While most players recognize Ed “Edma” Ma from his early success in SF4 tournaments and his 3rd-place finish at Evo2k9, he’s actually been a strong contender in several games for quite a few years now. He placed in top 8 in SF3:3S at EvoWest2k6, Evo2k7, and other majors.
Maj: Why did your interest in playing SF4 wane after placing third at Evo2k9? You were a regular at local tournaments a year ago, but lately it’s rare to see you at weeklies and ranbats.
Edma: My interest hasn’t waned at all. As far playing SSF4 and fighting games in general, I still enjoy playing a lot. Basically, before EVO09 I spent a lot of time getting good at SF4. And by a lot I mean, A LOT. It was almost like a second job that I enjoyed a lot.
At that point it was not a hobby anymore but a … goal so to speak. My goal was to learn SF4 inside and out and play as well as I possibly could; better than every game I have ever played. Which of course meant playing a lot. My outlook on the game was very serious (not in a bad way) and every time I played I was trying to learn. I haven’t looked at my SF4 console hours lately but I’m sure it easily went into the thousands and that doesn’t include all the hours I spent driving to AI or wherever before console SF4 came out.
Also, my secondary goals were to at least get top 8 at EVO (of course I wanted to win) and also qualify for SBO. So although I didn’t accomplish all my goals, I tried my hardest and was relatively happy.
So of course while I was spending all this time playing, I also had a job that was sometimes very time intensive and a girlfriend. I’m not gonna pretend playing SF4 like I did didn’t probably affect other areas of my life. Not in any major way but when when you spend that much time doing something, well, you lose out on that time doing other things. Duh.
So anyway, after EVO, I made a decision that I was going to stop playing competitively and basically cut my time spent seriously learning SF4 down to almost zilch. After EVO09 I think I entered … like WCW1 and WCW2, which I only did cause John Rog and Kai are friends of mine. Oh yeah and EV010, haha.
These days I mostly just play for fun here and there and try not to take the game too seriously. I’m sure one day I will get the urge to play again on a competitive level. I’ll admit, I was a little jealous of the top 8 this year at EVO. :)
Maj: You first became known among the SF4 crowd as a Ken player. What made you choose him as your first serious SF4 character and what eventually made you drop him?
Edma: I played Ken in CvS2 and 3S so it was a pretty natural transition to try him out. Also, Ken has a retardedly good kara throw and I got a lot of satisfaction out of throwing all Chun’s with it. Revenge for 3S. :D :D :D Good memories, hehe.
So yeah I picked him up first and also he’s a VERY easy Shoto to pick up and play and be effective with. By far easier than Akuma and Ryu if you want to compare to those two. Actually, IIRC, I played Viper first but I didn’t really like how she ended up being played and also she’s a hard character to learn in the arcade when you consider that there was basically only one SF4 machine with a line of people waiting to play and 50 cents or whatever it was a pop. Losing basically meant waiting at least another 30 mins before getting to play again but probably more like 45 mins. SF4 was THAT crazy.
Anyway, I played Ken for a bit then I moved on to learning as many characters as possible. Eventually I got to Akuma and well, that was it. In my eyes Akuma was both reallllllllllllly fun to play and also one of the best chars in the game. Also, he could fight Sagat very well and in general had no bad matchups. He didn’t really easy-mode dominate too many people but to me it was more important that he had no counter characters.
Whenever someone asks me why I dropped Ken, I always say basically cause he sucks. Now I don’t actually think he sucks but relative to Akuma and Ryu he just didn’t cut it so it was an easy decision to drop him. Also, Ken just got really boring after awhile. Mashing step-kick and kara throwing is only entertaining for so long. Akuma is soooooooooooo fun to play. Even in Super, I barely touch Akuma these days but when I do play him I have a lot of fun.
Maj: Top 5 Shoto players of all time. Go!
Edma: Geez, um, that’s hard for me to say I wasn’t around back in golden SF2 days. I’m actually a XvSF scrub. I guess I gotta go with Valle, Choi, Watson, Daigo and uh … Tomo?
This is actually an interesting question. You should poll other people and see what they say. So many factors go into being a master Shoto player. I think the fireball game is probably one of the most important parts of it, if not the most important, at least for Ryu. Not throwing bad fireballs is so powerful but I don’t know what the secret is.
Maj: Isn’t it funny how Tomo is supposedly the best SF2 player of all time, yet none of us have ever seen him play?
Personally i’m starting to believe Tomo Ohira is a myth perpetuated by Mike Watson. I bet he didn’t even exist, or maybe he was Watson’s childhood best friend who died in a tragic drive-by shooting the day after discovering how to Dragon Punch, so Mike vowed to preserve his legacy forever.
Edma: Haha, well, all I know is Tomo helped teach Watson and company. Obviously they respect him a lot so that’s enough for me to respect him.
Top 5 I’ve played against would really just be top 2, Watson and Valle. Since I’m from S. Cal I don’t really get to play other respected Shoto players like Choi much and I’ve only played Daigo once so I really can’t comment on him. I would like to get sessions going with Choi but it just never seemed to happen.
The funny thing is I get a different vibe from Watson, Valle and Choi. They play Ryu pretty differently from one another but they all are really effective with him. Ryu is very versatile which I guess is one of the reasons Ryu vs Ryu is like the only fun mirror match in existence. Another good Shoto I’ve played against would be ShadyK. People mostly know him for his Akuma but his Ryu is pretty amazing as well.
As an aside, if people want to learn why Ryu vs Ryu is fun, play SSF4 Ryu vs Ryu with your friends without using the following: focus, focus cancels, EX meter (can still use super), ultras. Fun as fuck.
Maj: Where would you rank yourself among Shoto players?
Edma: Low. No joke. My fireball game is atrocious. That’s one thing I always wanted to get good but I never got around to it. My footsie game is ok I guess but I swear, noob Ryu’s always sweep the shit out of me >_< I'm probably being a little hard on myself but in all honestly, I think I'm pretty low on any sort of list of Shoto players that matter. Maj: How exactly does someone who’s “pretty low on any sort of list of Shoto players” end up placing 3rd at Evolution, in the game everyone’s playing, using Akuma?
Edma: I just abused crossup Hurricane Kick and sweep, haha. When I say the “list of Shoto players” or when I talk about any sort of comparison, I’m always comparing myself to people who I feel are at the top. So that list of Shoto players that “matter” really is comprising of the best of the best and so I feel like I’m pretty low.
Like, if you see my Ryu in Super Turbo, it’s pretty standard. It doesn’t help that I don’t know what I’m doing in that game at all but anyway, point is I’m no different than any other average Ryu in that game. My Ryu in SF4 is pretty standard too except that I just know way more than most people so I beat people up on that alone.
Now SF4 Akuma is a whole different character. Not having the best Shoto skills doesn’t mean you can’t have a good Akuma. You don’t play the traditional ground game that Ryu plays. I mean if he did, might as well pick Ryu. I played SF4 Akuma with a very set strategy that, for the most part, didn’t include playing mid range footsies unless I dominated the opposing character in it. I only played that style when I had to or just to show that I could play it so that the opponent didn’t feel like they could just bully me in that area.
Maj: Looking back on that match against Daigo, what do you remember? Some of those rounds were very close, but you looked somewhat hesitant at times.
Edma: Um, I remember hearing Daigo mashing in certain circumstances which immediately made me feel better, haha. I probably looked hesitant because my style at that point was one of extreme caution, probably too much so at that point. Against both Justin and Daigo I played a little too cautious I think. Not because I was nervous but because that was my strategy which I think in retrospect cost me a few opportunities against both players.
I actually wasn’t very nervous against Daigo which is funny. I was was WAY more nervous when I played PR Balrog. I think it’s because at that point I was already guaranteed top 3 which made me pretty happy. That’s kind of a lame thing to think at that point though, as I should have been more focused on winning.
I remember one round, I had ultra and he had super and I kept trying to sweep him so that he would super me and then I would ultra through it and everyone would shit their pants. He never supered, what a jerk. And of course next round when I didn’t have ultra I forgot immediately about super and swept him and then he supered me and I was like, duhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
I do remember thinking going into the game I was going to challenge his ground game and see how good his footsies were. I think I did that a little, but in the end I think I just ended up running for the most part.
Maj: SF4 was replaced by SSF4 after only 18 months, which is kind of unusual by Street Fighter standards. If SSF4 had never happened, what do you think the tiers of SF4 would look like today?
Edma: That’s easy. Sagat is clear number 1. His damage and life just put him over the top. After him you had the standard Ryu, Akuma, Rufus, Balrog, whoever else mix. Vega was dead last IMO (not including console chars but even then, probably still dead last, lol). Outside of Sagat and Vega though, every character had a place. Besides damage tweaks, Sagat getting toned down alone made a lot of other characters more viable.
I think CVS2 came out pretty soon after CVS1. Yeah, I just checked. It was under 2 years also. That’s nothing compared to KOF though. I feel like there’s a new KOF game every other month.
Maj: In your opinion, what are the most important skills that separate intermediate players (who know the game well and can beat their friends) from consistent tournament champions? What do you need to make that leap?
Edma: Well, without going into too long of a spiel about this, I’ll say knowledge is the number 1 skill to have. After that is awareness of situations and the opponent. Then after that is a long list of stuff. Things like adaptability, ability to handle pressure, execution, reflexes, spacing, etc.
But those first two, I really consider are the most important things to have. With those first two alone, even with just average everything else, you can run through most players. If you know the best thing(s) to do in most situations, you can avoid/diffuse the bad ones and put yourself in good ones, plain and simple. Of course, to become a champion you’ll need everything.
I’ve actually flip-flopped a bunch on this: the idea of who can actually become good. I used to think anyone could become great but then recently I’ve changed my thinking to only a small percentage of players can ever hope to be among the best, no matter how much they play.
Top players excel in different areas, but they all have that certain something. I think it’s like my dad used to say. He called it “killer instinct.” This is way before KI came out btw, haha. But who knows, maybe anyone can become one of the best and I’m just talking out my butt.
Maj: Haha what exactly was your dad referring to when he called it “killer instinct”? I hope it was something awesome like bass fishing or hacky sack.
Edma: Well if you look up “killer instinct” on wikipedia, it’s defined as “the human propensity to do whatever it takes to survive or achieve a goal, even killing another human being.” My dad used to talk about it when I played tennis and he said I had to have killer instinct to win.
When I was like 8 or something my dad told me that if I could ever beat him in tennis, he’d give me thousand bucks. Of course I never beat him – cheater dad making bets he knows he won’t lose.
Anyway, applying that to fighting games, I think it’s basically just that switch that top players can throw on where they become completely fearless and zoned into the game and their opponent. Almost everything that happens will be noticed by the player and processed in some way or another. Almost no action is done without some thought.
It’s really an amazing feeling when you and your opponent are both playing at that level. Maybe this isn’t killer instinct exactly but I feel like that’s something most players will never be able to do no matter how much they play. Playing like that can be very tiring though so these days mostly I just auto-pilot. Auto-pilot for the lose!
Ed Ma works as a combat designer in SoCal, after starting out as a programmer in the game industry. He’s still active in the local fighting game tournament circuit, as time allows. You can visit the bitter ashes of his fanclub on SRK.