. Also this would help but you’d still need to know the timing.
]Use a hit confirm instead of a punish combo. It would do less damage, but at least it’s safe if you miss it.
Do you do one of the above, or something totally different I didn’t think of? Thanks for any ideas!


For me, it’s just been practice. Plinking helps sometimes, but I find that I can do even frame-perfect punishes pretty well (unless I’m playing online). I guess it’s just some sort of subconscious timing that is triggered by a specific event (blocking a move). … In fact, that would explain why I miss loads of punishes online, since my inputs are delayed more than usual.

Anyway, everything you’ve listed is good advice. To expand on #1, you can always hit training mode if you encounter a specific move in a match that you have a hard time punishing. Then you’ll accumulate the required skills over time.

Pay attention to spacing too… as a Rose player you should know. Many moves are advantageous on block even on minus frames when spaced right because of the positioning they leave you at when the opponent blocks (and of course hitting on later active frames can change the frame advantage). eg Ken’s step kick.


This is both ideal and quite practical. If you can’t get the timing of something down, take it to training mode. Double tapping is fine too if it helps you, but training mode first.The rest of your ideals are either less than ideal or ineffectual.

BTW, those sparkles on the health bars don’t relay any meaningful information. They don’t coincide with hit/block stun at all.


Thanks for the responses. I was hoping there was an easier way, but I guess I will just practice my double-tapping and fire up the training room when a particular move annoys me.

Although unsafe moves and combos are obvious cases, it seems players often want to act as soon as possible after blockstun, hitstun, or a move’s recovery. So to some extent it helps to know the timings not only for unsafe moves, but for every move of the game. I read somewhere that many pros double-tap everything—at the time I thought that was ridiculously hardcore, but now I think that may be easier than learning the timings for everything.

It’s also funny that one of the original moves I found really hard to punish (Dan’s hop kicks) turned out to be completely safe. So move animations can sometimes be very misleading.


I think part of it is simply knowing every move in the game, this takes experience but you can go to training mode and just learn each character to a basic level. Then you’ll have a feel for what is safe and unsafe for them, and use that as a foundation for opponents who use them at a higher level.
Psycho punisher sees hard to punish anyways since I think the recovery starts while he’s still in purple flames, making it hard to tell when to punish. IF you wait until he’s on his feet, its too late, I’m not 100% sure on this so don’t quote me.

Also maybe you can do option select to avoid doing raw spiral? I don’t really know everything bbout option select but wouldn’t it work if you press
qcf lp lk hk

so if you missed the hp you get grab? someone correct me please


Not every psycho crusher you block will be unsafe.

Rose has a 3 frame cr.jab that can be hitconfirmed into her BnB. Just use that.


Don’t ever settle on doing a safer but less-damaging punish unless you can win the game it. Go into training mode and do the work. Rose mains of all players should understand how important it is to optimize damage.

Find the frame data for the move you want to punish, go to training mode and replicate the situation, then test for what moves will punish it. Keep in mind what Chousuke said about frame advantage differing according to the spacing of the move and which active frame(s) it hits with.

Once you’ve figured out what move to use, landing the punish consistently becomes a matter of building up muscle memory. Same concept behind landing punishes as is with doing combos. Go into training mode and repeat those situations and repeat your punishes until you get them down 100% so when those situations happen in game, you won’t even have to think about how to punish because your muscle memory will do it for you.


Thanks for the comments. I’ve been practicing double/triple tapping the last few days and it seems it should help a lot. It’ll probably take a couple months for it to become reflexive for me, but it should make these punishes a lot easier. For instance, in the psycho crusher example, triple tapping could turn a 4 frame window into an 8-12 frame window (depending on how tight the tapping is) which is pretty amazing. I used to play piano so I don’t mind repetitive technical finger exercises.

Douk’s OS is interesting and I think I get why it works but it’s a bit beyond me at this point. I can’t think of a reason not to do it though. At some point I need to organize list all the OSes I’ve heard of and start practicing them.

Also I get what people are saying about the meaty attacks leaving you at less frame advantage, so sometimes the hit confirm is more appropriate.


Sometimes the technical max damage punish isn’t practical if you can’t react quickly enough to do it. In a tournament, you have to go with what you know will work and you know you can do. Sometime’s it’s worth it not to punish the random whiffed midscreen lp uppercut with more than a sweep simply because if you react too slowly you might get ultra’d.