1/29/13 - Improving your neutral game
Post date: Feb 05, 2013 3:18:50 AM
Punishing is really about knowing what options to expect from your opponent and weighing the odds of a certain attack occurring. For instance, I can honestly say that I've seen a random shoulder come out, more times than I'd like to admit, and watch the defender not punish it properly. Doesn't matter how good the opponent is, 49 out of 50 times they won't punish a random shoulder if used at a completely random and non-crucial moment. But inversely once the opponent has used the "random shoulder" card the defender, with even very basic knowledge (e.g. shoulder is launch punishable), will be able to punish it in the future with great accuracy.
The other thing to do is once you catch an option you're looking for, be sure to punish the fuck out of it. Now Bryan/Drag don't have i14 WS launchers, but for -12 and -13 you should always be looking for max damage. Actually this is not a bad crutch to have as most low attacks are not exactly -11, so just always be using WS+1,3 or WS+1+2 with Dragunov and instead know what options are -11, not the other way around.
The easiest way to stop fearing lows is to realize that a hop kick/launcher will kill you and lows won't. I remember reading a while ago, in T6, that a few Korean players would never duck. Now obviously it was probably hyperbole, I'd assume they'd properly block slow lows and such, but it's an interesting idea to think about. Imagine what your game would be like if you never ducked. Imagine what you could do if you anticipated a low and was able to orbital the low option.
Instead you should try to pick up on bad habits. For instance inexperienced Alisa players will often do d/b+3 (hit) and then immediately WS+4 because other inexperienced players will often try to retaliate, but this leaves them open to SSR and other reversal options. At the same time be careful with certain "reads" where the opponent may actually be training you to respond a certain way in a clutch moment. For instance I was training you with Jinpachi FC d/f+1 and once you were at the wall (in one of our last games), I finally used FC d/f+2 on you (a safe KND/W! mid) to counter your low parry/low guard. So keep an eye out.
Overall it's better to use an option that will eat a 50/50 and if you don't have one, always be sure to guard whichever direction will give your opponent the best reward. For instance we can look at Heihachi CD+4 extensions. (CD+4),d/f+4 is safe on block, but if you don't block low, it's a free launcher if the Hei player goes low. (CD+4),n,4,4 is a 50/50 to (CD+4),d/f+4 but will not launch, instead does a lot of standing damage, although at the same time is launch punishable on block. Going even earlier, CD+4 is u/f,n,4 punishable (which does a shit ton of damage), so it's a risk even getting to that 50/50. That's why most Hei players will instead opt to use (CD+4),n,4 as if the CD+4 is CH will still full launch and at same time is completely safe on block.
The only way deal with pressure is to learn the match-up and learn the character (at least at a very basic level). A huge help is to be sure to punish properly, which I realize is the problem you first stated, will help you gain a ton of breathing room. Steve is somewhat vulnerable to twitch ducking strings and high crushes, Hwo has to properly select options to catch SS'ing his strings, and Zafina gets shut down once you have options to eat all her stances.