Machabo on fighting game fundamentals

Machabo (Japanese Guilty Gear god, and Evo 2016 champion) wrote an article which I’d consider a must-read for anyone who plays fighting games. It is a Guilty Gear-focused article, so sometimes he will give specific examples of interactions in GG that you might not understand fully, but there are still tons of really awesome points made throughout the article. Don’t let the GG-specific examples let you ignore the bigger points he is trying to make.

Here’s the link:

To those who don’t know, Guilty Gear is an “anime” fighter, which tends to mean it prioritizes highly creative movement (including air dashing and air blocking) and strong close range pressure with lots of varied defensive options. That is, it is not a SF-style traditional “grounded footsies” game, although ground/air footsies do come into play. Note that the GG community does not lament the fact that SF-style grounded footsies are not the focus of the game. Instead, they embrace the uniqueness of their own game and play to its strengths.

In case you decide to not read the article (you really should, though!), here are some choice quotes and how I feel they apply to KI.

Anti-airing in GG is actually quite difficult (kind of like KI) due to its high game pace and multitude of air approaches. However, Machabo labels it his #1 most important aspect of fighting games because it’s what allows the rest of the game to take place. If your opponent cannot reliably anti-air you, then you are free to bully them. Also of note is that even though anti-airing is difficult, it is still extremely important. Complaining that anti-airs are too hard isn’t a recipe for winning; rather, you should think of it as an opportunity to show your skill. If you can anti-air in a game where anti-airing is hard, think of the extra advantage you have over your opponent.

Note that he doesn’t say “playing online matches and complaining when your anti-air doesn’t work is the first and most important step.” Knowledge is the full responsibility of the player.

Machabo breaks down neutral in GG (and in all fighting games, really) to a three-step decision making process:

  1. Doing pre-emptive moves that cover space, because they have good hitboxes and cover many (but not all) safe options.
  2. Doing a fast attack that hits a waiting opponent (ie, dash in and low, or do a long-range overhead)
  3. Waiting for the opponent to do a move and then reacting to it.

This creates a cycle:

  • 1 beats 2 (your pre-emptive move hits people trying to dash in or be reckless)
  • 2 beats 3 (doing a surprise attack beats someone looking to stand outside the range of your space control)
  • 3 beats 1 (you can wait for your opponent to whiff pre-emptive moves and capitalize with a whiff punish or with pressure).

Knowing when and how to switch is matchup and player driven. Complaining only that your opponent rushes you down, or playing reactively is the only smart way to play fighting games, is missing the entire point of the cycle of fighting game interaction.

If you are looking to improve, don’t just do Orchid slide over and over because your opponent gets hit by it. It impacts your long-term decision making and will make it so that overcoming your bad habits is much harder later when you lose to good players.

Every KI player should read that paragraph 10 times. Making good decisions based on risk/reward is not minimizing all risk. It is taking smart risks that pay off based on your opponent’s tendencies and the game state.

You can replace the discussion on bursts with a discussion on combo breakers for the purposes of KI.

[quote]Only from understanding [about defensive options on] what beats what will facilitate mindgames.
“What beats what” is not only about which moves you have that beat the opponents, it is broader than that. It’s about how you can make the best out of a riskfilled situation.[/quote]

Defense is not just knowing that “my DP beats this”, it’s about knowing that AND then applying it vs a specific opponent in a specific risk/reward evaluation (based on your life, your meter, how much instinct he has, etc).

“Abare” is a term for trying to interrupt your opponent’s offense with fast jabs (aka, mash jab or “take your turn back”). Note that Machabo doesn’t say “I’m sick of my opponents for constantly hitting buttons”. Instead, he calls it a legitimate and necessary defensive option that needs to be respected, and classifies different types of offense that aren’t just slow high/low/throw mixups that need to be used in your game to beat it.

Something we all know, but then when we fight an opponent who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the mind game, some KI players will insist it’s their opponent’s fault or the game’s fault.

Just some good readin’.

“Take no shortcuts by relying on a playstyle that emanates from options
that work just because the opponent doesn’t know how to handle them.“
– Machaboo[/quote]

Some advice I feel GalacticGeek can apply to his game.

Anyway, I didn’t even touch on half the good stuff in this article with my quotes. I really recommend you read it!

The main takeaway is that “fundamentals” is not synonymous with grounded footsies and whiff punishing. True fighting game fundamentals is proper analysis of risk reward, ability to mix up between different offensive and defensive options, and how you can take and apply knowledge quickly and easily to a new game or a new character. Grounded footsies and whiff punishing is absorbed somewhere in the offensive/defensive options, but it is not the complete package like some KI players would like to espouse when they are losing to things that beat their linear strategies.


Right off the bat without even reading I’ve found something I love about this.
I wish more gaming communities could embrace this mindset. Just because something is in the same genre does not mean they have to follow the exact same rules (or at least, that the definition of those rules doesn’t have to be identical).


Good read. I’ve said before that KI is probably as close as you get to an anime fighter without actually being an anime fighter. If you think about it, it’s kinda weird how everyone compares and judges KI so strictly to the standard of SF when it also has a lot in common with games like GG. Especially in terms of fast action and crazy disparate character abilities.

FFT: A lot of people in the KI scene complain about Gargos’ two helpers shutting them down, but GG players have to deal with THIS and don’t announce doomsday for their game over it.


Gosh Infilament. Stop trying to be the best forum poster ever. :joy:


People who complain about Gargos are the same people who insist on not blocking or labbing. The amount of reverse BS you have to survive from Gargos before you get to abuse his poor defense and murder him with no bar is not nearly threatening enough to be worth complaining about.

But I have a theory that the main two reasons GG players don’t complain about characters like Jack-O is because:

  1. They have a history of super oppressive offense, so you either get used to it or stop playing quickly
  2. The GG scene is run by the Japanese who, by culture, rarely complain about anything (at least outwardly). If other cultures, like North America, want to complain about the game, they’ll just be met by quiet Japanese killers who beat them mercilessly. When you’re playing second fiddle to the best players in the world, suddenly your complaints don’t mean a whole lot.

Just when I started enjoying your post… SIGH :unamused:

I almost forgot about Gargos. Backout of every lobby with him in it. Belongs in an adventure/horror game with those minions. Like Resident Evil 15 or whatever number they’re on now. Maybe Gears. Not a fighting game though…In my opinion.

Do you disagree with the assessment?

No. That’s why I’m disappointed - I know you’re right. I just spent the past hour in ranked trying to follow the plethora of advice listed here. It got me really close to beating top-32, 1-star player detroitdeion (after 4 entire tries :sweat_smile:).

Why would you be disappointed to hear advice? I don’t understand.

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It’s a reminder that what I may be doing is wrong, or not the best method. That said, I chose Aganos for his character, not his gameplay (the latter was just a bonus).

Yeah but nobody is doing 100% the right thing/best method. Not a single player in this game.

Don’t let it get you down.


I try not to.

The advice on breaking emotionally really hit home, BTW.

I’m going to sleep on this - thanks for the food for thought.

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Shots fired!

Thanks for sharing this @Infilament, a great article indeed.

We should start sharing this to people who stated that CBs are broken, Gargos is OP, and all that stuff.

The lesson they could take it’s pretty obvious: Adapt and learn,instead of complain and berate

Quote that most caught my attention was this:

[quote=""]“It is important to know why you are making a decision!!“
– Machaboo

This is something that I think way too many players kind of ignore. A lot of times people just kinda do stuff because “it’s good”, without really thinking of the why behind those individual moves. What options are you seeking to limit, and what lessons do you want your opponent to learn? Thinking about the game like that I think doesn’t just make you a better player, it also helps give you a better appreciation for all of the interesting interactions that can occur in a match.

This is a great quote that kind of digs into why it’s important to look at past play and learn from it. Not just to see some sick combo or even to learn from mistakes (I should AA more), but because looking at past play also lets you know what homework you should be doing in the first place. What are the sequences that hit you a lot, and what interactions do you need to understand better to more effectively counter in the future? Are you always poking into plus frames, falling into frame traps, etc? So maybe figuring out which options in a given MU are plus or which buttons are frame trap bait will be a good use of your time.

Something for everyone to keep in mind, and very relevant to the conversation above. Everyone has tells, habits, and holes in their game. Good players hide these things better than most, but “perfect” play does not exist. To defend against one option necessarily means another would have hit you, and it’s important to take even those sequences that don’t work as important data points on how your opponent responds to certain things.


these are pretty awesome. Actually the whole punish thing I feel like I got that down a “T”. Blocking and throrwing in a quick light poke for a full on assault.

These are a good find and I might just try and apply these right now!

I feel like this post should permanently be pinned. And whenever people complain at all on the forums, just direct them to read it over and over and over.

A must read for anyone looking to improve in any fighter, imo.


Fighting games are about one’s own mental fortitude and willingness to change and adapt. Being able to learn from mistakes and adapt separates the okay players from the truly great players.

It’s not something innate, everyone can be great if they just manage to overcome the idea that they have nothing left to learn. EVERY SINGLE DAY you should be trying to learn and apply something new, not just for fighting games, but for life.