There’s an ancient adage in the Fighting Game Community when it comes to movement in Street Fighter-style games: “Don’t Jump!”. This advice is given to new players because they tend to be unaware that jumps are risky since you can’t block while jumping. This 2-hit combo of wisdom does well to force people to start with learning the ground game but lacks the nuance of informing players on when to actually jump or not.
So here we’ll help to explain how to start learning the art of jumping. We’ll also go over how you can practice spacing your jumps and when are good times to try it.
Disclaimer: The advice here is meant for Street Fighter-style games, where jumping renders you unable to block and (usually) you don’t have a way to change the trajectory of your jump. There are other types of fighting games (airdashers, platform fighters, etc.) where this advice may apply, but it may not be as effective due to the aerial options available in those games.
Why Do We Want to Jump in Street Fighter So Much?
To start, we should explore why jumping seems so powerful in games in general. Most gamers have played many genres of games before considering playing fighting games. I argue that the main genre that influences why beginner fighters jump so much is the platformer. In platformers, jumping gives you such great freedom in that you can move and, usually, attack at the same time. Many games let you take advantage of jump attacks to get extra damage while also giving you mobility on top of that, which usually makes them the best type of attack in the game.
The funny thing about this is that this powerful technique can feel the same for a beginner in fighting games. Jump-in attacks usually allow you to get the highest amount of damage for your combos. Also, playing against easy CPU opponents allows you to get a false sense of security of how effective jumping attacks can be. The combination of these experiences makes our monkey brain go bananas and makes us think that jumping is the best stuff in fighting games too. However, this preconceived notion can foster a great frustration that many beginners experience when stepping into the arena against real opponents who are experienced and ready to anti-air.
Now that you’re reading this article, you can get the proper perspective on jumping in fighting games, and you’ll be able to avoid getting blown up as hard. So let’s go over the three types of jumps I’d recommend for beginners to start with.
Your Jump Arc and the Three Jumps to Learn
One of the first things you want to know about your character in any fighting game is their jump arc. Knowing where you’ll be when you hit up on the controller is a huge deal in making sure you are being deliberate with your actions.
There are a few methods to learn the distance and arc of your jumps in Street Fighter. In modern fighting games, there’s usually a training room stage. In these stages, there are typically lines on the floor that can help you gauge where you land when jumping forward or backward. This is one way to try and learn your jumps if your mind is more inclined to use markers as spacing.
A more common way to understand the length of things is to count things via character width. You would imagine how many of your own characters, if put side by side, would be from your original position.
This tends to be a little more useful due to the fact that you can picture it without needing an external marker, like lines on the floor. This is also important for gauging the distance between you and your opponent.
Jump Type 1: Jump to Hit Your Opponent
This jump is the most obvious one to learn to land fat combos that feel awesome when they hit. This is definitely the most fun of the jump types to learn but also the most obvious, which makes them the easiest to anti-air. You do want to learn this type of jump, regardless, so you can get big damage when the jump in works.
The best way to train for this is to go into training mode and find the general distance away from your opponent where the jump forward will land you right next to the opponent after landing (as close as you can be). Once you find the spot that’s the right distance away from the opponent, continuously walk into that space from wherever your character is and see if you can consistently reach the opponent by jumping. Along with this, you’ll want to know a combo to land if your jump is successful.
I would recommend learning a combo that can double as a safe block string, so you won’t have to confirm if you’ve actually hit the opponent. When you get more experience, you can build your hit-confirming skills and decide when you want to use a more damaging combo or continue pressure after a block. If you don’t know what anything I just said means, it’s just some terminology for what you might already do, I would recommend checking combo resources on YouTube or your game’s community wiki, like the Super Combo Wiki, for a simple a BNB.
Jump Type 2: Jump to Cross Up Your Opponent
This jump is another one that can help you land some big damage if your attack connects. This one, however, tends to be a little more tricky and is usually safer than the previous jump we’ve mentioned. This jump will land you right next to the opponent but crossing over to their other side. An attack that crosses up forces your opponent to essentially block the opposite way (since you usually need to hold back to block). This can confuse your opponent and make them second guess their defense if you can make them block the wrong way, whether it’s on their front or their back. Do be wary that some characters may not have a cross-up jumping normal at all (ala Boxer).
To train for this, similarly, you want to find the distance where when you jump, you end up on the other side of the opponent, but still very close to them. If you’ve already learned jump 1, usually you just need to move forward 1 or 2 steps to get that cross up spacing. With this you will want to learn what is your character’s jumping cross-up move. In Street Fighter, specifically, the cross up attack tends to be the Medium Kick button more often than not, but try out different buttons or special moves like Ryu’s jumping hurricane kick to see if an attack lands as a cross-up.
Similarly to jump 1, I would recommend learning a combo that would both act as a combo or a safe block string that connects with your jumping cross-up attack.
Jump Type 3: Jump Near Your Opponent
This third jump to learn is one that will be very useful against more experienced players. Players who know how to anti-air will often take any opportunity they can to do so. You can exploit this if you jump at a particular distance where, if you don’t press any buttons while jumping, the opponent’s anti-air will miss. This will often leave them open for a counter-attack or give you the advantage to pressure them. The great thing about this is that if you choose to do the jumping attack and it lands, you likely will be able to land a few extra hits or continue pressure like with jump 1. Mixing it up between pressing the button or not at this distance can reduce the opponent’s confidence in anti-airing you.
To train for this, you will need to utilize the recording function of training mode. Pick a dummy character that has a good anti-air move such as a Shoryuken, Dragon Punch, or a normal button attack (often it’s crouching heavy punch) that is good for anti-airing. Record the opponent doing the anti-air move and have the play button set to something convenient to press as you are jumping. Find a distance to jump and hit the play button to time it as if you want the opponent to hit you. Find the distance that lets you jump near them without getting hit by the recorded attack.
Along with practicing making the opponent miss their anti-air, you can also practice a combo or followup attack that will connect if you do decide to press a button. In Street Fighter, this can often just lead to a sweep if you are too far away for a full-blown combo.
When to Consider Jumping in Street Fighter
Now that we have our three jumps in Street Fighter down, we’ll talk about some typical scenarios to utilize the jumps.
Most often, a jump is used to punish attacks that recover very slowly. If Ryu throws out a fireball and you jump soon enough after he does it, you can land a huge combo before he can Shoryuken you out of the air. This can apply to a lot of attacks that tend to reach far, like a Dhalsim stretchy Heavy Punch. Feel free to experiment while you play by observing which moves tend to leave players vulnerable for a long time after performing them. If you are super ambitious to learn, you can try looking up the frame data to see which moves recover very slowly. Another way to pick and choose which moves to jump over is watching high level players and seeing what attacks land when they jump over a move.
Jumping is also a mix up tool when you are a threat on the ground. There is a concept called the “Mental Stack” which refers to what players focus on at a given time during a match. We’re all human, so we can’t focus on everything at once at the same time (if we could, we’d mentally burn out fast from constantly doing this). This is the crux of the reason why “Don’t jump” is an adage of the community. You want to establish yourself as a threat on the ground to take your opponent’s focus away from your option to jump, thus they won’t be ready to anti-air you. This is where “Learn footsies” would apply, but we’ll have to save that for another article. For now, try moving forward on the ground as an option sometimes to signal to your opponent that you aren’t afraid to get close.
Jumping can also be used as a test for your opponent’s skill level. You can just jump at the opponent to see if they’re ready and able to anti-air you properly. This small, but important, test can give you huge insight on your opponent’s level of awareness. If they cannot anti-air you for the life of them, you can just jump in and attack with impunity. However, if you do get anti-aired, don’t get too discouraged by this and make a note that the opponent seems very capable. This is when you’d attempt to do more of the above to choose when to jump. Once you’ve added some pressure to their mental stack, you might want to try another test to see if they’re rattled and aren’t able to anti-air as consistently.
You will develop these skills and the necessary understanding over time (and by reading more of our articles at the TopTier Dojo), so don’t worry too much about tunneling yourself to only learn the ground game first (just try jumping sometimes). Utilize the three jumps we’ve mentioned here in a deliberate manner, and you will see that your gameplay has upgraded from jumping around like a monkey in platformers.
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