Mar 14

serena williams winning

In martial arts we would do 100 repetitions of basic movements in order to get it to the point of reactionary when needed. I will never forget the day when I kicked a buddy in the face for slapping me in the back of the head playfully. At the time I was competing and my teacher would have us doing those kicks all day, every day, in an attempt to remove conscious thought (over-thinking things) and let the moves flow whenever they were needed.

What I didn’t realize back then is how many of life’s little things involved the same process. We commit things to memory and then we execute whenever we need them, it is the same in everything and the people who are best at it seem to retain the information better than the rest of us.

In competitive video games the same holds true of muscle memory; you may laugh at the nerds playing their little games for money but many of the professional game players woodshed hours upon hours upon hours to make sure that they can execute moves at a mere thought.

Take a look at Street Fighter legend Daigo Umehara in this video – it doesn’t even take you knowing how to play this game to appreciate the difficulty in it’s execution, just listen to the crowd…

That sequence of blocks that led into the final comeback probably took Umehara no less than 6 months of grinding to place in his arsenal. Most players of that game–no matter how hard they try–couldn’t replicate that sequence let alone call on it in the biggest tournament for that game.

Umehara has legendary muscle memory… many Street Fighter players have it. The same stuff comes about with sports, Serena Williams beasts her opponents due to her knowledge of the game combined with raw talent and the muscle memory that comes from the millions of serves and volleys she’s done in practice.

Grind until it’s 2nd nature…

So remember – whenever you want to excel at something you need to train, train, train and train some more; even when you’re bored, even when you think you’re ready and even when you ARE winning. Daigo Umehara practices Street Fighter moves 6 hours a day most of the year, Serena Williams gets it in daily when she isn’t crushing the competition on tour.

What I have found is that many of us wannabes don’t train like the pros yet expect to get to where they are. The greatest samurai in Miyamoto Musashi studied the way of the sword for over 2 years in a forest before coming back to civilization to destroy over 60 opponents with only a stick… How’s that for muscle memory?

So train, train, train… and remember to prime your muscle memory so the next time you need to parry a full ultra against Chun-Li it can happen with little thought.

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  • I find that this is true of programming too. If I do something and then don’t do it again for 3 weeks, I have to look it up; if I do it and do it and do it, then its stuck in my brain forever and I CAN’T get it out. Is the brain more of a muscle than we give it credit for? I think so…

    • I think it is bro; the same goes for Web Design and the PHP I do everyday… makes me scared to take a long vacation (just kidding). If we really think on the amount of things we do off of memory and reflex compared to actual thought it would blow our minds. I’ve found that’s what separates the champs from their food though, the food thinks too much into it whereas a champion just replays what he has done a million times already.

  • Lonnie F

    I came up with Streetfighter so I know the deal. THAT… was gangsta! I wasn’t on that dudes level or anywhere near it, but my greatest parries were in Soul Calibur. Mofos couldn’t put a scratch on me. To the average Joe or to the untrained eye they don’t understand why people want to play the same character 10, 15, 20, years later. It’s a cross between having it down to a science (hit boxes… chip damage…) and our own personal muscle memory. Fans notice and get highly upset if their character gets switched up too much from game to game. I don’t play these like that anymore especially not online. Mofos are TOO GOOD just on average. People who didn’t play this game or that game growing up will never be competitive against those who did. I’m not sure the same applies to Madden despite it having just as long a following. It’s more procedural than reactive/reflexive.

    I stopped gaming for a few years and I was seeing an old friend. His little brother and his friends were playing Tatsunoko vs Capcom and I wanted to try it. I had never even played a Wii at that point let alone the game and I came up with 20+ win undefeated streak. I just had the juice.

    It’s funny that today one of the most basic examples is fading out. Back in the day when the regular house phone was IT… when we actually remembered numbers… if we ever forgot we could just start dialing and our hands would know the rest. Even more basic than that, who thinks about tieing his shoes?

    • Damn, a fellow old school gamer – ya we’re under-appreciated and forgotten now with the internet being what it is. Part of the fade out of a lot of what you mentioned is due to technology. Back in the day if you wanted to be good with Ken on Street Fighter you had to go to the arcade and break bread, learning in the middle of getting your ass kicked by people better than you. Now we have systems that are monsters, a kid can sit in the dark for hours upon end and practice combinations, learn to count frames and everything else that used to make arcade bosses gods to the average player. You’ve been out of the scene but even the last EVO showed how different things are now with gamers… they are on another level completely.

      My friends and I have been going at it since forever ago but Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition was when I turned in Chun-Li’s spiked bracelets and called it a day. I was competing on that game for a bit (nothing major) but got burnt out on it due to real life…. I love competitive fighting games but they aren’t for grown-ups (as in people who are capitalists or have a family), so I am done.

      Here’s a link to the write-up we did on EVO 2012 for our sister-site. It trips me out how old Street Fighter is… but that’s just props to the developers. By the way look at how small the venue is on the video posted here, and now look at how huge it is now:

      • Tony

        Yeah, current fighting (EVO) is very different. So much can be practiced before the tournament. I was amazed that Frame data and move recovery is so well discussed and documented. Back when I was playing a lot of that was learned the hard way. The internet is a beautiful thing. But I do miss going into a city and playing various players in SF or MvC2 without having to sign up for a tournament.

      • Lonnie F

        When MvC2 dropped I went to an out of the way spot just to play it. I burned $5 to be target practice. I didn’t get a single win vs these older cats. They were crackin up at me, this kid just feeding the machine gettin trashed. I was just SO happy to be there. Happy the game came out. I imported it for Dreamcast had my system modded ($200 for the game and mod and clear body case) and took it school months before the US release. I was a man among men. But I had the unfair advantage of home practice. It’s funny that now practice mode can be considered paying dues. Back then the few dudes who understood timing invincibility frames were accused of cheating or the victim blamed the buttons or people called it a lucky glitch.

      • The last time I was int he arcade I had a guy punch the shit out of the screen because I sonned him with Mai Shiranui (a woman) on King of Fighters. I was always funny to me how serious peopel would get (especially the bad losers) and kicking their ass with a pretty girl like Chun-Li just made it even better. Now I just get hate mail on PSN… one day I should make a post about the wonderful letters I’ve gotten.

      • Lonnie F

        I was the best around the way in the corner stores and at school in most fighting games, but I had nothin on the asian dudes at the arcades. Nothin! Kids half my age were whuppin my ass with perfects or close to it. They could barely reach the buttons. They were just THAT NICE. I was thinkin my skills are on the way out. I found out especially the hard way on the online FPS games that I had better stick to fighters. But eventually, I didn’t have the patience to keep up. And yeah kids actually had to have money not only to play but to drive or catch transit to the arcade and at the very least the energy to walk. I hear kids piss in a jug so they won’t miss their monster popping up online. Arcades were an experience. I almost got my ass whupped down in Dallas, TX visiting family (early-mid 90’s). I stepped in the spot with my hat facing the wrong way and I’m a light brother so the black kids thought I was reppin a Mexican set. Security rolled up on me and told me that I could turn my hat around, I could leave, or I could keep on and they were gonna roll on me. I turned my hat and left. I didn’t understand the stares I was getting at first. These kids today aren’t built for that. In the hood, even the most hood cats liked Streetfighter. Even the D-boy could have the high score. They would just a run a kids pockets and toss him off the game if he was soft. The olde days…

      • Man this whole comment is epic, the fact that you almost got jumped over your hat trying to play some games is hilarious. I have stories like that too but mine aren’t nowhere near that scary… well I did almost get shanked for skipping someone for the next go at Kung Fu Master as a kid but damn.

        Ya… the online generation is very different; your comment on pissing in a jug hits close to home because my field (IT) has a lot of guys who play Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playign Games like Everquest, World of Warcraft etc. and the hardcore ones who raid WILL sit and piss in a jug waiting for things to spawn… but that’s a whole other thing on it’s own.