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Street Fighter Aneurysm

Thanks to RUk[T] for letting us post this on this on

Phil Wang posted this great article in the forums about growing up and how Street Fighter helped him learn some important life lessons. It's a great read for everyone who's found out something about themselves in their struggle to master the game. Here's a peek:

I took on track and field, cross country, soccer, kendo, piano, and Warcraft 3. Each step, each press, each strike, each stride were all pains that I took believing that I would someday be number one with my own crowd full of strangers and loved ones cheering me on in the bask of a beautiful sunset. But that moment never arrived, and each time it failed to do so, I conjured visions of my father telling me that I was to be a loser for life, that I was going to squander my life, and that I was too immature to succeed.

The full article appears after the jump. Thanks for the great introspective, Phil.

Street Fighter Aneurysm

By Phill Wang

Dedicated to TXN

I'm writing this as a dedication piece to myself of how far I've come along in the past 5 years and how appreciative that I had Street Fighter along for the ride.

For most people Street Fighter is just a game, for some thousands it's a hobby, and for a select few it’s a lifestyle and means of living. But for me... well... for me, Street Fighter is a continuing reflection of my mental health and outlook of the world and my place within it.

When I started Street Fighter, I believe I used the same reason as 99.9% of guys: competition. But let's face it, most of us don't really mean competition, we really mean validation. The validation that comes from winning and people approving what you do. Whether it's thousands or just one person, that little gleam in their eyes, the silent drop in their jaws, the slap of approval across your back as the words “K.O.” flash across screen draws men to get in touch with their primitive instincts of hunting and providing. It all alludes to the same feeling of gratitude that you have proved yourself... as a man and as a person.

We build monuments of appreciation, from EVO to SBO to GFBNews feeds that capture all of our attentions, but my personal stake in Street Fighter has always been much more personal. It’s personal because of the feelings of having been ignored and rejected as a child, coming to a strange country having barely learned to read my own native one, and the limiting beliefs that doubted if I could ever be worthy of anything valuable in life.

Let's backtrack a bit...

I'm Chinese... like straight up from cold almost sorta in Russia, very communist, dirt poor China. I arrived in America at the age of 7 in 1994, having skipped the rest of my first grade education (thank god, we were learning multiplication in first grade and I was a retard according to the standards of Chinese public education). Even though I moved to Berkeley, I don't recall meeting many other Asian kids in 1994 that spoke Mandarin. Despite finding myself in a bunch of incredibly awkward social situations from me mistakenly taking an apple from a kid who simply wanted to teach me the word to trying to hold hands with a fellow male classmate (you do that kind of gay shit with your good male friends in when you’re young in China), I do have one memory of Street Fighter. A bunch of my white neighbors invited me to play Street Fighter 2; it was the 2nd time I've ever played a video game (the first being tank wars) and I revered video games at the time as a status of America's infinite wealth.

Like a monkey trying to make fire for the first time, I viciously mashed every button on the SNES controller hoping without a prayer that I would beat my opponent. I picked Dictator and didn't know a thing about special moves or normals
(I just liked his cop hat). After getting my ass kicked so hard that it just became a rule of life, I finally managed to pull off a win. No, not a match, but ONE ROUND. I screamed the only other word I knew in my vocabulary besides "table": YEAHHH!!!!!

My neighbors looked me like I was retarded kid with Tourettes.

I was told to be quiet and we never played Street Fighter again.

My parents divorced after we moved here, my mother cried when she left, and told me not to tell my friends. I didn't know why she was crying and she kept silent; my parents told me that I had a decision of who I wanted to stay with, but the answer was obvious: only my dad was capable of supporting me. I never saw my mother more than twice a month since that time.

At school, I had extreme difficulty participating in conversations and making friends not only due to the language barriers, but I simply didn’t know very much about popular culture. I didn’t know that a kid was supposed to eat pizza on his birthday, that eating a tomato as a fruit was considered awkward, that slurping soup was considered rude, that picking your nose wasn’t ok, that beating people down simply because you didn’t like them was simply unacceptable.

I simply just didn’t know… no awareness of any of the unspoken rules.

A persistent cognitive pattern.

I had made a few friends, but I was obviously at the bottom of the pecking order: I was a foreign basin that collected their insults and ridicule.

At home, my dad was incredibly vicious to me during all 18 years of my upbringing. What he rarely did in physical injury, he redoubled in the verbal form. Everyday, I would hear the footsteps upon the stairs as he walked up and got ready to unlock the door. I would turn the T.V. off for fear that he would yell or do one of his implicit questions that accused me of being useless and incompetent. I would hide myself in my room and pretend to study; looking over the words and problems that I neither had the drive nor the capability to accomplish. He would come into my room, and if satisfied that I was working, would silently begin cooking dinner.

As a child, “Work hard, study hard, learn a skill, get a good job" were the only form of parental guidance I remember receiving. The other parental aspects were the result of self-parenting and in a word: pain; pain of having to constantly reason and argue against my father (who thought he was training to me to be better with reason).

Maybe he accomplished what he set out to do, but I never wanted to speak to my father again and he still wonders why to this day.

The rest of my education came in the form of T.V. shows and movies from Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spiderman, Batman, etc. where I received my education of morality and work ethic.

I basked in the glory of being revered as a hero and doing away with evil villains, I wished I was called the master and people looked up to me for advice and respect. And I being the benevolent leader would train them to believe in themselves. I believed that's all it took: belief in one's self. Heroes win simply because they were good and they desired it right? Remember the first Pokemon movie, where all of them started crying and it healed everyone's wounds and sorrows because people just BELIEVED? Their tears magically sparkled and absolved all the problems of the movie.

I believed in working hard, but not working smart.

Well, yeah. I was a belief fanatic.

The concepts of strategy and methodically learning a skillset was simply never taught to me. And they were ultimately the skillsets that separated the successful from the hopeful with me doggedly subscribing to the latter.

And with my opiate of wishful thinking, I attacked everything at life hoping that it would give me the validation I so desperately sought.

I took on track and field, cross country, soccer, kendo, piano, and Warcraft 3. Each step, each press, each strike, each stride were all pains that I took believing that I would someday be number one with my own crowd full of strangers and loved ones cheering me on in the bask of a beautiful sunset.

But that moment never arrived, and each time it failed to do so, I conjured visions of my father telling me that I was to be a loser for life, that I was going to squander my life, and that I was too immature to succeed.

And indeed I did fail; I didn’t run on my free time like the best runners did, I didn’t ask for tips from people that were better than me, and I didn’t go out of my way to find the support that would allow me to feel safe and grounded while trying to push myself further.

Relationships were also another aspect of my devotion to wishful thinking. I devoted myself to them hoping that someday all my hard work and effort would yield an unbroken promise from a beautiful, deserving (and large breasted) girl who would utter the words “I love you. I will never find a better man than you. You’ve simply just ruined me for all other men and I could never be happier with anyone else besides you.”

But just like everything else, I viciously attacked relationships; I worked at them believing that a person was a project and became frustrated at any signs that my vision could not be realized. For all the times, that I yelled at my girlfriends about how incompetent they were and how only girls could get away with being lazy because they could just find a man to do their work… I was really just yelling at myself, afraid that I was doomed to be the failure foretold by my father’s voice now etched inside my mind.

Every argument was more about the feelings of rejection, confusion, and ultimate loss of validation than the faults of the women who had loved me. It was about the validation that seemed to have always eluded me in every venture I pursued.

Why?! WHY ME?!

The only questions that I’ve ever asked.

It was like me trying to get from point A (utter depression) to point C (complete happiness) without even being aware that there was a point B (preparation, action, and dedication).

Then Street Fighter came…

And like everything else, I took on my new hobby with a visceral hunger that saw it as an opportunity to gain some cheap validation.

And like everything else, I was yet again disappointed. I broke three sticks, yelled at my girlfriend for being a lazy whore for refusing to get better at it with me, cried to myself, cursed my friends, and hated every moment of the game unless I pulled off a win. And when the win came, it wasn’t enough to balance all the suffering I went through.

Every loss fit the pattern, but Street Fighter was somehow the most poignant. Something about taking a brutal beating where you are literally and metaphorically cornered by your opponent with no way out exasperated every deep seeded and intricate insecurity in my head. Every loss was more than just my father’s voice, it also reflected my failure to succeed at anything, my continuing immaturity, my emotional sickness with wanting to be unconditionally loved and guided, my self doubts, my disgust with myself, my inability to prove anything as a man, and my growing realization that I was not the same man as I am in my dreams.

I somehow hoped to beat my friends who had half a decade of Street Fighter experience over me simply because I had just learned how to do low forward super in training mode. I expected things without having any idea of how to establish a time frame and what was required in order to achieve those expectations.

And obviously with my failed expectations, came lows so deep that only hatred kept me from thoughts of suicide and murder. Hatred of my family, hatred of my friends, hatred of my girlfriend, hatred of the game. I wanted to prove them all wrong… each time I failed, I hated them more, and Street Fighter was the medium which I wanted to project my malicious backlash on the world.

But hatred didn’t save me either, while others were hiking up the mountain and getting into their stride, hatred only made me sit at the bottom ceaselessly gnawing at the mountain to go away. It made me blame everyone and everything as the mountain never disappeared, and only heightened my fall when I realized that hate only wasted time.

I didn’t do anything better. I just did more of the same thing. I practiced low forward super 50 times instead of 20 times a day. And still I lost… not knowing that a comprehensive training was required to learn the game just as a comprehensive skillset was also required to learn life. That a patient, humbled, forgiving, and calm mentality was required in order for me to learn consistently without the toils of utter chaotic depression.

You see, T.V. omits a lot of details, it doesn’t tell you or show you that Kobe Bryant gets 3 hours of sleep per night and the rest of his time is devoted to working out his game (apart from his family time). It doesn’t show Batman who would have probably had to memorize the blueprints of every building in Gotham in order to be the effective vigilante that he is. It doesn’t show how Peter Parker would have to spend countless years of sitting in front of books in order to culminate his expertise as a Superdetective rather than a Superhero.

I’m not blaming T.V. for being an inadequate parent; I’m saying that at 23 years old, I’ve finally come to the full realization of just how much LIFE education I had missed growing up. Maybe it was due to the earlier language barriers that led me to be shy and never to ask many questions, maybe it was the how bad I felt from all the insults as a kid, maybe it was my constant longing to escape my father’s disappointing glare, maybe it was my desire to just be comfortable for once in my life without having to make so much effort… whatever it was… I never truly developed point B.

So I read a book called “Mastery” by George Leonard (obviously I’m recommending it). In the book, he told tales of three people: the dabbler who switched to a new venture at the first sign of any plateau, hardship, or obstacle in his journey, the obsessive who tried to bulldoze his way past those same obstacles only to find sadness and depression, and the hacker who simply didn’t make any effort to get past those walls.

I am definitely a mixture of the dabbler and obsessive. I am extremely obsessive at first, maybe for a year, and when I realize that there are still walls after a year of hardcore dedication, I start to wane. I start to get angry and I start to resist. I resist taking the middle path of giving myself patience, understanding, and the blessings to consistently hike up the mountains of obstacles. And instead, I simply yelled at them, I kicked them, punched them, bit them, hurled rocks at them… I did whatever it took to deny their existence for I felt that they in turn denied me of my treasure: validation. I thought those mountains were laughing at me, that they existed only for me, and they were a cruel joke as I watched everyone else seemingly glide along the same path.

Bruce Wayne became Batman in an instant, Peter Parker into Spiderman, Tony Stark into Iron Man. Daigo Umehara into Daigo Umehara (haha…) And why couldn’t I turn into something beautiful? Something worthy?

And when those unmoveable mountains persisted, when my voice became hoarse, my nails black with dirt, and my spirit drained. I moved on. Starting a new path hoping I would never meet those mountains again.

Some do find that path without the mountains; they find it in drugs, in dead-end long term relationships, in watching T.V. all day. Maybe I longed to be on this path, but could never let go of my hatred or passion to do so.

Mastery didn’t lead me to understand everything, it put me on the path to seek the truth, to seek every hidden detail of my venture, to be honest with myself that I had weaknesses just like anyone else and that far from being stupid, that I did have the drive, dedication, and motivation to keep pursuing competition. It led me to finally find some inner peace. With that peace, I could realize that sometimes things SEEMED slow, but in retrospect were events that happened so quickly they could have hardly been said to have occurred at all. That it was important to take myself out of the emotional pitfalls and continue with full focus on my training and my work.

Street Fighter was my dojo, my beat up Chevy in the garage, and the principles of Mastery became the tools that I would use to polish the car back to its most luminous luster. I took a notebook, wrote down my weaknesses with each character, my bad habits and tendencies, and the particular situations that would cause me to lose matches. I wrote down mindsets; questioned myself on what mindset I was adopting that was causing me to lose focus and the mindsets that I needed.

Maybe these skills seem obvious to some, but it was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced (other than losing the girlfriends I really cared about). I grimaced every time I watched myself, cursed myself for being so stupid, but even then, I disciplined myself to shut up with the self loathing and worked diligently to take notes.

I noticed in my matches that a new voice began to manifest during key moments where I would have ordinarily have lost my composure. It said, “calm down... slow the game down. Don’t press anything and don’t look to beat him, look to get yourself out of this sticky situation first.” I found steps where there used to be nothing but rock, and I found half steps within each step. I finally found a foothold and a path.

But more importantly…

I found a brother, a father, a cousin, a best friend, and a mentor in myself. Just as I had always raised myself, I finally felt as if I could take pride for once in my life that I was on the right path.

I found confidence as I developed habits of losing the first round only to devastate my opponents in the next two. I found a voice that looked at the immense gap between my life meter and my opponents’ and I delighted in how big of a comeback I was about to perform. And performed I did.

I’m definitely no where close to being a great Street Fighter player, you won’t find me in any tournament results, or local arcade. I still have a lot on myself that I need to work on… a lot of self raising I still have to do.

Deep down, I’m just a kid who’s often forced to be introverted because I’ve never had a job for too long and lack the funds to continuously go out and immerse myself in the field that I’m passionate about. I’m still too afraid of being judged for working shitty jobs, and yet, I blame the world when I don’t have any money.

But this article is my appreciation to Street Fighter. For it doesn’t discriminate… no matter what you look like, what race you are, what sexuality, what gender, what socio-economic status, if you are on the path to mastery, Street Fighter will reward you.

For those that cannot sympathize with my story, I hope this read is entertaining. For others, I hope it spares you of the trials and tribulations that you don’t need to endure and instead puts you on the path where you gracefully accept those mountains when you arrive at them.

{jfusion_discuss 1360}