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Street Fighter 5 guide: basic attacks

Street Fighter 5 uses a luxurious six buttons: three for punches and three for kicks. Furthermore, the attacks all change when a character is crouching and when they're jumping. Despite the overwhelming number of ways to attack, we can break these down into three basic types … and then break those types down a little bit, too.

Light attacks (jabs)

Light attacks in Street Fighter 5

The overlooked and fundamental light attack doesn't do a lot of damage, but it's faster than all the other attacks. Remembering this under pressure is vital to your survival.

The purpose of a jab on offense is to gain the initiative and allow you to set up your next move, whether it's a stronger attack or even a throw. On defense, if you can find the delays and holes in your enemy's offense, a simple jab may be all it takes to overturn their attack.

Medium attacks (hits)

Medium attacks in Street Fighter 5

Medium punches are, for most characters, the main up-close offensive push. When they hit, you can often follow with a damaging combo. Even when they're blocked, the attacker can continue to apply pressure and attack again (often with medium punch).

At point-blank range, you can make your opponent guess whether you're going to do a medium punch or a throw: They have to either block in anticipation of the attack or attempt to evade the throw … which in turn leaves them vulnerable to your attack.

Medium kicks, on the other hand, tend to be long-distance pokes. Take advantage of these moves' long range to push the opponent away at a distance. These moves leave you more vulnerable when blocked than medium punches do, so remember: Hit 'em with the tip of your toe.

Hard attacks (wallops)

Hard attacks pack a wallop

These are the big hits. They're slower than the other attacks, they have good reach and great damage. But if they're blocked, the attacker is a little bit open.

In Street Fighter 5, the big payoff for using hard attacks is the crush counter, which has its own section in this guide.

The low hard kick for every character is a leg sweep. This is a slightly different type: quick to come out, damaging, but highly dangerous if blocked. You'll also see crush counter (learn more in the crush counter section) pop up on the screen when this hits sometimes. In this situation, your opponent can't recover from a fall like they usually can.


Back in the day, throwing used to be big trouble. Sometimes they'd kick you out of the pizza place over it. Luckily, throws are now a crucial part of the game's design.

Throwing in Street Fighter 5

To throw, simply walk up to a blocking opponent and press light punch and light kick at the same time. Holding back while doing this will in turn throw your opponent backward.

Breaking throws in Street Fighter 5

To break a throw, input the same command right after your opponent does. In the first example here, Ken attempts to throw Ryu first, but Ryu breaks the throw. In the second example, the situation is reversed.

A throw is too fast to see coming after it's initiated. To break a throw, you have to actually guess in advance that it's going to happen. If you predict it well in advance — like, for example, your opponent starts conspicuously walking toward you — you can also beat the throw with a jab. These defense techniques will start to become reflexive as you play.

Jabbing and throwing

You maybe surprised with how much success you have by simply following a jab with a throw, or jabbing a couple of times, walking forward and then going for the throw. You're making your opponent think about defending against one attack, and then forcing them to deal with the other.

This rock-paper-scissors relationship — throw beats block, block beats hit, hit beats throw — is one of the most basic points to remember in any fighting game from Soul Calibur to Nitro Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel.


Street Fighter is a hold back to block fighting game. However, just deciding "I'm going to block" is not necessarily going to protect you from getting hurt. Proper defense is a more complicated art than that.

High guard

High guards in Street Fighter 5

A standing guard (just hold back) will guard against everything that is not designated a low attack. Crouching kicks generally hit low, but others do exist. Some attacks merely look like they hit low, but don't. Luckily for you, you can verify exactly what hits where in the training mode.

Low guard

Low guards in Street Fighter 5

In turn, a low guard (hold down and back at the same time) will guard against everything that is not designated a mid attack. Jumping attacks are mid, as are overheads, which we'll discuss in a moment. Attacks designated high (most of them are) can be blocked either way. Low guard is therefore the safest position to be in on the ground. But as you'll see, there are ways to exploit this.


Overheads in Street Fighter 5

If absolutely nothing but slow jumping attacks hit a low guard, it would be very easy for players to clam up, avoid being hit and indeed avoid fighting at all. This is why, dating back to Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo, the overhead attack exists.

We call these moves overheads because they break a low guard. Think of an attack from above bopping the crouching fighter on the head. These attacks are much slower than normal moves, and it’s easy to intercept them with a fast move like a jab. But the best way to use the overhead is to pull it out when the opponent isn't thinking about it. By the time they realize what’s happening, it’s already too late to defend against. When things get tense at the end of a match, it's sometimes the overhead that clinches the victory.

Instant overheads in Street Fighter 5

Dhalsim can pull a trick we call the instant overhead by jumping away and immediately using one of his downward punch attacks. This is much faster than a normal overhead, but it does pretty poor damage. Because Sim is left floating in the air after it happens, he has to make sure the other player can't follow him to the ground. You'll often see players finish up with this one.

Chip Damage

Street Fighter 2 established rules on block damage that nearly every fighting game since has adopted, and Street Fighter 5 throws them out.

In fact, it takes a rule out of Mortal Kombat’s playbook (well, how about that) and institutes block damage for all hits.

For every blocked hit, you’re going to lose a tiny bit of life, which we’re going to call chip damage. It’s also popularly called "grey life" because, as it piles up, you’ll see a big part of your life bar is grey.

Chip damage regenerates very slowly if a player isn’t being attacked, meaning that if you can turn the fight around or stay out of trouble, it’s like you never took any damage from just blocking a few hits. However, running away to recover chip damage isn’t very effective in Season 2, as regeneration speed is now twice as slow.

On the flip side, if a player takes any hit— even the tiniest low kick — while they have chip damage on their bar, the chip damage becomes permanent damage.

This is to further reward the attacker. Even if their offensive rush doesn’t actually result in any landed hits, they get a potential reward for later.

Likewise, this system heavily discourages playing too defensively. Characters like Bison and Dhalsim can rack up chip damage if the opponent decides to simply block them. For example, Dhalsim’s V-Trigger is designed to force the opponent into blocking and piles up chip damage even if he isn’t able to hit them.

Crucially, chip damage is not fatal. It’ll only take you to 0 HP. The KO must be delivered by a real hit: an unblocked attack or a throw.


Cross-ups in Street Fighter 5

The last thing you need to be wary of when blocking is the cross-up. When an opponent jumps over you, you might think they're going to miss their attack … but actually, their friggin' knee or something reaches over from behind and smacks you in the head. That's a cross-up, unique to 2D fighting games. Though it varies by character, a jump medium or light kick is typically the culprit.

Blockin cross-ups in Street Fighter 5

What happens here is a consequence of the hold back to block mechanic. When the opponent crosses over above your body, back— that is, the direction facing away from them— is now reversed. They have gone from attacking you from the left to attacking you from the right. In turn, you must either anticipate the arc of their jump or quickly react to it. In either case, you have to switch to the opposite direction or be hit. When you realize that the other player has passed over your head, it's a good idea to immediately reverse your block in anticipation of a cross-up.

Players will expect cross-ups, and ultimately you will have the most success, as always, by mixing them up with normal jump approaches. Moves like Rashid's jumping medium kick are deliberately ambiguous, making it hard to tell where exactly it's going to hit. You'll know you've won the cross-up game when the other player walks into a perfectly ordinary jump attack, assuming a cross-up.

  1. Intro
  2. What am I trying to do in this game?
  3. Controls
  4. Basic movement
  5. Basic attacks
  6. The poke game
  7. Knockdowns
  8. Special moves
  9. Control and execution
  10. Combos
  11. Counter and crush counter
  12. Critical meter and critical arts
  13. V-System
  14. Stun gauge
  15. Dealing damage and combos
  16. Character select
  17. Advanced techniques
  18. Good buttons
  19. What’s different in Street Fighter 5 Season 2?
  20. This is just the beginning

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