While I'm still formulating my summary post of my trip to Japan, I've come across 2 posts from 2 different sources that already explain some of the things I was planning to put in my own post. Both of these guys are very, very good in their respective main-games (which aren't Street Fighter 4 btw) so there is definitely some credibility here. Not to mention, these 2 observations exactly match mine when I was in Tokyo.
First off, here is a summary of a Japan Q&A thread created by top US player, Sabin. I met him in Tokyo and he came across as a really nice and sociable guy. Here is the full summary.
What's interesting are these 2 portions. Just substitute U.S. for Singapore and bingo.
"Q: How can players in the U.S. improve when they only really play each other at tournaments?
Sabin: U.S. players don't share information. Japanese players talk about why said player lost and how they can lose, that's the main difference."
Q: Do players in the Japanese scene help each other out more?
Sabin: Japanese players give each other advice, if I remember correctly, and spread information freely. New strategies get dissected really quickly whereas we save that stuff for nationals — since there is money on the line. I guess because there is no money, no incentive to save information besides glory.
I'm not saying that we DON'T share information at all. In fact, my impression is that we share information more freely than the U.S. community. However, both Singapore and the U.S. pale in comparison to Japan when it comes to how freely they share information (strategies, combos, set-ups etc) amongst the entire community. I'll give specific examples in my next post, but this stands true. We can have secrets that will get us to the top of the Singapore food pile, but that in itself will prevent us from being truly competitive with the Japanese.
Next up, is a post on our very own Round1 forums by top Guilty Gear player, Axel. You can read the whole post (and discuss) here.
Other than also talking about the importance of information sharing, Axel also talks about our attitudes towards casual play and execution:
I believe all Ryu players here have watched matches of Daigo vs Nuki and Nemo, and his combo in that situation will be f.HP, c.MP, c.MP, c.MK, Tatsu. I came from Iluma before dropping by Bugis, and some random Ryu actually pulled that off on me. Maybe Bugis players prefer to stick to simple combos which deal guaranteed damage, but if people don't want to be more adventurous when playing casuals, in tournament when an extra c.MP damage determines a win or loss, it will definitely come back to haunt you.
So true. In fact, I was just talking about these very topics with some of the guys yesterday. In Japan, during casuals, you see top players always trying out the most optimal combos and set-ups in a match. Stuff like safe jump-ins. Akuma's HK>LP loop. Ryu's low strongx2, sweep. Abel's ex-COD armor kara-cancel into ultra. The Grandmasters were actually pulling off these moves in many matches, knowing that messing up could mean them losing the round against some scrub. They wouldn't always pull off those advanced combos and set-ups 100% of the time, and when they would miss a link that would usually mean eating a big combo in return. Against an opponent whose skill level is much lower than theirs. And their reaction? No. Big. Deal. Most of the top players in Japan don't care about maintaining a win streak, or if they lose to a scrub. Casuals are all about training your hands and your mind to pull off the game's most optimal (and usually, harder) combos and set-ups under pressure.
I believe both Sabin and Axel are spot-on, and we absolutely need to follow their points if we are to think of being competitive with Japan in the near future without spending more time with the game.
Edit: The RSS took a while to update but as always, you can discuss this article here.