Readers, I’m going to go to a local tournament soon. To be precise, the tournament in question is in a month and five days. Considering I don’t normally have the time to head to tournaments anymore, this has me equal parts worried and excited. I don’t know how many people are going to attend or what the general skill level of the competitors is going to be. While it may not be a major tournament, the prospect of competing again caused me to start thinking about training. Sure, I make sure to keep the majority of the rust off, so to speak, but I want to win this time. I’ve always managed to rank relatively well in local tournaments, but I’ve rarely come out of them with a victory. Considering the last time this venue ran a tournament they had a $200 prize for first place, I want to win this time more than I usually do. It’s time to draft out a plan for training leading up to the event.

While we went over in another article what to expect at your first major or local tournament, the topic of training specifically for a tournament hasn’t been really touched. I figure that by going over how I plan on training for my upcoming competition will both help to enlighten you and help me to make sure I can stick to a training regimen!

It'll be sort of like this, except I'll be carrying my arcade stick up a flight of stairs, bench pressing it, and so on.

1. Make sure to have all the basics covered

This is going to be the most fundamental thing, but also one of the most important. I want to make sure that I have all my basic combos and knowledge down before even starting on anything else. I need to know what combos work on which opponents, and if they can work regardless of whether or not my opponent is standing or crouching. Of course, this also means being able to pull off the combo 100% of the time so that I never miss out on an opportunity to hit them with the most amount of damage possible. Since my main character is E. Honda, this means I’m going to want to practice cancelling jab into fierce Hundred Hand Slap, linking a crouching short kick to a jab, cancelling a crouching forward kick into a headbutt, and cancelling a headbutt into super. Obviously there are more things I want to work on, but these would be the basic bits of execution I want to make sure I have mastered first. If my opponent makes a horrible mistake, but I fail to punish it properly, I’m showing him that he can get away with very unsafe tactics because of my inability to stop him from doing them.

2. Learn what my weaknesses are, and abolish them

I am not a perfect player, and I have flaws and weaknesses. Although I do pretty well for myself, I still lose matches. As a result, I need to realize what my worst and most exploitable flaws are and fix them. Thankfully, this isn’t as hard as it sounds. Due to the great replay system active in Super Street Fighter IV, all twenty or so of your most recent ranked and unranked matches are automatically saved, and you can store them permanently to watch again at any time. I can watch my losses, see what I did wrong, and analyze the entire match. I can also go into my player data and see my win percentage against specific characters. Prepare against your worst case scenario. It might not always come up, but if it does, you’ll be glad that you’re ready for it. I remember playing in a Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix tournament a few years ago that I had prepared extensively for. At the time, I had a hard time dealing with Vega’s wall dive, a very fast move that can cause a lot of trouble for Honda. I spent multiple hours in a row for a few days focusing on finding out what to do against Vega. I studied all of his special moves as well as a lot of the tricks I had trouble with, and it paid off. I made it to the final round to play against a Vega player, and ended up winning the tournament. I took the initiative and recognized that I had a weakness, and worked towards eliminating it. If that isn’t something everyone should work on, then I don’t know what is.

Yes, I'm bragging. This will most likely be the first and last time I do this.

3. Play against the CPU in Training Mode

I know what you might be thinking. Why would anyone play against the CPU in Training Mode? You may have beaten Arcade Mode on the hardest difficulty, but play against the CPU in Training Mode for ten minutes or so, and make sure that it has infinite meter. The reason for this is because absolutely anything can happen, which can help you prepare for dealing with opponents who have a very random style of playing. This goes hand in hand with being able to perform combos at any given moment, as talked about in my first point. You won’t find amazing skill from the CPU, but it can teach you to be ready for anything, and its erratic method will keep you on your feet. You aren’t going to necessarily learn anything from playing the CPU, but you’ll hopefully improve your reaction times by playing against an opponent who can pull off anything at any given time.

4. Play Online

Online play is often heavily discredited in many circles as being completely unlike playing in a tournament situation, and that’s absolutely true. However, playing online is going to give you the most amount of exposure to as many different people and styles of play as possible. You might not be able to find a specific character to practice against, but online, you can make a room and advertise that you’re looking for a specific character. While you might have to worry about things like lag or poor connections, you can’t ignore the fact that playing online is going to give you matches against more opponents than you’d be able to play otherwise.

Oddly enough, I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard towards a local tournament before. I’ve constantly gone without putting any real effort into it just for the sake of attending, constantly assuming that I was good enough to win without any real practice. This time around, I’m going to make sure that I win.  After all, now that there’s going to be a somewhat significant cash prize, that means that more people are going to want to come. I need to be ready! Wish me luck, RipTen. I promise I’ll make you proud.