4 Reasons Why Daigo Umehara is the Street Fighter Champion and I’m Not

Daigo Umehara is one of the most popular and successful competitive video game players on the planet. For well over a decade, he’s been the Michael Jordan of Street Fighter. Long before I ever took fighting games seriously, I still knew him by name.

As I continue training for my first-ever fighting game tournament at FanExpo, I realize that I am nowhere near Daigo good and probably never will be. Forget about being the best in the world right now; I may not be the best player on my block. Instead of being positive and spending the time to get better, I spent my time writing this post that highlights 4 reasons Daigo is better than me at Street Fighter.

1. Physical Execution of Button Commands

Fighting games are one of the most difficult genres of games to play due to the high barriers of execution required to play the games well at a high level. For a lot of people, just throwing a Hadoken is hard. As you get better at any given fighting game, the challenge becomes being able to quickly string together long sequences of button commands.

Daigo has some of the best execution in the business. He always punishes his opponents mistakes with the biggest possible combos and is always able to execute in high-pressure situations. In the legendary video above, he’s able to parry every hit of a super combo and counter it with a super combo of his own.

I can execute a few short combos off by heart, but long sequences of button inputs in high-pressure situations are the bane of my existence. The only way for me to get better at execution is through practice, but for me to even be close to Daigo in terms of execution would take hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of practice.

2. Competition

Daigo may very well be the personification of the world warrior. He’s been competing in pro-level Street Fighter international competition since 1998. Since then, he’s only gotten better. Most recently, he took home first prize at Evolution 2010 in Super Street Fighter IV, which had over 1,700 competitors.

I may have played thousands of opponents, but almost all of those matches were online. While Street Fighter IV has pretty good net code, the game doesn’t quite play the same as it would locally due to the lag. Even the slightest bit of lag can change the game, especially when certain strings of button inputs need to be hit within 1/6oth of a second of each other.

The bigger problem is the quality of opponents I face. Oftentimes with fighting games, you won’t learn anything if you play against opponents who are worse than you and you won’t learn anything if you play opponents that are notably better than you. Even if I did play all the pros that Daigo has, I’d probably still suck because they’re too far ahead of me for me to learn from them. The best way to learn is to match up with people on your level and grow together. I guess if I really wanted to, I could use XBOX Live to build a list of people to play with, but I’ll tackle this in point 4.

3. Knowledge

I’ll never forget the Daigo vs. Justin grand finals match at Season’s Beatings 2009. Unfortunately, I can’t find any video on it at the moment. I’ll try and explain it as best I can. The original Street Fighter IV was weird from an international level because gamers weren’t playing with the same version of the game. The majority of pro players were used to the arcade version while North American players were used to the console version, which featured 8 characters unavailable in the arcade release.

In the winners final, Justin tore Daigo up with Fei Long, a character that was a console exclusive. With virtually no match up experience, Daigo got wrecked. However, Daigo came back to face Justin’s Fei Long again in grand finals, and the flow of the match quickly changed. It was almost scary to see how quickly Daigo had completely figured out Justin Wong’s Fei Long and dismantled him to win the tournament.

This was an amazing example of Daigo’s ability to learn and apply what he learned within minutes. I can pick up on patterns and tactics, but definitely not to the level that Daigo did in that short amount of time.

Outside of on-the-fly learning, there is a lot of knowledge to be had when it comes to Street Fighter. Everything from specific character knowledge, to combos and strategies against different characters is important. It can easily take hundreds of hours to learn everything there is to know about this game.

4. Motivation

That last sentence leads perfectly into my last point. Technically, there’s nothing stopping me from becoming the best Street Fighter player in the world. There’s nothing stopping you from being the best, either. If I wanted to dedicate every fiber of my being to beating Daigo, there’s a chance that maybe I actually could dethrone him. But just a shot at that would likely require me to quit my job, dump my girlfriend, ditch my family and then practice for the rest of my life. If that’s what I would have to sacrifice to be that good, Daigo won’t have to worry about me making a run at him.

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