Improvement in Smash 4 BONUS XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

Last week I read an article from Freakonomicks website. It was a podcast they had put up titled: “How to Become Great at Just About Anything.” I highly suggest you give it a read.

So, how does this apply to Super Smash Bros.? And why is it so important that I had to add a BONUS section to the Practice Methods mini-series? Well, that article talks about a concept called “deliberate” practice, a concept that explains how practicing specific parts of a skill until you’ve mastered it will not only help you improve faster, but would enable someone who maybe doesn’t have a lot of natural talent in Smash to become great at it.

What I want to go over is how to utilize this.

So how do we do that? Let’s break it down.

In a lot of the posts I make on here, the one thing I bring up as much as possible are the fundamentals of Super Smash Bros. (check my first post if you want a refresher on how I define them, as I will be referencing them here). And in my post about creating a Training Regimen and my mini series on Practice Methods I went over how to train those up, sometimes at the same time.

Now, don’t get me wrong – training multiple fundamental aspects at once is completely fine and sometimes natural to the game. Fundamental aspects of the game, I think, should bleed into each other. So, when you’re playing Super Smash Bros., you’re constantly making decisions and executing on them, either as a preemptive action or a reaction, and making those decisions and performing those actions requires small bits of certain fundamentals, and will generally lean towards one overall. A quick example – you throw out a back air to cover the neutral getup or jump option from ledge. Your opponent rolls, and you react to that with a grab since your Bair missed. Or, on a deeper level, your opponent is expecting a quick punish/cover option like a grab and spot dodges, giving you a free punish if you made the right guess or reacted fast enough. This can go different ways depending on character and player style – it gets a little complicated after that and this isn’t about the fundamentals themselves – this is about training them up.

Anyway, I wanted to write that little paragraph so I could follow up with this: if you do not have a solid grasp of the fundamentals of Smash, practice one. At. A. Time. You heard me right: while practicing, only focus on one fundamental aspect until you’ve become proficient in it. Do NOT move on until you’ve become proficient.

When you sit down to play a friendly, you’re exercising the Neutral fundamental aspect according to my definition of the fundamentals. Neutral, to me, is a combination of the rest of the fundamental aspects. So you play a ton of friendlies but find out that you, well, don’t really go anywhere because you’re just playing. This is one of the easiest ways to hit The Plateau. Focusing in on one fundamental aspect allows you to see things differently, and like just playing friendlies, progress will be slow. But as you start mastering each fundamental aspect, you’ll find yourself hitting big breakthrough moments – those moments while playing friendlies or in bracket where you suddenly find yourself being able to think on the fly much more fluidly and with more clarity than before. You start reacting better and choose better options. Really, the difference is incredible.

Once you master the rest, then you can focus on the Neutral fundamental aspect.

So how do you do that? Which one should you start with?

Well, it can be difficult because, as I said before, a lot of these aspects bleed together in some way, even if it’s a very small amount. You need to make sure you don’t drop your focus while practicing and really push to practice that one fundamental aspect. Play some games, review them, then go at it again. As I said in previous posts, 30 minutes is enough time to get meaningful practice.

What should you start with? Well, that’s also tricky. Ultimately, I think it’s up to you, and here’s why:

I’ve said this before on a couple streams while commentating, but I think even the worst players have an innate understanding of the fundamentals in Super Smash Bros. It’s very unconscious, but it’s there. The difference between those players and good players is that good players understand these concepts and are working to refine them. They are consciously aware of the fundamentals. Great players like ZeRo have refined their fundamentals to a point where you could call it “mastery”.

So, you, the reader, are probably aware of these fundamentals, even if unconsciously. Go back and watch a few sets of yours or talk to other players – what do they think you’re strong and weak in right now? Whatever you’re weak in, pick one and that’s what you’ll start with.

If you’re still unsure, I suggest Reactions and Punishes or Positional Awareness to start with.

Seriously, if you haven’t, read that article. It’s really great, and my translation to Smash Bros here doesn’t do it justice. If you take this concept and apply it to your own training regimen (which you should have by this point if you’ve been reading my improvement series!!), you’ll find yourself excelling soon enough. Honestly, the slow start is worth it in the long run.

Just Sayin’

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XV – Game Flow