Another Don’t Jump Article
If you’ve ever asked someone for Street Fighter advice before, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Don’t jump.” It might be the oldest adage coined by the fighting game community.
Jumping feels good and it can lead to big combos, so beginners love to jump whenever they need to make a comeback or find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Naturally this becomes a lazy bad habit, which is incredibly difficult for intermediate players to unlearn.
In tactical terms, jumping is a risky gamble because you surrender the ability to block and the ability to control your movement for around 45 frames. Your opponent can predict exactly where you’re going to descend, with plenty of time to react with suitable anti-air – unless they’re in the middle of a 40-frame attack when you jump.
In other words, the direct counter to jumping is doing nothing (or blocking or doing something fast like whiffing a jab) at the same moment as an opponent jumps. Doing nothing is usually very safe and actually counters a wide range of attacks – so experts do nothing often, which means jumping at them is frequently a bad idea.
In fact as players improve, they spend less time attacking continuously and more time looking for things to punish on reaction. Since jumping mainly serves as an easy counter to heavy attacks, it works great at beginner levels and becomes progressively weaker at higher levels.
At least 90% of “advanced” Street Fighter takes place on the ground, so the only way to become an expert player is to improve your ground game. If you spend half the match in the air, then you’re basically avoiding playing real SF. You’re just doing stuff and hoping for the best, because if your opponent does nothing then you take 15% damage, lose all momentum, and have to deal with a wakeup mixup.
Unfortunately when most players take this advice to heart, they decide to never jump and try to deal with everything on the ground. Then they run into a Ryu vs Sagat match and throw fireballs at each other for 80 seconds nonstop.
If your friend knows that you’re refusing to jump, the whole match becomes completely flat and everyone starts overusing unsafe slow attacks on a fake assumption. I thought about this problem for a while and came up with a better training exercise.
Before each round, pick a number between 2 – 4 and that’s how many times you’ll allow yourself to jump forward during that entire round. No matter what happens, you can’t jump forward more often than that number.
This creates a much better simulation of high-level game-planning, because your opponent won’t know whether or not you can jump. It forces you to set up your jumps thoughtfully, so that you’re not overusing them or resorting to jumping for no reason. It helps you focus on preparing your opponent for a jump, so that you’re not wasting your ammo on blind guesses.
You can jump backward and jump straight up all you want, because those are completely different mechanics with totally different roles and risks. Generally they’re much safer than jumping forward, and you’re far less likely to fall into the “I’m gonna jump because I might accidentally land a huge combo and win the match!” trap by jumping backward.
The tricky part is that it’s up to you to determine what “jump forward” means, based on your character choice and play style. For example, jumping forward just because your opponent walked into your favorite jumping distance obviously counts. On the other hand, jumping over Guile’s EX Sonic Boom from full screen distance doesn’t count, because it’s fairly safe and you’re not even trying to hit Guile with an air attack in that scenario.
Attempting a crossup after a knockdown shouldn’t count, because it’s pretty much free. Sometimes instant divekicks don’t count, especially when you’re using them as hopkicks. Randomly busting out Akuma’s demon flip or Guy’s bushin flip definitely counts though.
Using air Hurricane Kick to escape the corner might not count if the opponent is in a position where they can’t do anything about it whatsoever, but it should count if they’re standing half screen away and you’re being lazy. Guy’s ghetto jump elbow gimmicks don’t count from super far away, but they should probably count when you start abusing them from close range, such that even the fakeout ones become punishable. Anyway, you get the idea.
As you learn how to utilize jumps more efficiently and find better ways to attack without jumping, keep in mind that “Do you know why you jumped?” is not a yes-or-no question. Rather, it’s a matter of degrees of certainty. Unless you’re a telepath, you can never have a clear uninterrupted view of your opponent’s mental state. What you have is a moving target, perpetually drifting in and out of focus.
That’s where the nuance of fighting game strategy comes from. You’re constantly building up knowledge of your opponent, then deciding when you’re sure enough of their next action to take a major risk – like jumping forward right when you expect them to throw a fireball.
It’s up to you to decide how aggressive (anticipatory) or conservative (reactionary) you want to be, by regulating how often you take chances in a given match. If you don’t take enough risks, you become predictable. If you always take risks at the same intervals, that also forms a discernable pattern. Be a little random to keep them guessing!
Sometimes you might even know without a shadow of a doubt that your opponent is about to throw a fireball, but decide to let them get away with it since you have a comfortable life lead, just to save that read for a future round when you might need to make a huge comeback.
Whenever you reveal that you know what your opponent is thinking, and they’re alert enough to realize what happened, it disrupts their flow momentarily. If it startles them badly enough, they might even rearrange certain attack patterns or stop using that move entirely.
Every time you reach into the pond to grab a fish, the ripples make it hard to see through the surface. Some players don’t mind waiting until the water calms down between reads. Some players only reach in after they’ve spotted multiple fish that are far enough apart to stay in place. And some players know how to read the ripples.