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Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 1

December 5th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that footsies is something you whip up on the fly. While you certainly can do it that way, and while freestyling footsies is certainly a valuable skill, the fact of the matter is that Alex Valle knows more about footsies than you’ll ever know. The real problem is you don’t even know that you’re supposed to know these things.

Footsies as a whole is such a dynamic, complex subject that it’s impossible to convey or grasp at once. So we’re going to try something different. Let’s approach footsies like a collection of situations and try to come up with elemental solutions to each scenario. Practice these one by one until you’re comfortable enough with them to incorporate them fluidly into your gameplan.

Element 01: Momentarily step into your opponent’s poke range and quickly back out instead of attacking. This is Footsies 101. To see it in action, check out Mike Watson’s HF Guile demolishing some poor bastard – two consecutive full rounds of toying with his opponent’s natural reactions. This bait works well in tense matches, after extended periods of cautious zoning, or with charge characters who rarely walk forward.

B3 SFA2 Finals: John Choi (Ken) vs Alex Valle (Sagat)Element 02: Determine which of your combos and attack strings position your opponents barely outside their effective reversal range, especially when facing characters with greater mobility. One of the best ways to trick someone into wasting meter and handing you the match is by making yourself appear falsely vulnerable. There’s no better example of this concept than the famous final exchange of the B3 SFA2 tournament.

Element 03: Once you’ve established a pattern of poking consistently at a certain range, use your opponent’s hesitation to walk up and throw them. It’s always dangerous to wander into enemy attack space, so wait until you’re certain you’ve trained them to think twice about pushing buttons. John Choi’s CvS2 Sakura does an excellent job of demonstrating this principle for the entire first round of that Evo2k7 match. There’s no way he would’ve gotten away with such gutsy throw attempts at the beginning of the round.

All of these plays are universally applicable to any fighting game. That’s why footsies and zoning are considered fundamentals. If you run into any questions, bring them here anytime.

Element 99: And every once in a while, try hiding behind a table.

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  1. ZGiSH
    December 6th, 2009 at 02:34 | #1

    Element 99 deserves to be the No.1 thing to learn in Footsie Games.

  2. December 6th, 2009 at 14:46 | #2

    Ohnuki is easily one of my favorite players ever. That dude’s footsies are incredibly solid and he’s absolutely fearless. Plus it’s cool how he stuck with Chun Li in SFA2, 3S, CvS2, SF4, and even ST. None of us even knew he played ST until he showed up and almost won Evo2k2 with her. (Props to Jason Cole for stepping up and defending American OG pride that year.)

  3. onreload
    December 6th, 2009 at 19:20 | #3

    Is Ohnuki the same as Nuki? I dig his Chun play, though I mostly find her boring and avoid Chun mirrors like the plague (though that clip was pretty funny…it’s like that part of the airplane stage in JoJo, where you can hide behind machinery.

    I don’t really get Capcom’s obsession with putting stuff in the foreground. I mean, it’s not WW Sagat’s palm tree bad, but sometimes I’m staring at that bowl of rice in Chun’s 3S stage like “C’mon, it should have fallen by now…C’mon!”

    but yeah, footsies, I mean…that’s something I definitely think only exists in high-level play. I find that people are totally blind to any kind of poke strategies when they think the game is all about specials and supers. That’s actually one reason why Chun is so powerful – her footsies are so great that if you don’t know how to counter or avoid them, you’re in bigger trouble than that kind of zoning strategy would normally put you in.

  4. Kareeeeem
    December 7th, 2009 at 05:52 | #4

    It´s easily one of the most fascinating aspects of 2d fighting.

    When I face someone and I find them countering or Anti Airing my stuff with the appropriate poke I always make a mental note to remind myself that this guy knows what he´s doing. Too many players focus too much on specials to beat stuff but they are easily baited and punished as opposed to someone who abuses shoto cr.mp against my Blanka for example.

  5. ZGiSH
    December 7th, 2009 at 18:10 | #5

    It’s the underdog aspect that ends up dominating the competitive world.

    Almost all of the characters can do relatively well using only pokes, Specials, Supers, and Ultras only define the normal moves by being able to link into them.

  6. liluoke
    December 8th, 2009 at 12:42 | #6

    great article. short and to the point. i’m looking forward to the next.

  7. azarel_7
    April 1st, 2010 at 12:09 | #7

    “Nobody can stop you from walking forward without taking a risk.”

    “It’s always dangerous to wander into enemy attack space, so wait until you’re certain you’ve trained them to think twice about pushing buttons.”

    So are both players are more or less at risk then and which one is the safer?

    Are these statement on opposite sides of the same coin? Can you tie in the first statement explicitly with your entire footsies handbook…what’s the principle behind the first statement..

  8. April 2nd, 2010 at 04:15 | #8

    Good question, sir. I don’t think those statements contradict each other at all. You see, the second statement summarizes the defacto equilibrium of fighting game strategy.

    Your opponent’s attack space is his dominion. All things being equal, walking in there is putting yourself at risk. Instinctively, everyone knows that you don’t want to step into enemy territory unless you see them make a mistake, or you’re following up a fireball, or you’ve managed to scare them, or whatever your trump card happens to be.

    In terms of theory fighter, it’s easy to see how the defender has an advantage, because generally everything has a counter. If you jump at them, they can uppercut you. If you throw a fireball, they can super through it. If you try to poke, they can either block or punish you somehow. If you try to throw, they can reversal or land a combo. And so on and so forth. At a certain point along everyone’s natural learning curve, Street Fighter becomes defensive – because you start to feel like you’re better off reacting to stuff instead of gambling with rushdown.

    This is where the first statement comes in. Walking is special because it’s inherently offensive yet has no recovery. When you walk toward someone, you’re threatening their territory and there’s nothing reactionary they can do about it. If they try to keep you away by pushing a button, you can make it whiff and sweep them, then set up a wakeup game. If they try to throw a fireball, you can figure it out and find one to jump over and land a combo. If they back away, you can drive them into the corner. If they ever simply let you walk, you can step right into a proper throw mixup.

    But not a lot of people walk. Most people dash. Or jump. Or push buttons for no deliberate reason. Or throw out random special moves because they’re flashy. All of these are risky commitments. You can’t stage an effective offensive against a capable reactionary opponent on a foundation of punishable haymakers.

    So that’s the secret of having a strong ground game. Learn to walk.

    Of course, your opponents will put every obstacle they can think of in your way, but you’re just going to have to learn how to use each possible response to your advantage. If you’re learning this for the first time, then your first instinct will probably be to jump over stuff. Don’t! Learn how to deal with everything in the game without leaving you feet. Developing a legitimate ground-based offense will make you ten times scarier.

  9. azarel_7
    April 2nd, 2010 at 04:47 | #9

    Sweet stuff…I figured that they didn’t contradict each other…its just that I couldn’t see the full picture that you just described.

    I figured the first statement hinged on what you said about “training them to think twice before pushing buttons”.

    I was thinking that after you train them, then you can walk in, but as you point out..walking towards your opponent in a way is the training or the initial part of training/testing the opponent to see what they throw out and then adapting to what they do.

    Good stuff. Thanks again.

    Btw..when you say theory fighter, u mean something specific or just street fighter theory in general?

  10. April 4th, 2010 at 15:22 | #10

    “Theory fighter” is what we call it when people play turn-based Street Fighter on a forum. Obviously you can learn a lot about matchups by dissecting the game in that way, but it also leads into a lot of unrealistic conclusions about what’s good and what isn’t.

    Back in the olden days, people used to be farther apart since there was no online play. So one region would be like “Spider-Man beats Zangief for free” and players from the other would be like “No, Spider-Man can’t do anything about this, this, and that.” Then they’d argue at length over it and it would be informative for a while but would eventually turn into subjective, overly hypothetical bullshit.

    Then usually a grudge match would develop and these people would finally clash at a major tournament, where the community as a whole would witness whether or not Spider-Man truly beats Zangief. So yeah, “theory fighter” is kind of a derogatory term, but only slightly. Because deep down, everyone loves theory fighter.

  11. azarel_7
    April 13th, 2010 at 07:31 | #11

    Understood. Thanks man!

  12. October 31st, 2010 at 02:00 | #12

    Over at SRK, Buktooth wrote an excellent summary of the purpose of walking forward in footsies. It’s the same concept i wrote above, phrased differently:

    “Fighting on the ground, extremely simplified:
    1.Sticking Out Moves beats Walking Forward
    2.Walking Forward beats Whiff Punishing
    3.Whiff Punishing beats Sticking Out Moves

    The Walking Forward part is a little abstract, and deserves a bit of explanation: A player that is looking to whiff punish something is not going to be pressing buttons; they are going to be either standing still or walking backwards, waiting for you whiff something. Walking forward exploits this by closing the distance and/or pushing the opponent back towards the corner, as they walk backwards to maintain their desired spacing.

    source: Street Fighter Pros Share Their Secrets to Winning – Day 3: Buktooth

  13. doosty
    November 6th, 2010 at 12:14 | #13


    I’ve gone over all these articles, and bit by bit I’ve tried integrating this stuff into my game. It’s completely transformed my idea of what goes into just one game of Street Fighter. One thing I’ve immediately noticed is how different it is to understand these strategies in theory and to actually be able to use them with understanding.
    I’m trying to get a better understanding of how Element 01 applies in different match-ups. I’ve been performing practice sessions using only normals, no jumps, dashes, or specials, and I feel I’m making progress. But I’m at a loss trying to exclusively play ground footsies against characters/players who use fast low recovery specials, with good horizontal range as “command pokes” when you step into footsie range. Specifically like SSF4 Dictator’s lk Scissor Kick.
    I’ve been looking for a decent counter strategy to this play-style but I haven’t really come across anything solid that wouldn’t take me out of the realm of ground game, or that doesn’t involve either blocking or taking trades, and praying that my opponent isn’t patient enough to stay the course until I die. I’ve taken note that higher level players will stand just in range of the scissor kick, where only one hit will connect allowing them to focus counter, but this strategy doesn’t seem very reliable since the opposing Dictator could simply use a higher strength of scissor kick to get both hits, or use his armor breaking special. And of course there’s the case of other fighting games with similar “command pokes” but without anything similar to the focus attack system. It’s a similar case with other characters like Boxer, with his dash punches, and Honda with his heabutts.
    I’d imagine that there isn’t really one consistent, beat-all counter for this approach to the game. But I figured that with your experience with fighting games in general you may know of some advice or examples that could help me out. Or if I’m just missing something that you already covered that would help me out.

  14. November 9th, 2010 at 23:19 | #14

    Well, you obviously can’t poke low against Scissor Kick, but otherwise it shouldn’t be all that scary. I’m sure you can find buttons that beat it, or at the very least trade with it. Chances are most trades will be in your favor since you’re denying the second hit. If you have fireballs, throw fireballs.

    You can also try jumping straight up. Obviously you can’t do that all the time because he can hurt you for doing that. But you only have to guess right once in order to score a full jump-in combo.

    Also, if you get your opponent to start using higher strength Scissor Kicks, you can start punishing those by blocking. He’s definitely gambling when he resorts to that, so you can capitalize on that too.

  15. doosty
    November 15th, 2010 at 15:47 | #15

    Pretty late on my part but thanks Maj.

    I never even considered tossing a fireball to stuff it.

    I think it’s really cool that you take the time to answer these kinds of questions on top of having written and compiled all this info.

    It’s a massive service to people trying to learn fighting games.

  16. Ryukenden
    August 16th, 2011 at 15:01 | #16

    I just noticed that B3 SFA2 tournament video got deleted. Someone should re-upload it ASAP.

  17. August 16th, 2011 at 18:05 | #17

    Thanks for the heads-up, sir. I wouldn’t feel comfortable uploading it myself when i had nothing to do with that tournament, but it would be awesome if Evo staff uploaded all their archive footage to their official channel. I’ll mention it to someone on SRK staff and keep my fingers crossed.

  18. superdownback
    February 6th, 2012 at 15:12 | #18

    hey, someone reuploaded the B3 footage.


  19. February 8th, 2012 at 23:42 | #19

    Well, i was hoping that SRK would upload the B3 footage themselves, but i guess that’ll have to be good enough. Thanks for the link, sir. I’ve replaced the obsolete one above.

  20. February 23rd, 2012 at 03:10 | #20

    On second thought, i’ve uploaded a (slightly) higher quality version of that entire tape to the ComboVid Archives channel:

    Here’s more information about that tournament, if anyone’s curious:

  21. CT Myst
    December 17th, 2014 at 06:25 | #21

    Hey Maj, do you think learning each element at a time is most beneficial or learning a whole chapter at once?

    Also, I play Akuma, having a strong neutral game is great but is there anywhere I can go to learn how to have a more offensive mindset? I’m still slightly uncomfortable with being offensive and often get overwhelmed of the options of the mixup game. It would be great to have advice for both questions.

  22. January 4th, 2015 at 03:27 | #22

    I’m not sure. It probably depends on your learning style, more than anything. I’d suggest choosing a few elements to practice and experiment with, to see if they help your gameplan. Then keep adding new ones to your repertoire until you feel comfortable with the majority of them.

    As for Akuma, he has a lot of “free” offense in SF4 which requires a clean read to overcome. It’s pretty frustrating for opponents if you play him correctly. Of course attacking involves taking risks, so it takes some degree of experience to gain confidence. But eventually you’ll become familiar with Akuma’s best offensive tools, and you’ll understand which methods of attack are way scarrier for the defender than they are for you. Then the next step will be diversifying your approaches enough to avoid becoming predictable. Anyway the best place to learn and ask questions is SRK’s character-specific forums.

  23. kwang16
    November 14th, 2016 at 13:34 | #23

    Hey Maj, I just started using this to begin my street fighter v journey. Its really useful and helped me get my first online ranked win! I just had a quick question; in element 2, what do you exactly mean by ‘combos and attack strings’ (bare with me I’m a SF noob). I’m playing as Ryu so would that be a combination of his normals or would it include hadokens too!

  24. December 7th, 2016 at 23:49 | #24

    Sorry for the late response. I haven’t been checking very often. “Combos and attack strings” just means any sequence of attacks that either connects as a combo or doesn’t. It can include normal moves and specials in any combination, without major gaps inbetween. For example with SF5 Ryu, two standing medium punches. Or s.LP, s.MP, c.MP xx fireball. Or even just two jabs.

    You can test different sequences to find ones that push the opponent to the exact spot you want them to be. If you know all the options at that distance and your opponent doesn’t, that gives you an advantage in footsies.

  1. December 13th, 2009 at 07:08 | #1
  2. July 9th, 2010 at 04:32 | #2
  3. July 15th, 2010 at 10:40 | #3
  4. August 10th, 2010 at 00:27 | #4
  5. September 18th, 2010 at 20:05 | #5
  6. February 1st, 2011 at 18:31 | #6
  7. January 3rd, 2012 at 08:09 | #7
  8. July 23rd, 2013 at 17:45 | #8
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