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.
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!
Latest posts by Jake L. (see all)
- A Level Mind is Never Tilted, or How to get Un-Hype — April 21, 2018