Via Pixabay

Welcome to Zen and the Art of Not Getting Wrecked, a se­ries of ar­ti­cles tak­ing tech­niques from Buddhist prac­tices and teach­ings to sharp­en up your fight­ing game skills along your per­son­al path to en­light­ened foot­sies.

While this se­ries will specif­i­cal­ly ad­dress keep­ing com­po­sure dur­ing fight­ing games, it is also my hope that these tech­niques can help you in oth­er types of in­tense gam­ing sit­u­a­tions — and maybe even help in your day to day life!

Part One: A Level Mind is Never Tilted, or How to get Un‐Hype

In the heat of the mo­ment, it’s easy to fall apart.  Imagine you’re deal­ing with some in­tense pres­sure from a rush­down as­sault, block­ing every mix‐up and just wait­ing for a frame or two that you can pun­ish and get back into a good po­si­tion.  When you fi­nal­ly get the open­ing, in­stead of that com­bo you’d prac­ticed for hours, you’re so shaky from ner­vous­ness that you mash what­ev­er but­ton you can with pre­dictable re­sults.  What on earth hap­pened?

As it turns out, the very thing that’s used as the hall­mark of qual­i­ty for a fight­ing game is what’s leav­ing you such a jum­ble of nerves that you can’t seem to get the moves out un­der pres­sure: Hype.

The game is de­signed al­most specif­i­cal­ly to put you into a mind­set that makes it near­ly im­pos­si­ble to win. When you lose your­self to the dri­ving, puls­ing mu­sic and rapid pace of com­bo af­ter com­bo, you also lose the abil­i­ty to keep a de­tached eye on what your op­po­nent is do­ing and how best to ad­just to it. If you take just a few mo­ments to slow down your thought pat­terns, you’ll no­tice im­me­di­ate im­prove­ments in your game.

Here are a few point­ers to help keep a tran­quil mind­set when you go into a match.

Just breathe!

As sil­ly as it sounds, there are im­mea­sur­able ben­e­fits to a quick breath­ing ex­er­cise. Before you join a queue, take just ten sec­onds to close your eyes and fo­cus your thoughts on your breath­ing. After just a few sec­onds, you’ll most like­ly be able to feel your own heart­beat, and you’ll quick­ly be­come aware of its steady pace and maybe even no­tice it slow­ing down. This is a great way to shake off resid­ual jit­ters, per­for­mance anx­i­ety, and ap­proach your match­es from a re­laxed per­spec­tive.

There are sites across the net that can teach you some prop­er breath­ing tech­niques, in­clud­ing those that teach Buddhist meth­ods. One of the most com­mon breath­ing tech­niques used in even mar­tial arts is the 4 – 7‐8 method. This is a com­mon method to calm your­self.

Place the tip of your tongue be­hind your up­per front teeth where they meet the gum ridge. You will need to keep your tongue here for the du­ra­tion of the tech­nique.

Start by ex­hal­ing ful­ly. Usually, be­cause of where your tongue is placed, this would make a nat­ur­al ‘whoosh’ sound.

Inhale qui­et­ly for a count of four. Once reached, hold your breath here for a count of sev­en and then ex­hale ful­ly for a count of eight. This is one full breath. You should aim to do four or five full breaths each time you prac­tice this tech­nique.” — Tiny Buddha

Mute that in‐game music!

Fighting game OSTs are meant to be high‐energy to sup­ple­ment the in­tense ac­tion of the match (Street Fighter 3rd Strike notwith­stand­ing). On pa­per, get­ting into the fever­ish rhythm seems like it would sharp­en up your re­flex­es and help you to feel every move, but it is far more like­ly to set your hands shak­ing and fin­gers trem­bling.

One of the best things you can do to help keep a calm and re­laxed state is to turn off the in‐game mu­sic and load up some­thing light and down­tem­po.  Having a min­i­mal­is­tic or am­bi­ent track with a calm, steady beat helps to com­bat the in­stinct to just throw your­self head­long into your opponent’s at­tacks. If your per­son­al li­brary is too light on the light stuff, there’s an abun­dance of stream­ing ra­dio sta­tions for chill­out, trip‐hop, and oth­er re­laxed gen­res that can be found with a quick search.

Awareness is key!

Sometimes, even if you take the time for rig­or­ous med­i­ta­tion be­fore get­ting into a fight­er, you’ll still find your heart beat­ing en­tire­ly too fast and feel the adren­a­line flow­ing. Before you start throw­ing wild in­puts and drop­ping links left and right, it’s im­por­tant to rec­og­nize your men­tal state start to slip.

What’s ben­e­fi­cial about be­ing aware of how you’re han­dling the stress or ex­cite­ment of a match is that the very in­stant you start to no­tice you’re too hype, you’ll start calm­ing down al­most au­to­mat­i­cal­ly. The sim­ple act of keep­ing mind­ful of how you are feel­ing helps to pull you out of the in­ten­si­ty of the mo­ment, and at that point you can even take a few long breaths and feel the twitchy move­ments (and messy in­puts) smooth right out.

With these tech­niques in hand, you’ll be far more pre­pared to strike at all the right open­ings and ex­e­cute un­der pres­sure that would oth­er­wise be com­plete­ly over­whelm­ing. The next time you find your op­po­nent throw­ing flur­ry af­ter flur­ry in your di­rec­tion, main­tain a re­laxed mind­frame to calm­ly and kind­ly crush them into sub­mis­sion. Kah‐Leh shu!

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Jake L.

Jake L.

Jake L. is a long‐time SNL col­lab­o­ra­tor, video game per­fec­tion­ist, for­mer ra­dio DJ and full‐time Professional Smart Guy.
Jake L.

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