The Tao of Git Gud Do
No, that title is not poor syntax or a guest appearance from Yoda honoring today--although, May the Fourth also be with you.
In China, where most traditional martial arts have their roots, “Tao” roughly translates into “the way” or “path” in English. When Bruce Lee decided to name his fighting approach, he chose Jeet Kune Do: “the Way of the Intercepting Fist.” In this particular case, “Do” also means “way.”
Following? Good. Then, let us discuss how martial arts and fight games lead us along the Path for a Way to “Git Gud.”
Those in the Fight Game Community (FGC) are not strangers to the saying “Get Good.” Ever wonder what a “Normal” is? You are not alone. Maximilian Dood, a Youtuber and fight gamer, has a series explaining how to "Git Gud." My friend, and A State of Gaming director, Rondy “Mega” Wooten started "How to Marvel;" each episode highlights basics and useful knowledge from Capcom’s Ultimate Marvel versus Capcom 3 to improve a player’s skill set. Why? Because the fight game genre is a beautiful, but competitive mistress and regardless of your fighting franchise favorite, a player must practice and excel at his or her craft with diligence if they wish to advance in a simulated situation-- i.e against the computer-- or against a seasoned player.
Martial arts are no different. In order to succeed in both, you start with the basics. Devoted martial artists spend several days a week in the dojo or on the mat practicing blocks, kicks, punches, take-downs, and throws from static and mobile positions. You practice these with strict repetition until the motions are natural, fluid, and stringing together a combo is as comfortable as tying your shoes without looking at your feet. The determined, new fight gamer logs hours into a game’s training mode doing the same thing-- attempting to master a character’s normals (usually punches and kicks), blocks, and throws until those simple button presses become basic combos flowing from practiced inputs.
Where some martial arts practitioners have kata (pre-set fighting forms) and patterns that you practice to further understand or develop a style, fight gamers have combo command tutorials that deepen your comprehension of a particular character’s range, hit-box, techniques, weaknesses, and strengths. Only when you have mastered the basics and your personal style of fighting can either fighter consider advanced techniques such as countering, timing, and distance.
So, what drives the fight gamer and the fighter to “git gud?”
The Salt and Sacrifice are Real
I do not care if you are a patron saint: everyone has a competitive spirit within. Nowhere is this more evident than the martial arts and fight game communities. Some of you may remember from before that I practice martial arts. A Martial Perspective briefly discusses my background and what spawned my desire to be a professional fighter. Simply put: I want to put myself to the ultimate test of my skills. You can practice against the hardest Wing Chun wooden dummy or makiwara.. SNK boss God Rugal’s input reading bullshit might push you to madness, and Alpha-152’s 16-hit terror fuels fire, but these opponents pale in comparison to a one-on-one battle with a living, breathing, possibly trash-talking person facing you.
This is why one strives to, as Max’s Scrublord persona says, “get good, or die trying.”
When I play Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore, (DOA2), I exploit Ayane’s weakness whenever the computer pits me against her. Ayane is agile and quick, but whenever her back faces her opponent, she is vulnerable to throws. The computer A.I. in this particular franchise entry has a tendency to linger there as if she will be safe. So, I double-tap forward and input any grab I feel like tossing out at that time. I can do this due to practice, but also because the computer is predictable. A human player, however is not. A human may decide to high-diagonal-back+kick me--a somersault kick Ayane can execute-- if I dash in for a throw. He or she can choose to down-kick for a low sweep that would interrupt, a.k.a. “punish” my step-in.
Enter a Dead or Alive tournament and you may face more than one player that mains Ayane. Just as martial artists from the same school or style do not fight exactly the same, neither shall your fight gamers. Did I mention some fight gamers in a tournament can main the same character you do?
If two high level martial artists from the same style spar or fight, the winner is not determined by fight record, but by their ability to adapt and focus. The best fight gamers, those that “git gud,” know when to execute a command, how to bait their opponent, and are adaptable.
Then, we have sacrifice. A loss on arcade cabinets of old against another player meant several quarter tributes to the fight game gods in order to play again. Centuries ago, a martial arts loss in a duel could mean death. The stakes are not necessarily as high now, but they are stakes nevertheless. The Evolution Tournament Series, an annual fight game genre event held each year, awards prize money and accolades. Many martial arts events do the same. Honor and money are on the line.
Pride is deafening. In martial arts and fighting games. A participant in either discipline can never allow his or her pride to dictate the mind. Umehara Daigo, a legend in the FGC, mentions that he has “...never thought ‘Oh this person is weak, so I can half-ass it.’” But, as I mentioned before, these are competitive environments. Egos inflate and on the Path to Git Gud, the reason and motivation to continue getting good tends to fall under the piles of praise and glory. The old adage says: “the greatest opponent is one’s self.”
In the path to “git gud,” one realizes that the path never truly ends. I believe that even a martial arts master will never perfect a technique or truly understand it. One day, the artist sees a block, the next day a strike, the third day a joint lock, another day a parry, and the discoveries continues until suddenly, you are at a block again, but the block has evolved. Striving to “git gud” did not alter the technique, but rather morphed the practitioner’s school of thought and interpretations.
Surprise, surprise, the persistent fighting game player shares parallel experiences. Chun Li’s Lightning Kick in UMvC3 is no longer just a normal attack. It also serves, as a dear friend displayed, as an evasive air maneuver when dodging a full-bar, X-factor Dark Phoenix regenerating health like an asshole.
Wherever the Path takes you, keep your mind open to learn from others.
Until Later Guys,
Umehara Daigo interview “Mind of a Beast”: