Where To Begin?

I’ve been playing FGs for decades, though I’ve never been a high-level player. I used to fight based on certain memorized move sets, or just on reaction alone. No thoughts of set-ups, spacing or any high-level playstyles, just thinking of winning.
I mainly play 2-D FGs, though I am not anti-3D by any means.
I’m seeking advice/wisdom on where to begin in general with spacing, set-ups, jump-ins and good fundamentals.
Though there are significant differences in various games engines, is there a universal foundation for these concepts?
Knowing what moves are safe vs unsafe, what pokes are good for consistent use and BnBs are part of good fundamentals, but how does one learn spacing, set-ups and more intermediate to advanced concepts to avoid bad fundamentals/gameplay?
What has the most importance in fundamentals and where should newbies and/or prior “casual” players begin on the path of high-level gameplay?
Limiting how many FGs one plays is probably crucial, but there are so many fun and intriguing games to play/learn, not to mention other genres (played various Halos since H2)…

EDIT: Another question occurred to me: Should new players, or those seeking to improve be watching every tournament, minor or major??
I seek to improve my gameplay and hope other players will benefit from the results of my knowledge quest.
I’ve been looking at various footage on youtube, and would like to compile links for spacing, set-ups and jump-ins to add to the Links thread I created a while back. The advice of peers, elders, and potential competitors is invaluable and far superior to a video imo.

Okay, so you’ve played for awhile, but now you want to get serious, right?

I guess the first question is what game(s) you want to be serious about. It definitely helps to learn one game at a time, two max. Your choice of game will influence how and where you begin.

Developing spacing: It’s all practice, there’s no shortcut for this as I’m sure you know. And spacing in MvC3, SF4, GG, etc. are all wildly different.

Setups: This, you can find out here, or on whatever forum is dedicated to your game. Again I’d maybe be able to give better advice if I knew what games you’re interested in. But check character forums, and if you can’t find anything, watch a lot of high-level videos and put yourself in the player’s shoes. Pretend you’re the one playing, and notice the spots where they do something different. Then pause the video and ask yourself why. Odds are you’ll learn a lot about setups by understanding how high-level players evaluate their position on screen and their purpose with every movement.

Everything else: Play the game! Play it a lot. Play it with people, and for every hour you spend playing, spend ~20 minutes in training mode going over problems you had while playing. Figure out how to beat what’s beating you. Write stuff down if you’re the type who likes to do that, you can keep notes of what you want to practice later while you’re playing online/locally. Also, when you do play, remember your goal is to LEARN, not to win. Try stuff out and figure out why it’s working or isn’t working. Ask your friend what he’s doing to counter you, etc.

So yeah, overall, I’d say if you know fighting games (which you clearly do) the best course of action is to watch videos, play a lot, and make a real effort to improve instead of just grinding set after set without giving it any thought. You’ll get to where you want to be.

How to become Pro:

  1. Pick a game. Pick a character / Team etc
  2. Training Mode
  3. Lurk SRK
  4. Watch Videos
  5. Training Mode
  6. Play against other people
  7. Training Mode
  8. Play against other people even more

First of All, Thank You both for your perspectives/advice. Much Appreciated. Here’s my FG dossier, as it were…

I’ve grown up on SF & MK, SS, and am a Guy fanatic (could you tell? =oP ), so AE and SFxT would be what I mainly play, however, I have had little time with MK9, and I like Injustice.
Tekken 6 is awesome (the alt costumes are insane), like T5 was, and I played Ivy in SC2, but I’ve been focusing on 2-D currently for some reason.

My regulars have been: Blanka, Guile, Claw (SF2-SFHF), Fei-Long, Ken, Cammy, Guile (SS2T) Dudley, Ibuki, Gouki (3S) Gouki, Fei-Long, Gen (SFIV), Ken, Chun-Li, (Got the Master SCreen Ending for those two in Arcade), Gouki, Rose- (Alpha), Guy (Alpha-SSFIV), Cody, Blanka, Ryu, Gouki, Dee Jay (SFA3), Dhalsim w/Ken (SFA2, X-Men Vs SF), Morrigan, Lilith, Anakaris, Talbain, Hsien-Ko, Bulleta, Jedah (DS3), Kyo, Iori and Eiji (KOF '95), Hanzo, Galford, Kyoshiro, Ukyoi, Genjuro, Sogetsu, Kazuki (SS series), Sub-Zero, Liu Kang, (MK), Kung Lao, Reptile, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Kitana Liu Kang (MK2), Sub-Zero, Human Smoke (MK3), Scorpion, Kung Lao, Ermac, Rain (UMK3), Kenshi, Kung Lao, Noob/Smoke, Ermac, Mavado, Raiden (3D MKs), Raiden Ermac, Reptile, Kung Lao, Kenshi (MK9), Wolverine (CotA-MvC2), Psylocke, Gouki, B.B. Hood, Anakaris, Charlie, Guile, Iron-Man, Hayato, Hulk, Omega Red (MvC2), Omega Red, Dan, Shuma G, Sakura, Hulk, Wolverine, Gouki (did this one combo with Gouki where I did HP SRK then did the Dive Kick on the way down which I found accidentally)

King (T3), Bryan & Nina (TTT), Bryan, Feng Wei, Nina, Raven (T5, T6), Lars (T6), Ivy, Kilik (SC1 & 2), Hayato, Zelkin, June (SG, PS)

I choose characters based on their design, fun in use and styles.