FIST-ory: The Young Man and the FGC – Part 1

He was a young man who played alone in his living room on the Cuyahoga and he had gone two hundred eighty-four days now without taking a dub. In the first one hundred fourty days his girl had been with him. But after one hundred fourty days his girl had grown weary and bored saying the young man would now definitely and finally drop all of his combos, which is the worst way to hold an L, and his girl had gone at her desire to play Animal Crossing, where she caught three rare fish in the first week. It made his girl sad to see the young man come in each day dubless and she always went down to help him carry either the coiled cords of his PowerA Fight Pad or the notebook with all his match-up knowledge and the pen that was folded inside. The notebook was missing its cover and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.

With all Hemingway jokes aside, fighting games are and have been a major factor in my life for a long time now and I’d like to share with you the full story of my adventure with a beautiful, poetic, hype genre of gaming.


Some of the earliest memories of childhood I retain are peppered with fighting games; two in particular being the original Mortal Kombat and Tekken 3. Playing Sub-Zero on the bloodless Super Nintendo version of MK and being entirely unable to defeat Sonya Blade in the ladder mode, frustrated enough as a toddler to curse out an adult for suggesting I take a break from the game. I should mention it was their SNES I was playing on. The American release of Tekken 3 for the PlayStation One coincided with my third birthday: April 29, 1998. I can remember the feel and look of the game disc, Jin Kazama’s red, studded gauntlets, Hwoarang’s Tae Kwon Do gi, King’s… Jaguar head. Absolutely cannot forget about King’s alternate fit; it was straight fire.

LOOK at that DRIP
Look again

I was even inseparable with the game’s instruction booklet reading on all my favorite characters and learning their hobbies and blood types. Thinking back, that wasn’t the only manual that listed characters blood types it was a fairly common occurrence. Blood types were treated similarly to astrological signs in Japanese culture. I played this game by myself, making up new storylines in my head using my favorite characters and taking them to all my favorite locales. The character and stage design were beautiful… Remember this was 1998 and these designs are old enough to have finished college. The games final boss Ogre crept into my nightmares but Tekken 3 jump started my imagination and never ending love of fighters.

Becoming a World Warrior

The great granddaddy. The pioneer. The OG. The one (of 5) and only. The ember that sparked the coal that lit the flame that started the fire that burned the forest and scorched the earth leading to the birth of the fighting game community. Super Street Fighter II Turbo

and the first time I was able to play the seminal title was on this bad boy…

If Tekken 3 spawned my love for the genre, then Super Turbo Revival threw it in a coffin, locked it, threw away the key and buried it in cement. I was hooked. The moves, the stage design, character aesthetics, everything about the game blowing my 6 year old mind. Picture the childish wonder and amazement when, while mashing buttons and spamming sweep I threw my first hadouken, activated my first super, defeated the game’s final boss, the evil dictator M. Bison. Eventually I went on a personal mission, not unlike the game’s main character Ryu, to test myself and my skills in the heat of battle by attempting to beat Bison with every single character. This journey was arduous, truly taking its toll on me and after losing a Ryu mirror match and discovering the GameBoy Advance’s secret weakness of headbutts, I did complete my vision quest. I walked off in the sunset in search of a new challenge.

Test Your Might… In 3D

On a frigid, bone chilling night in November 2002, I traveled far to Best Buy in search of the game I’d been anticipating for months. Upon booting the game I was enticed and playfully tantalized by nothing more than a mere intro trailer… a trailer climaxing with one simple phrase: “Liu Kang is dead”.

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

Accompanied by adults because the game was rated M for Mature, I made my first, but not even close to last, purchase of a Mortal Kombat title. I tore into the games single player modes with fervor, Christmas had truly come early that year. Deadly Alliance was the first MK game to have both “Konquest Mode”, which expands upon the overall plot of the series by following the events of sorcerers Shang Tsung and Quan Chi’s titular team up, and “The Krypt”, which I recall endlessly walking through using the gems I had grinded for in “Konquest”, to open the coffins in search of one of the game’s 9 unlockable characters. I never did unlock all the characters or costumes, but my time with the game was enjoyable enough that when the next installment:

Mortal Kombat: Deception

Mortal Kombat: Deception came out in October 2 years later I instantly bought it as well. Deception was a superior sequel in every way imaginable: Controls, single player content, aesthetics, etc. “The Krypt” was expanded and made to be more interactive, the 3D “Kombat” was vastly improved, the movement was smoother, developer Midway had a better handle on the tri fighting style mechanics of the game, there were incredible bonus modes including chess and a form of battle Tetris where you would go head to head with other players. But the absolute, indisputable, inconceivable, piece de resistance of the game was its vastly improved “Konquest” mode. Discarding Deadly Alliance’s mission based setup in favor of an RPG style overworld with action-adventure gameplay, “Konquest” placed a brand new character named Shujinko at your control. Shujinko is launched on a quest by an “Elder God” and has many run ins with all your favorite MK characters, growing older in the process as he travels in between the MK universe’s 6 realms using a hub called the “Nexus”. “Konquest” was also filled with chests that could be opened, similar to the coffins in the “Krypt”, contained unlockable characters, costumes, stage, concept art, etc. Deception holds a large place in my heart and is possibly my personal favorite MK title to this day.

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon

After another 2 year interval the final entry of Mortal Kombat’s 3D era Armageddon released in October 2006. Armageddon’s goal was a simple one: go big or go home. Featuring 62 characters (every playable fighter from every game) and 33 arenas to battle in, while attempting to wrap up the series winding mythology. The game did have to cut back in a couple key areas. For starters, one of the hand to hand fighting styles of each character was cut from the game, leaving just one hand to hand style and a weapon stance. The other major area Armageddon was lacking in was the fatality department. Every fatality was removed from the game and replaced with the Kreate-a-Fatality system, which was neither well executed nor well received. It also included the “Motor Kombat” bonus mode, a Mario Kart homage which was a ton of fun. Though broad in scope, the conclusion of the MK 3D era fell a little short of the previous entry. Armageddon concluded my journey with fighting games for a period of time, as I didn’t really interact with the genre from 2008-2013. My rediscovery of the fighter genre and my love for it will be explored in a follow up to this post.

Oki Poke-y: Speaking The Language Of Fighters

There are a bevy of reasons, or excuses as I like to call them, that I’ve heard people use to defend why they “just can’t get into fighting games”. Among these, many are entirely perception, or “feel” based and not very strong arguments. One that I’ve heard frequently and completely understand is learning the sheer wealth of both general terminology used across the genre and specific terminology that is used in individual games and franchises. This is a task that I’ve struggled with myself as I delve deeper and deeper into the inner workings of both fighting games and the fighting game community. “Wake-up, oki, vortex, command grab, OS, fuzzy, footsies, jailing, wavedash, cross-up, mix-up, just frame, korean backdash, reverse aerial rush, DACUS, gatlings, FADC, etc.” The list is endless and it’s no exaggeration to say taking the time to commit this terminology to memory is akin to learning a language foreign to you. Lucky for you, I’ve suffered and still suffer through this learning process so you don’t have to. Without further adieu, let’s get into the language of fighting games.


Present in multiple games including: Super Smash Bros. Melee (SSBM), the Brawl mod Project M/+, Rivals of Aether, Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat 11. Wavedashing is a movement technique and the focus of its utility is in making yourself harder to hit and your opponent easier to hit. Wavedashing allows much more control over your character by letting you choose how far and fast you’re going, sometimes letting you change directions completely at the drop of a hat. All of this while being able to jump, block or perform attacks and special moves during or immediately after the wavedash.

Luigi and Peach wavedashing in SSBM
Sub-Zero’s wavedash in Mortal Kombat 11

Korean Backdash

Present in every installment of the Tekken franchise, the Korean Backdash, or KBD for short, is another technique that amplifies the speed and control of your movement. Executed by backdashing, cancelling your backdash recovery frames with crouch, then immediately performing another backdash.

Eliza Korean Backdashing in Tekken 7

Reverse Aerial Rush

Present in the Super Smash Bros. series from Brawl onwards, Project M/+ and Rivals of Aether. Reverse Aerial Rush, or RAR, is a movement/attacking technique that allows you to change the direction you’re facing when dashing while maintaining momentum towards the direction you were originally going. This gives the player executing the technique ample opportunity to alter their action timings to confuse opponents.

Kirby utilizing RAR in Smash


Universally present in 2D, 3D and Platform fighters, a wake-up is an action performed by a character as they rise from the ground after being knocked down. Usually the term is used to refer to an invincible attack, such Ryu and Ken’s “Shoryuken” in the Street Fighter series, but a wake-up can be a jump, roll, non-invincible attack or even just blocking.

Cammy outmaneuvering Ryu’s invincible wake-up shoryuken in Street Fighter V
Captain Falcon’s “Get-Up” attack in Smash
Wake-up rolls can be performed into the background and foreground in Tekken
Wake-up rolls require meter in Mortal Kombat 11


Universally present in all fighting games, Okizeme, or Oki for short, is the concept of confusing a knocked down opponent on their wake-up and forcing them to guess what the standing player will do next. This could be attacking on the ground or in the air, blocking, grabbing, etc. Anything to keep the grounded opponent guessing wrong and getting hit.

An example of Oki from Fatal Fury

Option Select (OS)

A universal fighter concept, although more rampant in specific titles, option selecting is the act of first covering a single option from your opponent, usually with a jump in attack, then buffering another move to cover the next option your opponent could choose. This way you have the ability to cover multiple options from your opponent while staying safe and without making a read.

A jump kick option select in Mortal Kombat 11. If the kick connects the follow up will come out as it has already been buffered. If the kick is blocked, the follow up doesn’t go through.


There are several different types of fuzzies but all fuzzies are a form of option selection. In fighting games it is possible to switch between high and low blocking while still in block stun. This is not represented visually on screen, but will register as occurring in game regardless. This game mechanic is what allows fuzzies to be possible.

The fuzzy guard is the technique used to combat low-overhead mixups by first blocking low, then blocking high for a few frames, then returning to low blocking.

Fuzzy Guarding in Street Fighter IV

The fuzzy jump is similar in that it involves blocking low. Instead of blocking high, you input jump before returning to blocking low. This is used to combat command grab mixups.

Basics (Brainiac) fuzzy jumping Whiteboi’s (Scarecrow) command grab mix-up

Fuzzy setups, or fuzzy overheads are the offensive variant of the technique. After forcing an opponent to block a jump in attack, which are overheads, and triggering the stand block animation, jump again and instantly throw another jump attack while rising (this is called an instant overhead). Typically instant overheads will miss an opponent that is crouching, but due to the initial jump attack having to be stand blocked they won’t have enough time to fully enter the crouch animation. This leads to the game thinking they are still standing while also acknowledging their crouch block, causing the instant overhead to hit.

Adon performing a Fuzzy setup in Street Fighter IV


A technique used to open up a blocking opponent and either punish them with a combo, gaining frame advantage, or continuing your pressure. Performed by jumping over your opponent with an aerial attack that hits their back as opposed to the front of their body. Since most fighters use the hold back to block mechanic, this confuses the blocking player as to which direction they need to be holding. The more ambiguous the aerial, meaning the harder to tell which side it will hit on, the more effective the cross-up will be. Cross-ups are also present in Smash games due to the shield grab, a powerful mechanic that only hits in front of the character. In this scenario, the cross-up aerial is used to bait the shield grab, then you’re able to punish the lag of the grab.

Ibuki performing a cross-up on Makoto in Street Fighter IV


A mix-up is the one true essence of fighting games. This is where the genre’s rock, paper, scissors element comes into play. Any scenario when you have more than one option that your opponent must account for unless they want to get punished, but can only stop one at a time is a mix-up. The most common mix-up is forcing an opponent to guess between strike and throw, although other mix-ups may force a choice between a variety of attacks, grabs and jump attacks.


A 50/50 is mix-up where a blocking player is forced to guess between crouch blocking to defend against a low and stand blocking to defend an overhead. While some 50/50’s are reactable or fuzzy guardable, in a true 50/50 the low and the overhead attacks have the same amount of start-up making reacting impossible.

Ryu’s low hitting sweep in Street Fighter IV
Ryu’s Overhead attack in Street Fighter V


A vortex is a mix-up scenario that begins where if the blocker guesses wrong they are hit with a combo that loops back into the mix-up forcing them to guess again. If they continue to guess wrong they will be endlessly looped until death. Smoke from Mortal Kombat X an Akuma from Street Fighter IV are both known for their dangerous vortex loops.

Smoke’s vortex in Mortal Kombat X


A widely used term that has built up a legacy over the years. Footsies is sometimes used interchangeably with neutral and spacing, which as definitions aren’t far off from spot on. Footsies is the act of jockeying back and forth, by walking and dashing, for positioning with the opposing player in order to find the spacing where your moves are most effective and your opponents are least effective. This could mean landing a hit, forcing your opponent to block, or maintaining and gaining more ground pushing them farther towards/into the corner.

Fuudo (Fei Long) and Gamerbee (Adon) playing footsies in Street Fighter IV


Your best, most used tools in neutral. Pokes are typically your fastest, longest range, or safest attacks and are sometimes a combination of all 3.

Chun LI poking in Street Fighter IV


An attack that is perfectly timed to hit an opponent that has been knocked down just as they are waking up (rising from the ground). Meaties can be any move in a characters arsenal that has a hitbox.

An example of a meaty projectile from Injustice 2

Tick Throw

The act of cancelling a poke or normal into a command throw. This mix-up can only be avoided by fuzzy jumping or backdashing after blocking the poke. This tech is usually exclusive to grappler/grab heavy characters.

T. Hawk’s tick throw in Street Fighter 2


A special move containing multiple segments that each require a separate command input. Typically rekkas have 3 or more segments to them and can be ended during any of them by simply not inputting the command. If the next command input isn’t entered in time the special ends and will start over with the first segment if inputted again. Rekkas are a strong mix-up tool as an opponent must guess what segment the rekka will end during.

Fei Long performing his Rekkaken, namesake of the technique, in Street Fighter IV


An aerial attack that requires a motion input resulting in a a fast, diagonally downward angled kick attack. Dive kicks are typically utilized by aggressive, offense oriented characters who want to get close and force as many mix-ups as quickly as possible. Often dive kicks are quite unsafe and easily punished; a high risk, high reward maneuver. Characters with divekicks include Cammy from the Street Fighter games and Brainiac from Injustice 2.

Cammy’s divekick in Street Fighter V


An advanced technique unique to platform fighters such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Project M/+ and Rivals of Aether. DACUS is executed by cancelling the animation of a dash attack into an Up Strong/Smash, hence DACUS being an acronym that stands for: Dash Attack Cancelled Up Smash. DACUS is a burst movement option that can used to chase an opponent down or make a speedy escape while protecting your retreat with a hit box.

Snake performing DACUS in Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Dial-In Strings

An attack mechanic seen in games developed by NetherRealm Studios and Bandai-Namco’s Tekken series including the Mortal Kombat and Injustice franchises, dial-ins reference the method of executing attacks in these titles. instead of using singular normal attacks or pokes (both of which can still be used) a player can press a predetermined button sequence to produce a multi hit combination attack, similar to real life boxing.

Posion Ivy using one of her strings in Injustice 2


The concept of confusing your opponent while they block, this can include changing attack timings and making your opponent guess between strike or throw. Pressure utilizes frame traps, the aforementioned strike-throw mix-up, 50/50’s, rekkas, command grabs and more.

Rewind (Batman) pressuring SonicFox (Joker) in Winner’s Finals of the 2018 Injustice Pro Series

Frame Trap

Also known as plus frames, a frame trap is an offensive technique used to trick your opponent into thinking they’re able to attack when they can’t. You can use this technique by forcing your opponent to block a normal, string or special that is frame advantageous on block, this could mean the move is anywhere from +1 to + infinity, and following up with an attack that combined with your frame advantage is faster than any attack your opponent can throw out.

Whiteboi (Scarecrow) frame trapping Gross (Green Lantern). Scarecrow’s double reppuken is +6 on block and Gross eats an attack when he tries to poke out of the plus frames.

Special Thanks

To my beautiful girlfriend Kirsten, who made almost all of these gifs (and the mix-up meme) herself.

Oki Poke-y: What Is Frame Data? Part 2

Link to Part 1 – (

Hit Stun/Hit Advantage

When an attack connects, the player that was on the receiving end of the strike will be unable to execute any inputs for a specific amount of frames. This is called hit stun. The number of frames of hit stun the “strikee” will suffer is determined by the move they were hit with, as each move will have a predetermined value assigned to it. Depending on the mechanics of the game being played, landing an attack can lead to combos, knockdowns, setups, mix-ups, pressure, etc. All of which is made possible through hit stun. For example, Ryu’s standing light punch in Street Fighter III inflicts 7 frames of hit stun while only having 2 frames of recovery giving him an overall hit advantage of 5 frames. With Street Fighter mechanics, this advantage allows Ryu to combo his jab with any move that starts up in 5 frames or less, not including special moves such as “Hadouken” or “Shoryuken” because they can be cancelled into, allowing you to skip Ryu’s recovery frames.

Not all games’ mechanics function the same though. In the “Netherealm Studios” (NRS) developed title Injustice 2, which features a myriad of DC Comics heroes and villains beating up on each other, landing a singular hit doesn’t always guarantee a combo. This game utilizes strings, button combinations that when pressed in proper sequence produce 2 or more sequential attacks. Strings cannot be linked into each other based on hit advantage the way attacks in Street Fighter can. They must be cancelled by a special move to further the combo. Scarecrow’s “Side Cut”, a crouching light attack also referred to as a Down 1 (D+1), inflicts 28 frames of hit stun, while having only 15 recovery frames. Subtract to find the difference and you’re left with 13 frames of hit advantage, meaning you can act and perform moves in a 13 frame window where your opponent can’t. Opposed to Street Fighter, where your opponent can’ t perform any actions until their hit stun ends, in Injustice they have one action they are allowed to perform during hit stun: Block. This game mechanic is what causes you to be unable to link strings and leads to a phenomenon unique to NRS titles known as Jailing. In short, jailing forces your opponent to respect your frame advantage and allows you to continue or start your pressure.

Block Stun/Block Advantage

Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS). We’ve all played it and we all understand the concept of each option beating one of the others and losing to the third. Fighting games have their own version of rock, paper, scissors where the triumvirate we know and love is replaced by strike, throw and block.

Opposed to RPS, where every option beats another cleanly, much more gray area occurs in fighting games. For example, a stronger variant of throw such as a command throw may go through an opponent’s attack, or certain attacks may have a guard crush property, rendering them able to hit an opponent that is blocking. These are specific examples though, which you may not come across in most fighters. However, in virtually every 2-D and 3-D fighting title, blocking an attack will result in the blocker taking reduced damage when compared to being hit called chip damage. Attacking an opponent that is blocking works similarly to attacking an opponent that isn’t. Every attack in your character’s repertoire still deals stun frames to your opponent, but the stun is reduced when the attack is blocked and referred to as block stun. Frequently, the stun frames of a move can be reduced so much by being blocked that they leave the attacker at a frame disadvantage. Leaving them open to counter attacks from their opponent. On the other hand, another fashion in which attacking can “beat” an opponent blocking is if the move used to attack is advantageous even when blocked, meaning said attack is so powerful that it deals enough block stun to leave the attacker at a frame advantage. This concept is referred to as block advantage and if a move leaves the attacker at frame advantage it’s referred to as “plus”, but if it leaves the defender at advantage it’s called “minus”. A blocked attack can even render both the attacker and defender able to act at the same time; this is known as being “even”.

In Injustice 2, Scarecrow’s “Fear-Ferno”, or “Down Back 2” (DB2), is a special move with limited use. Mainly being utilized to block incoming projectiles, build “Super Meter” and “re-stand” your opponent after you hit them. This attack is particularly weak against blocking opponents, being heavily “minus” on block (-14) and able to be punished by most moves in the game. It’s only after using that super meter you built to amplify “Fear-Ferno’s” abilities that the fun begins. When “Meter Burned” (MB), “Fear-Ferno” gains a second, delayable hit that is +6 on block, creating a “frame trap” that guarantees that your opponent must block your D+1, since it starts up in 6 frames. Essentially, MB “Fear-Ferno” subtracts 6 frames of start-up from your next move. This turns a 6 frame attack into a “zero” frame or guaranteed attack, since your opponent can’t perform an attack of their own without being hit. Interestingly, if you had unlimited meter, you could perform Scarecrow’s MB DB2 into D+1 in an endless loop, never allowing your opponent to escape; pretty “scary” indeed. Fortunately, or unfortunately for Scarecrow mains and players of other characters with similar frame traps, game mechanics prevent this in ways such as: running out of meter, increased “pushback” on block, parry or perfect blocking, decaying block stun, etc.

Go Practice

Now that you understand the basics of frame data and have learned a couple of tricks on how to use it in your gameplay (I hope); you can take that info online, into training mode or to your local arcades and tournaments to practice and understand how to apply the knowledge in new and creative ways. Practice and understanding are the key words though, as you probably still won’t beat that “cheater” from earlier, but at least you know how to “cheat” now too.

Special Thanks

For the use of the Injustice 2 frame data images I’d like to thank:

Frame Boy – This article wouldn’t have been the same without the existence of the Frame Boy app. If you play Injustice 2 or are a frame data enthusiast, download Frame Boy from the Microsoft Store it’s free and very informational.

Oki Poke-y: What is Frame Data? Part 1

POV: The brand new (insert fighting game here) just released and you copped that bad boy day 1! You heard they got rollback netcode, all your favorite fighters are there, the training mode and tutorials are the bees knees, etc. “Training mode?” you say! “Tutorials? I don’t need no stinking tutorials! I’ve been playing (insert fighting game here) for years and always dominate my friends.” So you jump right in, go online, get matched with another player and start fighting. Your opponent quickly lands a hit and you’re thinking “lucky hit, they’ll never be able to handle my strategies…” It’s only after pulling out all the stops and utilizing every strategy you’ve developed in your years of playing fighting games that you realize something is amiss. This mf’er has blocked every attack and hit you afterwards while you were unable to do anything about it. “They’re cheating! They must be, they couldn’t know something that I don’t!” They do. What do they know that you don’t? Frame Data.

What Are Frames?

Frames are how quickly the images from a video game appear on your screen. While the rate at which these frames flash in front of you can vary depending on the game, most if not all modern games run at at least 60 frames per second, FPS for short. Meaning that 1 frame is equal to 1/60 of a second.


Make a fist, throw a punch and observe the time it takes for you to extend your fist completely outwards. Even in real life it’s impossible to attack without taking a moment to generate the force behind the attack and that concept also applies to fighting games. When you press a button in your fighter of choice the game’s code commands your character to perform the corresponding move and, whether that move is a punch, a kick, or throwing a projectile that also happens to be an afro, go through a predetermined amount of time to perform said move, called “Start-up Frames”. For example, Ryu’s standing jab in Street Fighter III starts up in just 2 frames, or 1/30 of a second, making it a very quick attack and an excellent tool to hold your opponent at bay.


While you were throwing your punch, if someone had caught your hand just as you began extending your arm your attack wouldn’t have much momentum behind it and therefore, wouldn’t inflict any damage to your opponent. Likewise, if you were able to finish the punch motion, and then your opponent walked into your outstretched arm, it’s highly unlikely they would suffer any impact from your motionless limb. No, only the sweet spot while your body is moving from Point A, the retracted arm position, to Point B, the extended arm position, would your strike have force and be dangerous to your foe. In fighting games this window of opportunity is referred to as “Active Frames”. Essentially, active frames are when your move can actually hit your opponent. The first active frame of a move typically overlaps with the last start-up frame of the move, which you can see in the image of Ryu above. Whether an attack hits your opponent or is blocked during its active frames your opponent will suffer either hit stun or block stun, which will be covered in part 2 of this post.


The final act of any attack in a fighting game is known as the “Recovery Frames”. In reality it would be the time in between your arm being fully extended and drawn back into your body when throwing a punch. As you can’t throw a punch with the same arm immediately without recoiling your limb. In digital reality, it’s the amount of frames in between the last active frame of your move and the first frame that your on-screen sprite is able to perform any other action. This includes performing another attack, jumping or even just walking forward and backward. Moves with low recovery frames are desirable, although a move having a lot of recovery frames doesn’t necessarily mean it is less powerful. To make up for a higher number of recovery frames a move may have a longer reach or deal a larger amount of damage. Likewise, a move with low recovery frames may suffer from limited range or low damage. In the follow-up to this post I will discuss the practical applications having a knowledge of start-up, active and recovery frames can bring to you as a player.

Part 2 – (