The Neutral Game Part 3: Walk Hard!

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Thanks for sticking around for Part 3 of  The Neutral Game. Last time we covered some generic counters to the basic offensive or defensive footsies games. This post is going to be covering information regarding the time not spent pressing buttons. New players believe that you need to be pressing buttons all the time, but as you get better it’s not how many buttons your press, but the “economy” of your buttons, which is to say how useful the buttons you press are. Unfortunately, that is a conversation for another time. This post is all about your movement. The question a lot of you might have is “East, I can’t just walk or dash forward, I will run into my opponents attacks,” but this isn’t always true. Next time you’re playing someone who has a decent grasp of the game, at the start of the round, just try and walk forward and see how far you get before your opponent hits you. My experience has been, that if an opponent is not actively thinking about defending their space, they will surrender it. You can also test the waters against your opponents the first round by watching how they defend their space and then second round, be more bullish in moving forward. Daigo Umehara was recently in New York, and played a couple of people during his time there. Check out how his movement changes from the first round to the second against this Cammy player. The first round he doesn’t do much to get into the guy’s space, but the second round he relentlessly presses forward; By the 20 second mark his opponent is already in the corner.

The first round he doesn’t do much to get into the guy’s space, but the second round he relentlessly presses forward; By the 20 second mark his opponent is already in the corner.

Within the matches above are some great examples of the two concepts I’ll explain below that you can add to your street fighter utility belt, the first of which is offensive movement:

  • Offensive Movement

Offensive movement serves as a purpose to gain ground and make your opponent move toward the corner. This idea comes from the player’s mindset, given they know about offensive and defensive footsies. If they believe you will walk forward and try to use your “poke” move, they will try to walk back and whiff punish. Using this theory, you can use it to your advantage to gain more ground and walk farther forward if they continue to walk backward. Be wary, if the realize what you are doing. At that point is becomes a game of “I know that you know that I know…” and will take appropriate measures to hit you.

  • Defensive Movement

Sometimes when an aggressor is playing footsies they will tend to buffer one move after another. A prime example is Ryu’s crouching medium kick buffered into his fireball. If you see this and get a sense that the opponent is doing this, sometimes it is helpful to take a small step forward into the opponents range and block low. If an opponent does a buffer that is unsafe and they hit you while you block low, the buffer will come out and you can punish appropriately afterward. The drawback to this is that you are moving into your opponents “poke” range while they are also moving into range to hit you. If they recognize what you are doing, they may be apt to get close enough to you to throw you, though this is generally a rare situation.

It is so very easy to get caught up in the parts of street fighter about dealing out big damage and landing hits, but good players recognize that in order to get big damage, you have to put your opponent in a situation that is not advantageous to them.  The aforementioned concepts are great examples of putting your opponent in a bad place. You either move them to the corner, where their footsie potential becomes limited, or you force them to do something unsafe in order to gain the upper hand.  And remember: It’s not always about the buttons!