Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about my martial arts training. I also think a lot about games. Quite often, I link the two together in my head. Which is no doubt stupid, but FUCK OFF.
This is called a pre-emptive strike, and is often a decider in a real fight. I’m told. By Geoff Thompson. Geoff has been in lots of fights and has worked on the door in a nightclub and could batter you to death in next to no time. I have been in very few fights and am a bit girly. I couldn’t beat you up if you were bigger than me, probably, though I most definitely could if you were smaller than me. If we were the same size it would be about 50/50. And yet I have spent more than half my life training in some sort of martial art. No excuses here - I’m just not a badass and I never will be. I can deal with that. So what, then, is the purpose of training? Have I wasted thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of my life? I often ask myself the same thing.
So I’m gonna start outputting some of my inputs. I’ve rerouted my mainframe so that you can download all my latest Way of the Fighting megabytes and we can find out, together, just what the hell I’m doing with my life. And we’ll do it within the context of playing video games (most of the time). I’ll start this with something I’ve been thinking about recently in Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, the greatest video game ever made (apart from VF5, naturally).
In VF4, Lion has a move for which the command input is down-towards (or up-towards) and all three buttons. It’s very simple to execute and results in Lion slipping slightly forward and to the side and then attacking either low or high (but not, sadly, mid). For the first year of playing the game I thought the move was completely pointless. The start up is so slow, you get nailed by pretty much anything on your way in. I remember thinking ‘at least if it’s a side slip, go wide enough not to get hit by low punch’ and I consigned the move to the bin. Recently, though, my game has become strong enough to take on some of the better players in the UK, and it’s during these games that this move has become invaluable. Players with strong fuzzy guarding can sometimes seem impossible to overcome. You can’t hit them at any height and you can’t throw them. It almost feels unfair, and game-breaking, that they should be able to make themselves so invincible. It is against these players that I use this move. The animation of the feint to the side plus the delay in start up seems to provide a window where it seems they can counter attack. So they lay out a low punch, my hit interrupts and I get a counter hit. This allows for a bounce combo if I’m sufficiently in tune with the game at the time and can often decide a round.
So now I love this move. I love this move and it took me over a year to discover an application for it (though that’s more an indication of how far the scene has come and how new to it I am rather than how far-thinking the devs are). The feint works really well, but only against high-level opposition. As such, it’s only useful during top tier games.
I can draw the very obvious parallel with the real world of martial arts here too. In many classes I’ve been to, people are taught feints from the very start. And in real fights and competitions, feints are as useful as they are in VF. Unless you’re playing with top tier opponents, feints do nothing. All they do is get you battered. To overcome 80 per cent of opponents, all out aggression will suffice. For the next 10 per cent, controlled, targetted aggression will suffice. For the remaining 10 per cent, perhaps you’ll need feints.
And yet classes up and down the country are teaching these techniques to people as if they will in some way increase their combat efficiency. These people who will most likely forget absolutely everything the moment someone throws a punch anyway. Because that’s what you do the first ten times someone throws a punch at you for real.
What I’m saying is, if you’re training, or just starting training, and you care about your effectiveness, don’t fuck about with feints. They’ll get you hit, and hard. They may open windows of opportunity that someone else can take advantage of, but not you. Yet. Practising them now will not make you amazing at them in five years time, it’s just a fucking feint. Anyone can do one. If anything, a feint will in your mind give you something to do that is engaging the opponent that doesn’t place you in any danger since you’re not commiting to closing. This is in itself one of the most dangerous things you can do. Lack of commitment in an encounter is a serious disadvantage.
I don’t make a habit of fighting the elderly.