I’m really good at fighting games.

Like, REALLY good. I’ve been playing fighters since I was 11 years old, when I first got Tekken 2 on PS1, and started playing competitively at the arcade when I was 15 years old. At the time of writing, I’m 29, so it’s been 14 years.

Still, some people have played for longer, and haven’t achieved the success and glory that I have. Note: Sarcasm.

The question is, how did I do it? And why should you care?

Well, thanks to the Survey and $50 amazon gift card giveaway, I’ve discovered that lots of you peeps care, and want to know the secret to my success. So here it is.

Kentucky_Fried_Tekken_by_lost_tyrant

By Lost Tyrant on DeviantArt

How To Be Good At Tekken: The Basics

Basically, fighting games are an integral part of my life, and have also defined who I am as a person. I’ve learned so much through fighting games about patience, reading other people, control, momentum, and fun. As I mentioned before, it’s very similar stuff to what’s needed to meet women.

I’ve distilled my fighting game prowess into a couple of rules that I follow. Most of these will involve Tekken examples, but I’ve used them to be decent at UMVC3, and pretty good at SF4, Injustice, and Kof14.

Here they are:

1. Don’t take low tiers.

Seriously, don’t do it. You want to win, right? Take someone who’s at least mid tier, and can compete with the high tier characters that everyone and their mother is spamming. For example, if you’re playing Injustice right now, you’d better be playing someone that can go toe-to-toe with Superman and Black Adam, or you’re not getting anywhere near a win.

However, when selecting your character, don’t believe the preliminary tier lists. If a character is considered low, it’s possible that s(h)e hasn’t been explored enough, and you’ll be the one to find out what makes them amazing. A good example of this is ChrisG and Morrigan in UMVC3. She was considered garbage for ages, and is now the best character in the game, hands down, thanks to one guy putting her on the map.

In my case, I used to play Yoshimitsu in Tekken 3, and then Tekken Tag, when he was amazing. In all subsequent games, he was made progressively worse, and although I tried valiantly to win with him, it was just too difficult. I finally abandoned him in Tekken 6, switching to Baek and Miguel, and all of a sudden won every major in Canada for a year.

Thankfully, he’s a decent mid tier in Tekken Tag 2, so I’m playing him again!

Here’s an old match of me playing low tier Yoshi vs Justin Wong Feng in Tekken 5: DR

2. What’s my mix up?

Whatever the game, you need to know how to put pressure on your opponent. If you’re playing Tekken, the easiest example of this is Mishimas. The basic mixup is sweep (low), a safe mid or launcher mid, and Electric Wind God Fist for pressure and frame traps. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

With other characters, it’s more complicated. Do you want to do frame traps, and get your opponent on counter? Is your mixup more about putting your opponent in a 50/50 situation where he has to guess where to block? This is up to you to find out.

If you don’t know your mixup, you can’t win at Tekken.

3. How do I take control of this match?

When you lose a round, how do you come back? First, assess if you were being proactive or reactive. Were you putting pressure on your opponent? Or was he making you play his game, and putting you on the defensive?

Once you figure that out, you need to put a stop to it. If he’s constantly pressuring you, punish him for it. If all he does is block and punish, play super safe, and grab a lot. If you feel his movement is weak, do a tiny bit of damage to him, then run away and make him come to you.

Take control of the momentum. It’s your game, not his.

4. Practice ALL your combos

You need to know the combos that you get with each of your launchers. Start with the basic launchers, and work out the max damage. Then move on to counter hit launchers, wall combos, wall break/ground break combos, and finish with guaranteed damage.

The worst thing that can happen in a match is you land a hit on your opponent where you can kill him, but you’re unprepared because you don’t remember a combo. Don’t be that guy. Use this checklist to make sure you have them all:
-regular launchers
-CH moves
-wall combos
-wall break
-ground break
-guaranteed damage

5. Create a flowchart

Once I’ve mastered all the combos, I look at the regular hits. I specifically look for 3 types of moves: what knocks my opponent down, what gives me frame advantage, and what puts my opponent in an awkward position where I can dodge his move and punish. I then figure out all the options that spring from these hits.

For example, I do move A. Three things can happen:

It gets blocked, and I’m on slight negative frames. I know I can then do sidestep, or backdash, but I can’t attack.

It lands, and knocks down opponent. I know can do move B to hit grounded, move C that catches backroll or quick getup.

It lands on CH, and juggles. Thanks to the previous point, I know the juggle.

See? Flowchart. I’ll expound more on this in a future article, it’s a really important point.

6. Get yourself an archnemesis

This one’s tricky. You need to find a player who’s either better than you, or equally strong, and practice against them until you beat their ass down. Having one archnemesis gives you a goal to strive for, and also an opponent worthy of your efforts.

Additionally, if he’s good, he’ll learn all the perfect strategies to beat your characters, and won’t let you get away with unsafe moves or shenanigan strategies. This is great, because no matter who you play against at a tournament, they’re never going to know how to beat you as well as your archnemesis, meaning you’ll always feel like the match is a bit easier.

It’s similar to when I was training in Wing Chun, and would get punched a lot. I always knew that no matter how hard I would get hit if I got into a fight, it would never be as bad as my training partner punching me full force square in the face because I lowered my guard for a fraction of a second.

At Tekken, my archnemesis is a player by the name of Howling. He learned all the punishes for my characters, and made sure I felt pain every time he blocked something unsafe. That led to me altering my game, and become a safer, better player overall, so when I played in tournaments, I felt nearly no pressure from opponents.

Here’s a match from January of me vs Howling. His controller broke while playing, so he didn’t do quite as well as he should have.

7. Practice movement

This one isn’t as important for a game like Street Fighter, where movement is restricted to jump, dash, or walk, but it’s the single most important skill to learn at Tekken or UMVC3. I always explain it to n00bs like this: in Tekken, if your movement sucks, you’ll be subjected to your opponent’s mixups all the time.

If, however, your movement is good, you can backdash and sidestep forever, and never actually interact with your opponent’s mixup. You’ll also be able to go in and out of his range as you please, putting you firmly in control of the match. He can’t pressure you if he can’t touch you.

Here’s a tournament match of me and Neorussell of Toronto Top Tiers. Watch the first game, where I basically spaced out his team for most of the rounds, and forced him to change characters. You want to be good at Tekken? Move like this.

8. Learn to block

Last but most certainly not least, the skill that any fighting gamer worth his salt must have, is the ability to block properly.

As Howling puts it, sometimes you just gotta “block like a man”. If you don’t, you die. So, learn to defend properly against your opponents’ mixups, by knowing which moves are mid, low and high. In 2D games, learn to block on wakeup, so you don’t eat random moves by pressing buttons.

Having played Injustice online for the last few weeks, I’ve realized that many players at that game tend to wake up with an attack constantly, rather than just getting up and blocking. This has led to me stealing tons of victories, solely on my ability to knock them down, wait for an unsafe wakeup move, and punish.

Trust me, when you’re not sure of what to do, choose block. It’s the safest option.

Space Invaders

Well folks, hopefully this little guide made sense and gave you some insight into how a top fighting game player runs his game. There are many other points I haven’t touched upon, like punishing, frame traps, conditioning, and so on. I’ll cover these in future articles.

For now, any questions?

30 comments add yours

    • Baahaha I know! It was someone’s signature on TekkenCanada years ago, I think about it every time I hit KFC

  1. wow this is better than most video tutorials. funny how seeing it on paper makes it more understandable.
    you play online often?

    • I almost never play online. The lag ruins the movement, and if you can’t backdash or sidestep properly, you’re not playing Tekken 😀

    • I totally agree that even the slightest lag is a complete game changer! Fighting games (particularly Tekken) most of the time rely on counters, blocks and combos that are precise to the freaking frame!

  2. Nice article!

    But there are a couple of things that aren’t fully correct.

    Tiers don’t exists in Tekken that much. Just look at Bronson and how he beasted everybody at EVO with ‘low tier’ Ogre. Tekken as a game is extremely well balanced. When every character has hundreds of moves there is always some thing you can do in every situation.

    Also, my biggest problem with TTT2 is that it has a HUGE roster and every character has hundreds of moves. It’s just too overwhelming to know the mixups and I keep eating random low/mid enders of random strings. And it’s not as easy as you say: ‘just keep spacing and use movement’. The movement in Tekken is some of the most difficult stuff to learn. The whole backdashcancel thing is way too difficult to perform and way too important to not care about. Why Namco made it so difficult I don’t get.

    TTT2 game is less about maindgames but more about just having to know all the different moves and strings and their random properties and crushing and frames and pushback and whatnot. It’s just too complicated at this point and that’s the reason that particular game is dying. How many were there at EVO? Like 300? The game isn’t 1 years old yet..!

    Remember, I haven’t evn started talking about wallcarry, walldamage, getups, frametraps, gimmicky setups, cancels, pushbacks and random crush properties every character can dish out. Tekken has way too much bullshit. It’s not a clean game. People get sick of it. You have to had played this game for over 10 years like yourself to understand what is going on… Nobody new will play this game at any decent level.

    I’m looking forward to Killer Instinct though. LEss characters, less moves and more about the actual gameplay.

    • Well, you’ve thrown a lot of opinion at me, and you’re entitled to them.

      I disagree with a lot of your opinions though, so I’m going to address what you said one point at a time:

      -Tiers REALLY EXIST in Tekken. At a high level of play, certain characters are just plain screwed against others. Thankfully, the Tag mechanic helps alleviate it, but if you’re playing two crappy characters, expect to lose. Regarding Bronson, Ogre is not low tier, he’s a mid.

      -Agreed, the big roster is difficult for new players to overcome. Old players don’t have to learn too much though, it’s basically a souped up version of T6.

      -I never said the movement was easy. I said you have to learn it. Once you do, the game becomes MUCH EASIER, because you don’t eat shenanigans or stupid strings. You backdash or sidestep them. Watch JDCR not engage with any of his opponents’ mixups, because he backdashes.

      -I disagree with your mindgame analysis. When you break it down, the game is about mixups. Ask Bronson about his low jab mixups with Ogre someday. I can’t speak for North American gamers, but Tekken is ridiculously popular in Korea. Have you ever heard of a TV show called Tekken Crash, based just around this game?

      -That’s cool. I’m not a fan of Killer Instinct, but a lot of people are.

  3. I play Jun/Jinpachi and Jun is considered to be a low tiered character. Am I consodered a “n00b” as you put it?

    • I never said you’d be a n00b if you played a low tier. I just said you won’t win (much), and this is sadly true. If you play against someone who uses strong characters like Devil Jin and Lars for example, and who knows how to fight Jun, you’ll be in trouble.

      In fact, you’ll probably lose to players that are much worse than you, simply because of the character choice.

    • “In fact, you’ll probably lose to players that are much worse than you, simply because of the character choice.” I know Tekken’s balance isn’t perfect, and that lower tier characters will have more problems against top tiers, but the balance is not that bad, this isn’t marvel, Kane plays with Lili and Angel, two low tier characters, and he is able to beat other players with better characters…

    • Alright, let’s be honest: do you really think Kane wouldn’t win a ton more if he was playing Kazuya/Lili?

      He’s a really good player, but choosing a low tier like Angel, even combined with a decent mid tier like Lili, is not enough to win. Simple fact: Angel is just a shitty version of Kazuya (or Devil Kaz).

      You say he beats other players, sure. Pit him up against a player of equal skill, and he’ll lose a lot more than he wins. Case in point: Kane hasn’t placed highly with his Angel/Lili team in a while.

      I respect his skill a lot, and I’m sure he’d win more with a switch. But he likes Angel, and I respect his decision to choose her. No judgment here, liking a character is a valid choice.

      Regarding tiers:

      This is what real low tiers look like: Angel, Ancient Ogre, Baek, Dr. Bosconovitch. Try winning with any combination of these guys, I guarantee you’ll lose way more than you win, to all kinds of scrubs. The reason for that is these characters are just lacking many of the tools that good characters have. I should know: I played 3 of them for a while, to try to make them good, and lost to random things that I can easily avoid/punish/destroy with other characters.

    • I never said he wouldn’t have an easier time with a stronger character, I’m well aware that Angel is a shitty character, and I also know that low tiers on the game are weak (But not completely unplayable, like, for example, Hsien-ko from UMvC3), but you said previously that, even if the opponent was much worse than you, you would lose if you were using low tier characters, if it was like that, Kane wouldn’t win any fights; if you fight someone on the same level as you, then sure, the one with the better characters will win more often, it’s only natural, it would happen even if it was a top tier vs a mid tier; but if you use a low tier character, and the opponent is with better character, but you are much better than him, then you will win the fights.

    • I absolutely agree with you Lucas. It’s the one point I disagreed with this article. Sure there are maybe 3 characters who are clearly not that great in comparison to the tops. But overall, this isn’t marvel, nor SF4.

      Most of the characters have lost their individuality in an attempt to balance the game, and they have succeeded, I guess. For example, there was a time when DJ only had d+4 as a true high crush. Was he bad? Hell no!

      My point is, almost every character has a -12 punisher, -14 punisher etc etc with almost the same recovery on them. Of course there are *slight* matchup issues where certain characters can punish x move due to range while others cannot. It’s things like this that make SF4 hard to balance, but retains individuality of the character.
      So yes, maybe Baek isn’t as good as say, Bruce, but it’s not a significant disadvantage unless you pair him up with say, Angle and you’re up against Lars/Drag etc.

      Instead of suggesting not to pick ‘low tier’ characters in this game, perhaps you should have said pick someone with an easier learning curve/juggles. I mean, how many tiers do you think this game has? Take out those 2-3 characters and I’d say there are really only 2 tiers, and at most its 5.5-4.5.

    • Hmm, thanks for that explanation Fusion. I think I’ve been misunderstanding you guys the whole time, and not expressing myself clearly enough, because it appears as though we agree.

      As far as I’m concerned, this game has three big tiers:
      -the super highs, like Mishimas, Bruce, and one or two others.
      -the super lows, like Ancient Ogre, Dr B, Baek, and one or two others.
      -EVERYONE ELSE in the mids section.

      Sure, if you want to get nitpicky you can split them further, but this is good enough. That’s why I stressed that you shouldn’t take a low tier. There are so few low tiers, and they are so bad compared to the rest of the cast, that there’s no reason to take them when you have so many others to choose from.

      Additionally, taking a low like Dr B does make a really big difference in your gameplay. Even taking Baek and someone else is really bad. I would know, Baek was my main in Tag 1, T5, T6, and TTT2 for a bit, until I realized how bad he was. For the purposes of scrub play (or online silliness), Baek might be ok.

      But play against any half decent player who knows a bit of the matchup, and Baek is unplayable in many ways. Believe me, I tried really hard, he just sucks too much. When I switched him out of my team for Ancient Ogre, there wasn’t much of a difference. I kept getting beat by silliness. The moment I switched to Armor King though, wins magically appeared.

      So, I don’t recommend you take the low tiers (even though there are only 5 or 6 of them IMO). You can win with them, sure, but you’ll lose a lot more than you win, for no reason.

  4. Boss, this article is too gdlk. I personally need to work on several of these points in Tekken. My movement is holding me back (never really got the hang of korean backdash) and I realized a while ago that my Alisa mixup is weak and not that threatening, whereas I constantly get intimidated by you and Howling’s frame traps and 50-50s, especially at the wall.

    Oh and I definitely agree with the archnemesis point 🙂

    • Remember the Alisa vs Miguel match of destiny? That’s what all archnemesis matches feel like.

  5. Well I been laying tekken for a long as you but I am bit younger. 25. I love the article. Dont really have much to say other than, I been playing for ages and am very good too. I came expecting some unimpressive stuff. However was pleasantly surprised. Great article. Will continue to read more of your stuff and look forward to playing you. I am on ps3.

    Thanks for the great tips.

  6. As a player who mains Anna my first question is do you believe she is low tier? She’s a character I feel more comfortable in comparison to say Nina who feels too soft for my control and is also harder on execution. My next question is do you using a character you are comfortable with takes priority over tier?

    My current partner is Leo who is a great individual character but does have the same level of chemistry as some lower tier characters like Jun or Zafina. They don’t possess great damage unless they are at the wall. So my next question is how much would you value combo damage and chemistry in choosing your team?

    • Hey RT, I don’t think Anna is low tier at all. She’s definitely a mid, although I’m not sure where she fits in specifically in the mid tiers.

      I also like her better than Nina, because she hits harder and is more a launcher oriented character. Nina is more of a poking character, and punishes less well. I definitely feel that comfort beats tiers most of the time. For instance, I can play Kazuya pretty well, but I’m much more comfortable with Yoshi in most situations, which means I’ll win more with Yoshi, even though he’s lower tier.

      As for chemistry, do you mean the built-in “friendship rage” thing that the game has? I don’t think about that at all. If you’re talking about combo damage and synergy though, that’s a different story. I think it’s perhaps the most important thing you can have in your team.

      Ideally, the ultimate team would have two characters that combo well together, compensate for each others’ bad matchups, and have different styles to throw your opponent off. My team is Armor King/Yoshi. I use AK for aggressive poking and pressure, and Yoshi for tricky setups and unblockables. My basic AK combo without a wall off Dark Upper is 105 damage, and my basic Yoshi combo off of df2,2 without a wall is 102 damage.

      Both characters are good with punishing moves that are -10 and -14, however Armor King is way better at punishing -12, whereas Yoshi has flash which can break certain characters game because he can punish things that are normally safe (ie Miguel shoulder charge, Feng df+2,2 etc).

      Does this make sense?

    • i love anna, she’s sucks when ur opponent sidestep left i think , but she got b+4 to solve sidesteppers pain

  7. As a new Tekken player, (been playing for probably less than two weeks and just got a copy of TTT2) I’m thrilled by is article. Aside from being well written and full of character, you present the information in such an easier to digest way than almost every other article/tutorial I’ve seen.

    As a beginner, I have been looking for information in a cleanly organized, no-jargon manner. What you’ve written is a tutorial/anecdote combo that is very, very helpful. Thank you very much!

  8. Awesome article .
    i agree – movement plays an important role in tekken . good movement makes other shenaningans 50% more effective . i m playing tt2 since 2011 , i m confident that i m good at other skills except ‘backdashing’ , ‘wavedashing’ , ‘grab escape [ 🙁 ] ‘ . i can sidestep strings on reactions , m thorough with all max dmg combos for my chars blah blah . but i just keep losing coz of those three evils . i can do 3-4 bdc or wavedashes but after that my fingers revolt / take a nap [pad player] – they lack stamina or smthing :p . and for grabs …i m pretty confident if there was always a single button break to all grabs i can escape 90% of the time but concentrating on the limbs and then processing which button to hit …just asks a lot out of me .

  9. Awesome. This article really helped with my overall gameplay. Thank you.

  10. Please do u think leo players well with asuka or give me a new charc to study I love leo a lot and need help with tag charc

  11. Hi, very interesting article!

    I have a question: do you think its worth to train tekken in a default ps3 joystick control? or is tekken only playable in higher level using arcade stick controller?

  12. Why did you even make this? I just saw you play against that Howling and the other player. You’re complete and utter shit. Stop making yourself believe you’re actually good. Your movement is terrible, you throw unsafe moves everywhere and let’s not mention your juggles suck ass. You’re about an Avenger rank at best. Fucking low rankers think they can make threads and explain Tekken mechanics when they don’t know anything to begin with. Learn Tekken faggot.

  13. hello, thanks for this tutorial . i use nina and anna , just want to drop by and say hey 😀 . i had to learn some more

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