What Are Footsies?
The term “footsies” refers to a subset of zoning focusing primarily on close range normals, where the most common goals are to knock the opponent down and set up crossup opportunities. What the hell does that even mean?
Unfortunately it means literally everything at the core of competitive Street Fighter strategy. That makes it a difficult subject to cover in one session. None of the short definitions are useful and it takes time to process conceptual ideas before they can be converted into anything practical. I’ll give it a shot, but i have a feeling i’ll have to come back to this on several occasions because there’s always more to it.
Footsies is figuring out what your opponent wants to do and punishing them for being predictable. Footsies is putting your opponent in a situation where they have to take risks they were trying to avoid. Footsies is knowing both characters’ attack ranges better than your opponent does, and finding ways to exploit that advantage.
The concept is so complex, that you may as well define it as “close-range critical thinking.” When you try to create a comprehensive definition of footsies, that definition refuses to end. Watson, Valle, and Choi could probably write books on the subject.
The simplest concrete example of footsies is walking into your opponent’s attack range to bait them into poking at you, walking back out of range to let their attack whiff, then punishing their recovery animation with a sweep. When someone decides to learn footsies, this is commonly the first tactic attempted. However, anyone who’s actually tried this will tell you that (alert) people stop falling for it very quickly. Then what do you do? Well, mastery of footsies is knowing how to punish everything, including your opponent’s decision not to poke.
Nowadays most fighting game players are great at explaining the basic components of intermediate play. Especially with the more “technical” games such as SF4 and CvS2, lots of players hang out on random fighting game forums and read every article they can get their hands on. It’s just that you get to a point where it’s no longer about what’s a safe poke and what’s a good combo.
Once you cross over into the realm of mindgames, everything becomes far more difficult to pin down. And it’s not necessarily necessary for success. In fact, some of the best footsies players are terrible at explaining the elements they themselves have invented. Nothing wrong with that. After all, not everyone is interested in turning SF into an online university. Most top players are interested primarily in being top players. But for the guy trying to figure out why Daigo keeps walking back and forth at midrange, a straightforward explanation would be nice.
The best way to teach yourself footsies is to commit to the following rules:
1) Don’t jump for an entire match.
2) Don’t dash for an entire match.
3) Limit yourself to one Psychic DP attempt per match.
Every round you play with these rules will help you gain a better understanding of your normal moves, will teach you how to control space by walking, and will force you to learn the meaning of patient offense. If you watch any high-end tournament match, you’ll notice that all top players possess all of these skills. They don’t come easy, but that’s okay. You’ll continue making progress as long as you remember what you’re after.