Learning to Fight, Forgetting Reliance.

Recently I decided that I want to get better at Melee. It might take a rephrase to really nail home the point I am trying to get across here, so let me try again with some stylized font.

I want to get better… … …at Melee

Not so much getting better at Marth, but getting better at the game itself.

I started as a Marth main in August of 2013. I went through about a month or two long phase where I mained Sheik, but ended up going back to Marth afterward. I dabbled in very minor Falco practice here and there along the way as well. In the summer of this year, I have been exclusively practicing Marth, studying Marth videos, and working only on my Marth. In comparison to before dedicating my time with the game to only Marth, I have improved as a player of Marth. However, with that improvement has come some realizations of a lack of understanding of aspects of the game that I would like to understand. I came to these realizations a few nights ago while training with BW.

During our training session that night, I was not feeling great with my Marth, and was frustrated with how I could not meet my expectations of playing the character during this session. I decided to dedicate some of the time that night to practicing my Falco. It was during these games of my Falco vs his Fox and Marth, did I start to come all of these realizations.

I realized that I do not understand the fight. How to fight. How to fight back. How to play Melee. How to take my opponents “advantages” and hits and convert them into advantages and hits of my own.

To get really ranty, taking a break from playing Marth that night had helped me to see that I would like to learn…

How to not always rely on “classic” Marth (some would dare call a few of these things “PPMD-Esque”) play, like…

  • Looking to be “Whiff-Punishing” every move your opponent throws out…
  • Playing Marth because he “teaches fundamentals”…
  • Down-tilting in neutral all the time…
  • Dash-dancing all the time as “trickery”…
  • Using movement because Marth has great movement…
  • Dashing back (Way too Meme-y at this point but still extremely true…)

My reliance on many of these things is something that I was beginning to get frustrated with. About three months ago a training partner told me that he thought I was good at dashing underneath Fox in neutral. Back then, this was something I was clearly relying on very heavily in the matchup. It would work, but I have since craved how to understand so much more than just relying on something that I might be good at.  It feels completely awesome to have moments where you execute some of the techniques I listed above with grace and effectiveness and take stocks with them, instead of merely relying or falling back on them. To quote Bruce Lee, “…good technique includes quick changes, great variety and speed…”

 

To simplify, variety and adaptation are concepts that I crave to understand. To complicate, when I felt I was playing my best during this training session and recent training sessions, it felt as if I was not forcing variety in my play. I was just simply playing to the moment, and fighting back. Being sort of “All-of-the-above” in my play. Technique would happen in spontaneity, and when things would not go my way I could understand why with a greater amount of clarity than before. (I hope these do not come across as “z0mg I am s0 good in friendlies” statements, though deciding what you want in training is very important and is definitely something that can be measured once you decide what it is you want, something I go over in this post: Blinded by Goals and Improving the Quality of Practice. )

There are definitely other benefits to trying out other characters in practice, and one could write a ton about that subject entirely if they wanted to, but for me the biggest thing has been realizing that there is more to Melee than just swinging a sword and moving around all pretty all the time. A lack of understanding can sometimes be a blessing. It is with this lack of understanding that I have felt the most confident and motivated to practice lately.

 

Thank you for reading, keep competing.

Kopaka.

 

 


 

Yogurt covered raisins were the snack of choice while writing this post.

These fantastic pieces of music were the soundtracks to the proof-read.

Boards of Canada are amazing and you should support them HERE!

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On my set with Chillindude829

Hey guys! I’d like to share with you a little bit of the overall experience of my set with Chillindude from Evo 2017, some context to my Smash history, and what I’d like to do moving forward.  The support I’ve gotten has been wild, and I’d like to share my experience as a hopes of it being encouragement to someone out there who is aiming to do great things with this game. This will not exactly be about the set itself so much, or how Chillin and I played (or how I went for wayyy too many fthrow -> fsmashes) or whatever, but rather how the whole experience felt.

This was my third Evo, and it was the one where I felt the most internal pressure because it was the first one that I had attended since I began to take training seriously, both in physical skills and mental focus. This Evo felt completely different than the previous two. During the first Evo I attended, Evo 2015, I was very nooby. People at that tournament would tell me how I have nice movement, but I would be doing really nooby things in game and I had such a weak understanding of the game itself during this time. Evo 2016 was a little different. Around this time I had a much more practiced mental-game but I still vastly lacked in-game skill and understanding. I was also having crazy trouble sleeping at night and was depressed around the time of this tournament, and there were many times where I felt like quitting during that year. The weeks going into Evo 2017 were spent working my job, training in-game solo and with partners, battling lapses of tournament-focus, and picking up a habit of meditating at home. Ultimately though, I had decided that I wanted to compete. Not just compete at Evo, but to just compete. I wanted to improve, and compete, and perform on the big stage. Making those decisions alone sort of smoothed out a path for everything to kind of just flow. For me to be at ease with the training and focus that is required to perform, and swallow the fact that outcomes that I do not prefer may sometimes just happen no matter how much I train.

I woke up the morning of day one, and started practicing with a local Vegas player we were rooming with. I was not exactly feeling ready to compete after the short practice session, nor was I happy with my play during practice at all. I knew I had to swallow it though, and focus on what was to come. They say friendlies do not really matter,  but when you’ve come all this way, and spend a lot of money going to a tournament with the hopes of performing well and have trained a lot for it, you kind of want any interaction you have with the game to be meaningful, right? It is “The big one” after all (Despite a drop in attendance this year).

I went downstairs, ate the soggiest oatmeal I had ever eaten, put my headphones in and began the trek to the Mandalay Bay from the Luxor. Eventually I got myself to where my pool was being held at noon. Right around when the pool matches were being called, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and this group of about five or six friends from high-school were there as spectators of the event itself. This was huge for me! I tried to hold back tears, but to no avail. I had ran into a few of them at Evo 2016, but I completely forgot that they like going to this event so it was a huge surprise for me. I had not seen a few of them in about four years, which made mentally preparing for my matches even more difficult, since seeing all of them had begun to make me cry. I hugged all of them and did my best not to become more of an emotional wreck. I then remember just sitting on a chair in front of a free setup, completely unaware of the fact that I had a setup right in front of me to warm-up on and instead sat there trying to dry the tears from my face while talking to my friend Erin.

Her and I talked for a bit, which was quite relaxing and got me a bit more at ease and focused. Thanks Erin! My match was finally called after I got a measly twenty seconds of warm-up time (Thanks, emotions). I had to play a Falco player for my round one, and the winner of this set had to play Chillindude in the next round. The set began, and the Falco player took the first stock off of me soon after the set started. Not a position I had never been in before though, and while it was quite awkward, I won the first game. During the second game I felt a little bit better, and ended up winning the set 2-0. Then a TO came up to me, and told me I had to play Chillindude on stream, on the big stage. I actually popped off and shouted “Fuck yeah!” when I had heard this. Not because I had just won, but because I was just told that I get to play Chillindude on the big stage. I began walking with the TO to the stage, and the TO handed me a piece of paper on which I had to write my name, my tag, what region I am from, a fun fact about me, and my favorite commentator. Besides the obvious answers, I wrote down Wife as my favorite commentator, and “I love playing on the big stage” as my fun fact. (Please go check out Wife’s Blog as it’s amazing!)

I sat down in front of the stage, and waited for the set Amsa was playing to finish. The amplified game sounds booming through the area gave me goosebumps. As I sat there and as I walked on stage, I felt no fear of under-performing, making mistakes, losing or letting anyone down. I just remember being very “there”. Being very present. Maybe I was a little bit afraid, I certainly was right after I had woken up, but once I got on stage, none of that stuff seemed to weigh on me as heavily. I felt I had to just perform. Giving it my all? Maybe. I do not remember feeling like I was over-exerting, or over-performing or pressing any button on my controller really hard or popping off when it felt unnatural. I was just focused on the game, and it was the most exhilarating time I have ever had while playing Melee, and an experience that has given training a much more clear definition.

The set finished with Chillindude winning. I turned to him, gave him a fist-bump, and stood up to unplug my controller. When I stood up, I did have the “Well, dang. I lost. That sucks.” feeling, but at the same time, I felt pretty awesome actually. I felt I had overcome a huge fear, a real fear of how many things could go wrong. A fear of losing focus or a fear of getting frustrated or choking. The support I was given from my friends and smashers after the set was just such an incredible thing for me.  Ka-Master walked up on stage and just as I was about to finish packing my controller, he hugged me and gave me some really awesome short words of encouragement to keep going. That was amazing and meant a tremendous amount to me. I walked down the stairs and all of my friends were there to tell me about the match. As I was walking back to my pool, this little kid came up to me and told me how I was so close, then his dad showed up and he told me the same thing. A little kid and his dad, whom I had never met before, were telling me about the set. Pretty crazy. Then sometime during the day, I can’t remember when exactly, two or three people I had never met before in my life came up to me to tell me about it too. This was so crazy to me. It has been such a crazy experience to have been playing this game competitively since August 2013, suck for two years, decide that I really want to improve around mid 2015, feel like giving up/go through depression while I wanted to improve through most of 2016/early 2017, and then have this set on the big stage at Evo, and have complete strangers tell me that they’re fans. Once you get momentum, it is hard to let go of it when you finally get to experience the outcome you have only dreamed of so many times in your head before, for years. It has changed how I perceive locals, and changed why I practice in the first place. Of course I would have liked to come out on the winning side, but to come out on the side of the bracket you’d prefer to come out on, you have to explore a side of yourself you never thought was there before.

I certainly was the underdog here, and moving forward, I would like to practice how to handle any fear of not living up to this performance (especially at locals), and any sort of new internal pressure I have not faced before that might come up after a performance like this, through meditation. I am human after all, and I want to better understand how I can accept the human part of the game and how to cope with the anxiety or burden not meeting internal and external expectations, both good ones and bad ones. Overall, I want to be satisfied, and make the most out of my opportunities with this awesome game.

 

If you made it this far, thank you for reading.

 

— Kopaka


 

I would also like to play my opponents when they are playing their best, that way if I win, it feels way more amazing. (I’m sure Chillindude can play much better than he did during our set and it would be very exciting to get to play him again when he does).

This is the song I was listening to during the set: