Zoning 101 with Chun-Li

Zoning is an important part of every character?s game, and Chun is no exception. When people think about zoning, they often think about keeping Zangief at full screen, or getting inside against Dhalsim or Guile. But there is so much more to the zoning dynamic, and with this post I hope to shed a little more light on that.

When zoning, there are three important things to take into consideration. The first is where the characters are in relation to each other. The second is what they can do from those distances. And the third is your position relative to the corner. With a firm grasp of all these of these concepts, you can take control of the match and see more victories.

Let?s take a quick look at zoning in a match. [media=youtube]dDMK_23Lr1I&feature=related"[/media] Note how Kayane starts the match ? she walks backwards and throws a Kikoken. Kikoken is a good projectile move, but from certain distances its very easily to react to it and either punish Chun or put her in a very disadvantaged position. The position that both characters are in at the start of the match is one of those distances where Kikoken can be easily punished. Walking backwards gives Chun space to recover and react to what the opponent does in response to the Kikoken. Kayane is not unique here, as a lot of Chun?s open up the round with some variation of walk back/dash back Kikoken. When I?m playing Chun, I typically open the round sitting on down-back, and watch as my opponent takes a dash/jump forward in anticipation of me moving backwards and throwing Kikoken.

The next aspect of zoning here is that Chun has sacrificed screen position in order to throw that Kikoken. Take careful note that Daigo?s Ryu does not let the screen scroll behind him ? he is very good at advancing forward. He moves into the perfect position for Kikoken punish (more on that later! ? and take note that this is roughly the same position as the beginning of the match), and when Kayane throws Kikoken, Daigo reacts and punishes easily. Also note that the punish he uses pushes Kayane into the corner. So now, only 10 seconds into the match, Chun is cornered with no meter. Kayane eventually fights her way out, but by this point Daigo has already taken ~80% of her life. Here, Daigo uses the three elements of zoning to score damage, and put himself in a position where he is in control of the match. If you can also utilize these elements ? both offensively, and defensively, it will make you a stronger player overall.

Next, let?s run down some of Chun?s zoning options/strategies. Note that this changes for pretty much every character. Since we?re on the subject, let?s look at Ryu.

Full Screen

Chun?s Kikoken will not reach Ryu at maximum full-screen distance. However, fighting against U1 Chun Ryu doesn?t have a free ticket to throw all the fireballs he wants to, as dash Ultra will hit him if he throws a fireball while Chun is sitting on down-back charge. Chun can throw Kikoken fairly safely ? there is nothing Ryu can do to punish. While EX/Shinkuu Hadoken can blow through a Kikoken and hit Chun in recovery, Ryu will have to do it psychically ? he?s got to throw it while Chun is still in the middle of the animation (the Kikoken hasn?t been thrown yet). This distance can be considered advantage Chun.

Can it be used to her advantage? With Ryu afraid to throw fireballs, it gives Chun the chance to control the screen. Chun can throw a Kikoken and move forward ? this will change the dynamic of the playing field, and force Ryu to respond. If Ryu moves backward, this pushes him closer to his corner. If he moves forward, he takes a partial risk. Where both characters end up after the Kikoken will again change the zoning game.

Almost-Full Screen (2 Steps In)

Very similar to Full Screen. Chun no longer needs a dash to punish fireball attempts with U1. However, Chun?s Kikoken is no longer completely safe ? Ryu can reaction RH Tatsu through it and hit Chun in recovery. This is somewhat risky for Ryu ? if his reaction time is slow then Chun can recover and punish him for it. For this reason, it?s not something Ryu will rely on, but it?s still an option he has.

At this range, Kikoken WILL reach Ryu, so unless he wants to take chip damage from blocking he will probably react to it in some way.

3/4ths Screen (3 Steps In)

Here is where the dynamic starts to shift. If Chun throws Kikoken, Ryu can react by jumping forward ? even if Chun manages to block, she won?t be able to anti-air at all. This puts Ryu in an offensive advantage state, and now he can challenge Chun with block strings, throws, frame traps to defeat crouch tech, or even just DP FADC. At this range, throwing Kikoken becomes a pretty bad idea. Many Chun players, wanting to throw the Kikoken, will dash or walk backwards in order to escape this punishment range. Before you do that though, it?s important to think about the ground you are losing ? is Chun getting closer to the corner? Are you giving Ryu a way out of his? Is it worth it just to throw a Kikoken?

As Ryu gets closer, he will become more bold with his decisions to throw Hadoken. At a shorter range, it will be more difficult for Chun to react in time with Ultra. Also, note that this distance is on the very tip of Chun?s RH Hasan Shu range. Knowing this, Ryu may go into FA ? if you are baited into it, he gets a free punish. If you do nothing, Ryu will have to dash cancel either forwards or backwards. If your Ryu is prone to going backwards, this is one way to push him back to 3/4ths or Full Screen, and potentially drive him into the corner.

The only attacks that Chun can do that will reach Ryu are Hasan Shu and Kikoken. Both incredibly risky. So, what should Chun do? While this answer will vary depending on players and play styles, personally I believe that Chun should refrain from hitting buttons and change the zone dynamic ? either walk forward and challenge Ryu, or walk back to get back to Almost-Full Screen. I usually go forward.

Mid Screen

Here?s where things get really interesting, and footsies become vital. As close as they are, both characters are just outside of their normal attack ranges. Chun can hit Ryu with S.RH and F.MK, but S.MP and C.RH whiff. So does Ryu?s C.MK. But if either character nudges forward, or does something to extend their hitbox, they can get hit. Plus, a whiffed attack can potentially be punished ? let?s look at the Kayane vid again. [media=youtube]dDMK_23Lr1I#t=0m48s"[/media] Kayane sweeps and misses. Ryu is able to capitalize on the extended hit box and counter sweep her ? this wins him the round. A lot of Chun?s like to throw out sweep here, and Daigo capitalized on that.

But that?s not all. Let?s jump back a few seconds to the first blood drawn by Daigo in this round. D[media=youtube]dDMK_23Lr1I#t=0m26s"[/media] Kayane retaliates with Kikoken, but Daigo jumps over it easily and gets the free punish. Take a closer look ? Daigo has already committed to the jump by the time Kayane throws the Kikoken. At that range, Chun?s only options are sweep, Kikoken, and maybe Hasan Shu. Even if Kayane had chosen to sweep instead and managed to recover in time, it still would have given Daigo the offensive momentum. Also take note that Daigo specifically pushed her into that range. I once played a Ryu who would get in close and hit me with a block string that pushed me specifically to that range. I would sweep almost instinctively ? he would FA dash through it and then tag me with the combo of his choice. Here, these Ryu players are intentionally putting Chun at a range where her options are limited and then acting according to what beats those options, as well as what most Chun players do almost reflexively.

If you come into this range, the match becomes a matter of point-counter point slugging it out. Chun can tag Ryu?s C.MK with Hasan Shu. Ryu can FA punish Hasan Shu or sweep. A naked jump from either character can be punished. While risky for Chun, in close I feel that this is her best range (at least better than close range), so long as Chun isn?t pushing fierce/roundhouse/abusing Hasan Shu. With her fast walking speed, she can dart in and out more easily than Ryu. It also only takes a few pixels to get Ryu in C.LK range, and if Chun can catch him while he?s trying to walk around, it leads to a free EX Legs combo. Mainly, this is the range where Chun should focus on small attacks rather than large ones.

In Close

This is a very dangerous zone for Chun. Here, pretty much everything connects ? including, most importantly, Shoryuken. If Chun spends too much time in this zone, Ryu is going to throw out DP. If Chun is doing anything other than blocking, she loses. And if Ryu has the meter to FADC, he has little reason not to throw out the DP. Aside from DP woes, Ryu can use both C.MP and F.FP, both very solid tools in his arsenal that lead to damage and knockdown. Chun is not without her weapons in this range ? C.LK, LK Hasan Shu, and her better throw range ? but Ryu?s tools in general lead to better damage/situations. This is a range that Chun should flirt with by darting in and out as needed. With her fast walk speed, this is not a problem at all.

So these are the main zones when fighting against Ryu. Knowing how to use them as well as defend against them will lead to better Chun play. Many Chun?s get burned by throwing Kikoken at 3/4ths Screen, or sweeping at mid ? knowing how not to do these things will give your opponent less opportunities to hit you. While the actual distances may be generally the same vs all characters, what each character can do/wants to do will differ greatly, as well as the zones that Chun wants to stay in/avoid. Here, experience is the best teacher ? if you notice your Kikoken losing to Chicken Wing or EX Green Hand, take a note of where you were on screen and remember that zone and that character?s options.

Awesome stuff!
I read every word and watched the video twice keeping in mind everything you pointed out. Now I’ve got to watch my own videos and see what I’m doing.

I always knew that screen control is exceptional important but wasn’t sure how to do it. Thats why I watch OneHandedTerror and GunslingerMeeks, they have two different ‘styles’ but both control the screen very well. Something I really need to be better at.

Anyrate thanks a lot for taking the time to share this and do you mind if I add you on my PSN?

Hi Azrael.
In your introduction you said “The second is what they can do from those distances” but i think you forget a lot of options of Ryu at each range

Ryu can :

  • Stay here
  • Neutral Jump
  • Jump back
  • Jump forward
  • Use hadoken first
  • Use hadoken after a kikoken to avoid the threat of U1
  • Focus

Almost-Full Screen (2 Steps In)
Ryu can :
Neutral Jump
Jump Back
Jump forward with a mixup empty jump cr mk or jump hk far range
Use hadoken first
Use hadoken after kikoken if chun li has U1
Use shakunetsu (ex hadoken)

3/4ths Screen (3 Steps In)
Ryu can
Neutral jump
Jump forward HP or LK
Jump back
Jump forward into tatsu to do a crossup
Hadoken (he don’t care about U1)
Ex hadoken

Same like before but you can add
Focus and release instead of dashing
Forward HP (solar plexus)
Cr mk
LK Tatsu

In Close
Tick throw
Neutral jump
Jump back
Cr mk xx hado
Block string with counter hit setup (cr mp)
Overhead (forward mp)
Ex tatsu

Very useful, thanks for taking the time to write this !
Footsies are my biggest flaw with Chun, so this is a great read for me.

Thanks for reading! PSN sure, but I live in Japan so the lag will be horrible and I’m not usually on that account anyway.

A lot of the options you list are motion options. It goes without saying that that chances the zoning dynamic.

For example, let’s say we’re at Full Screen. Chun throws Kikoken, Ryu neutral jumps. Still, at these ranges, there is nothing they can do to each other. What they can do is change the zones. If Chun takes a step or two forward, she can shift things to Almost Full Screen. Now those options apply. Chun can keep moving and try to take things to 3/4ths, or just stop and see what Ryu does. A lot of mid-level Ryu players will move backwards - out of Kikoken and non-dash U1 range. So now we’re back to Full Screen, but the important thing here is that Ryu is closer to the corner. This is a good way to push people into a corner.

I wasn’t planning on running down every option for every zone, but rather give people an idea of how zones work and the things to look out for. One of the most common Chun mistakes I see is throwing Kikoken at 3/4ths ~ Mid, giving Ryu the opportunity to jump over it and punish or apply pressure. Not even just watching Chun players, when I’m playing Chun against Ryu my opponent will get into that range and I can just feel them challenging me to throw the Kikoken, because all the other Chun’s they play against did and they’re just waiting for it. The same goes for walk/dash back Kikoken at the start of the round.

Just wanted to point out that fullscreen is still raw U1 range vs Shotos. She can just activate without worrying about the dash because she’s already in range. This is useful to know because Shotos can’t try to mess you up mid-dash with EX fireballs, making fullscreen even more of an advantageous position for Chun if she has a lead with ultra meter stocked. Ryu in particular can’t really fight back without moving forward eventually to try to close the distance.
There’s surprisingly still a lot of Shoto players out there who think you have to move in to be in range so they’ll throw a FB (or EX FB from full screen to try and throw you off), not knowing Chun can reaction punish with U1 anyway.



Really? If this is true, this blows my mind. I have still been dash Ultra’ing and it fucks with my charge (plus I hate it when people wait for the dash, then throw the fireball lol).

It’s all about the limbs. It was one of the first things I was taught about Chun back in Vanilla SF4 days by the man (who doesn’t actually play Chun much in SF4 :rofl:) himself, and I’ve been using it ever since. After seeing the SSF4 hitbox videos that were leaked I finally can explain how it works.

Shoto’s (and most other characters with projectiles) have vulnerable hitboxes surrounding their entire body during the recovery period of throwing a fireball. Shoto’s have their hands extended during a decent portion of their recovery and so they have vulnerable hitboxes surrounding their extended limbs. That’s the part of the body Chun’s U1 reaches from fullscreen. You have ample time to do this on reaction to them throwing any kind of FB. I’ve seen a lot of people surprised by this during a tournament match.

Chun and Rose have this vulnerability as well but their non-EX fireballs travel so slow that it would hit Chun doing U1 as soon as her invincibility frames are gone, so you either have to dash or walk-ultra them to move past the fireball and catch them.

-Sagat’s low Tiger shot is an interesting exception because there are no vulnerable hitboxes around his arms so that’s why you’d have to move in on him first. His high tiger shot is just like any other character and you can punish that from full screen.

But yeah, from that range with Chun in the lead, I think the smartest thing Ryu can do is try to inch her torward the corner if she’s walking backward or move into the next zone if she’s charging downback. That way he can access the anti-zoning options Azrael posted about. Either way, he’s moving forward so act accordingly.
He could try to fireball x FADC backdash to try and bait out the ultra, BUT you could just as easily not bite and force him to waste meter on that trick.

i have had the first hit of U1 hit and the rest whiff before when punishing full screen fireballs on reaction before though =/

You didn’t execute U1 soon enough. The arms of the other player go down and you loose that hitbox range if you’re too slow.

I pull this U1 stunt on Shotos CONSTANTLY. (Or at least Ken and Ryu) It’s one of the few tricks I actually can perform dependably. :slight_smile:

HURRAY! My zoning has gotten better since I read this and started paying closer attention to what I’m doing :smiley:
Its also made me notice how terrible some people are that just jump around like morons with zero zoning understanding
not saying I’m an expert already it just makes me want to seek out people that actually play the game ‘right’
course the flip side to that is if you play people that are actually good at the game, you can get beat’n’ by a scrubby/jump shoryuken/hurrican kick happy ken because they are so dang random and have no clue what they are doing.

Great thread man. I feel like Ryu has some advantage over Chun in many situations which why I always think:confused: this is not a 5-5 match-up. Chun has to be very careful against Ryu cuz every distance she must act in some way that can’t be punished. Anyway, zoning Ryu is way different from zoning Rufus for example.

i’m beginning to find that trying to zone and watch my spacing, while adjusting to my opponent for offensive and defensive moments is really hard online. I’m certain its hard at an arcarde too but online is such a rush down environment. When I watch videos of bad-ass gamer girl Kayane play, her and the opponent ‘play’ with each other and feel each other out. I know these types of people destory other people online so I just gotta figure it out, haha! Cuz I know I couldn’t beat Kayane or Nemo or OHT or SnakeAes, Meeks etc., etc., haha!!

I’ll read this when im not feeling lazy lol

Kikoken fs HK works with Rufus if his trying to get in with that ridiculous Triangle jump.

Thanks azrael. I just saw this post. Any chance of fleshing out zoning vs other characters? My worst matchups are mirrors (ugh) and…well that’s the only one that I have made no headway in. Thanks again az!

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ummm i’m pretty sure full screen ultra has been common knowledge for sometime now, the dash just helps as insurance so to speak.

But anyway good stuff Azrael

Good stuff. I recently tell myself not to jump as much especially in mid footie range. Though you were right on exactly what options we have, and I have a question here.

You mentioned that in mid range, CR.HK, Hazanshu, F+MK will play a big role here BUT not to throw them out constantly since they will get punish real bad because of their slow recovery time and risk being focused. What can I do here? S. MP put little pressure to opponents but CR.MK from Ryu will constantly hit me instead. Can you explain how dart in-out work? Recently I’ve been using more focus dash foward/backward to control zoning in mid range, but what other option I have other than CR.HK, Hazanshu, F+MK and S.MP? Sometimes I throw in CR.HPxxHK leg > MK leg (even on block string) and do some mix up to opponents. You also mention during this range, we should be using small moves instead of big moves, how will this work since small moves definitely won’t hit the opponents.

Keep the Zone

Keeping the Zone … another one