Fundamental Wakeup Defense
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the SF4 generation through two years, it’s that they love their wakeup uppercuts. The goal of this article is simple: to convince you to stop.
Think about who has the advantage in knockdown situations. The character on his feet can move around, establish his desired spacing freely, then attack at will. He can choose from his entire arsenal of moves, because he can perform slow attacks such as overheads without worrying about being interrupted during startup. He even gets to decide whether to hover inside or outside throw range. Simply put, he single-handedly controls the initiative.
By contrast, the character on his back can’t move and can’t attack until a specific, predictable moment. The only advantage he has is that he remains invincible before that instant, which isn’t a real advantage because it’s only passive invincibility. As soon as it ends, he has to deal with whatever attack the opponent has prepared.
The key here is realizing that your goal isn’t to punish your opponent for knocking you down. Your goal is survive the wakeup game so you can regain all your options. Don’t get suckered into playing the majority of the match from an unfavorable position.
Let’s break it down in terms of risk vs reward. If your reversal uppercut happens to connect, you score 10% damage and regain control. If it fails to connect, your opponent is rewarded with a 30-50% damage combo and maintains control. Does this seem like a good bet? Nope.
If you throw on wakeup and your opponent blocks within throw range, you score 10% damage and regain control. That’s your best-case scenario, and it relies on your opponent making a dumb mistake. If the opponent attempts a throw instead, you’ll neutralize it and reset the match. This outcome is generally what you’re hoping for.
However if your opponent presses any other button, it’ll beat your throw attempt and lead to a 30-50% damage combo. If your opponent stands outside throw range, your throw attempt whiffs so your opponent is rewarded with a 30-50% damage combo and maintains control. Does this seem like a good bet? Of course not.
If you forget everything else and simply block low, any button your opponent presses will do no harm and gradually push you away to safety. At worst, you’ll end up taking a tiny sliver of block damage. If your opponent throws you or tries an overhead, you only take 10% damage. You can afford three to five of those before you lose as much vitality as a single blocked uppercut would’ve cost you.
More importantly, consider what your opponent has to risk in each of these situations. To bait an uppercut, all they have to do is block. You can’t punish them for that. To bait a throw, all they have to do is hover outside throw range. You can’t punish them for that either. To hurt you for blocking, they have to take a serious risk. If you keep forcing them to take that risk, you’ll eventually find an opportunity to turn the tables.
Does this mean you should never uppercut and never attempt to escape throws? No, because if someone throws you four times in a row, you obviously need to figure something out. At the end of the day, playing your opponent beats playing the odds. But while you’re learning your opponent’s habits, the odds clearly tell you to block low.
Blocking is far more fundamentally sound than uppercutting by default. You can build whatever you want over that foundation, but your starting point needs to be a defensive perspective. It’s no accident that every top player blocks more often than not after knockdowns.
Nobody’s perfect. Everyone guesses wrong sometimes. What if you guess wrong a hundred times over an evening at the arcade? If you blocked low on wakeup every time, you’d be left with thirty more lifebars than you would if you threw out a reversal uppercut every time. How many more games could you win with thirty full lifebars?