Cultivating Habits

So habits can be good, as we established in ‘Are Habits Good or Bad?‘.  As a player you’ll want to form habits of actions like combos and techniques that are almost never bad.  But some habits fall into a part of the game where if your opponent knows your habit they can punish it.  ‘Always down throw at low percent’ is a pretty good Ness habit, but what about ‘always nair when a player hits the back of my shield’?  The first habit involves a scenario where you are in total control, so the habit will rarely get punished.  The second habit is an escape from a somewhat dangerous situation and while it may work in many cases it’s still able to be punished.  Is this habit BAD?

To answer this, the best way to view any habit is as a tool.  In Smash, your character has tools, their move set and attributes.  Habits are tools but for you as a player.  Habits are mental shortcuts that allow you to perform better, but they all involve risk and reward, just like any move, and you should never take any habit for granted.  Examine your play for habits to determine which to try and fix, and which to keep.  Watch replays of yourself in slow-mo, take note of your actions and try to see where you are making guesses, making decisions, or simply executing a habit.  And when you find habits, and you will, evaluate them based on how well they work in that situation and in future situations.  Some habits are good for certain characters, certain stages, and certain percentages.  Keep in mind too that even though a habit is a good one, knowing your habits can keep you from being surprised when someone figures your habit out.  Tools are as good as their use, so even a really good habit could be exploited, and if you know your habits then you can also figure out how to adjust when your habit is being punished.  

So now you have an idea of your habits, and probably a fat list of bad habits you have, what now?  The next part is a pain, but you’ll be a way better play for it.  Expose yourself to the scenario where the habit is used, and practice doing ANYTHING else, or nothing!  If you jump from the ledge too much, train against CPUs and put yourself on the ledge a lot.  Then make an effort to take all the other options that you can.  That was the easy part, part two is playing real players and exposing yourself to the habit scenario again.  Do the same thing, take alternative options than the one your habit built.  Let them know about your habit and ask them to punish it as best they can, but sometimes they won’t be able to, so don’t rely on them to punish the habit out of you.  Work on taking control of the habit situation so that you regain the decision process for that moment, or form a better habit for that scenario.  

Bad habits can be hard to unlearn, so don’t skimp on the practice.  Make sure that you have good control of the situation before heading to a tournament setting.  Habits have a…habit of resurfacing when you are under pressure.  Don’t sweat it, it’s totally normal but it does mean you need more practice!  Don’t give up on beating the habit out of yourself and continue to actively monitor yourself in tournament matches to watch for progress, or regression.  

Keep practicing your habits just as you would for any other tool in your arsenal.  Keep track of your habits and know that sometimes people will punish you, but be ready to adjust.  Everyone has bad habits, its how you deal with having them that makes the difference!

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