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3 Keys: How to Get Better at Combos

Are learning big combos the key to winning more games in Street Fighter?

Truthfully, as cool as they look, they’re not the answer you’re looking for.

This idea that you need to learn 20+ hit combos is 100% rubbish.

The real unlock for winning more is upgrading your fundamentals… spacing, timing, neutral, punishes.

As long as we’re both on the same page, then we can talk about why and how to get better at combos in Street Fighter.

First, if they’re not the key, then what do we even need combos for?

In short, your opponent is going to present a lot of opportunities for you to hit them. Maybe you block a dragon punch or have them stunned… Now what?

When I first started Street Fighter V any time I got a crush counter, I didn’t know what to do. So, my default was to get a throw in.

This was some extra damage, but not even close to being optimal, punishing effectively, and winning more games.

Obviously, when the opportunity presents itself, you want to dish out the most damage possible in a reliable fashion. We can expand on this topic, but that’s not why we’re here…

Let’s talk about how to practice and improve our Street Fighter combos.

This article was 100% inspired by a post on the Street Fighter Sub-Reddit.

The big question was, “How do I get better at combos?”

And, there were three big ideas present in everyone’s comments, including my own:

  1. Consistent Practice – Building Muscle Memory in Training Mode
  2. Combo Execution – Understanding Timing and Reducing Input Errors
  3. Situational Awareness – Knowing When and How to Execute Your Combo

Dinner & Dessert? No, you just want Bread N’ Butter.

First, what combos should you even practice? If you hit up GrandMaster YouTube you may come across some 30+ hit anime-looking mega combo dismantling their opponent in the corner…

However, the setup and circumstances to actually land something like that in a real match can be unrealistic…

You may need your meters 100% built up and your opponent to whiff a reversal in the corner before you can even attempt to pull that off.

Bread and butter combos (better known as BnB combos) are combinations that you can pull off in a variety of situations and are way easier to perform.

Know which character you’re looking to perform combos for and search GrandMaster YouTube for their Bread and Butter Combos.

BnB combos give you the best chances to get an optimal punish off or effectively land more damage after confirming your first hit.

The Big Three Keys to Improve Your Combo Potential

Without a doubt, the number one thing mentioned was consistent practice. It’s easy to associate getting good at anything with the idea of dedicated practice.

The misleading concept is that you have to dedicate hours to sitting in the lab and practicing one thing over and over. Now, if you did that… I guarantee you’d get really good at that one thing. However, I’d also guarantee most would drop this routine faster than a New Year’s resolution.

Consistent Practice doesn’t have to mean hours on end. And, if we’re being realistic, maybe you don’t even have 15 minutes to play that day. Can you squeeze in 10? 5? 3 minutes?

3 minutes of practice may not seem like much but is always greater than zero.

Plus, the minutes add up… Each time our brain starts slowly understanding and building the muscle memory necessary. The button presses become more and more second nature.

So, regardless of how long you can spend… never have a zero percent day.

Consistency Leads to Better Execution

Once you know which combos you want to practice and are dialed in to consistent practice, now we have to figure out what’s happening when our execution is failing.

In order to really help us get a good idea, make sure you set your training mode dummy to block after first attack.

This will ensure we’re executing with proper timing and not unintentionally leaving gaps in our combos where the enemy will simply block our attacks.

The first culprit to execution error is mashing. This is totally normal.

Sometimes you feel like if you hit that medium attack button three times in a row you’ll have a better chance of connecting. And, honestly, sometimes this does help link moves together.

However, if we can eliminate the need to mash, we’re going to create better fluid attacks and reduce input errors across the board.

When you’re trying a new combination for the first time, you may feel a little anxious at trying to:

  1. Remember the combo
  2. Get your fingers to execute what you’re trying to do

This is normal and, again, totally okay.

If you’re hitting the buttons, but not feeling 100% in control of what you’re doing, stop and take a look at the combo itself.

The biggest solution to better execution is breaking a combo down into chunks.

For instance, let’s take Ryu and this as an example combo to land:

Jump Heavy Kick → Standing Medium Punch → Crouching Medium Kick → Cancel into Hadoken → Cancel into Critical Art

Immediately, every single part of the combo should be recognizable and doable. For instance, if at the most basic level executing a Hadoken is a problem, then start there.

Beyond that, if you begin practicing this combination and notice a certain point where you’re dropping the combo (failing to execute) over and over then there’s your sticking point.

Let’s say that after the medium punch you’re trying to do crouching medium kick into Hadoken, but are getting standing medium kick instead, then there’s a problem.

Separate that section out… First, just practice the standing medium punch into crouching kick.

Afterwards, add in the motion of the fireball without the punch to fire off the Hadoken.

Once you feel good about stand medium punch, into crouch medium kick, into fireball motion then add the punch to finish the combo chunk.

Execute all three moves successfully? Good! Do it again. No? Do it again.

What we’re looking to accomplish is minimizing input errors by cleaning up our mashing and timing.

Timing is another key attribute to better execution.

Some characters have target combos where you just simply push button after button and a sequence of hits pops out.

However, most combinations require you to make sure you press the right button, at the right time.

Push it too early? Combo dropped. Too late? Combo blocked.

When you’re seeking out GrandMaster Youtube’s consult on bread and butter combos, watch and get a feel for the timing that’s demonstrated. It’s almost like a rhythm game.

But, can you hit it in a match?

The final aspect of improving your combinations is knowing how and when to use it in a match.

Besides, what good is a combo if you can’t ever land it in a real game?

The two questions you have to ask yourself are:

  1. At what range can I start this combination?
  2. What needs to happen to effectively start the combo?

When you answer those two questions you can start figuring out where to start your bread and butter combinations.

For instance, in the Ryu combo above, maybe you don’t start with the jump-in attack… Maybe you find yourself hitting the standing medium punch to start.

As soon as that lands, you drop right into your crouching medium kick and away you go!

Or, maybe you block an incoming reversal attack leaving your opponent wide open. Is that your best bet for big damage?

With those ideas in mind, you don’t have to wait for it to happen in a match for you to practice.

You can set up your training dummy to whiff a reversal or you can practice dashing into range… I’m sure you can be more imaginative depending on what combo you’re trying to pull off.

The Recap

Bettering your combo potential and improving your damage output revolves around these 3 keys:

  1. Consistent Practice – Building Muscle Memory in Training Mode
  2. Combo Execution – Understanding Timing and Reducing Input Errors
  3. Situational Awareness – Knowing When and How to Execute Your Combo

Obviously, we dived deep into each part of these 3 keys. So, just like breaking down a combo into a chunk, maybe you just get a piece of these keys into practice…

Maybe you’re only getting a little bit of time in for now because that’s what your schedule allows.

Either way, never have a zero percent day, and eventually piece more together like you’re connecting puzzle pieces to establish the big picture.

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