We got to talk to Stephen “Speedkicks” Stafford about his time in South Korea for the Korea Masters Tekken World Tour tournament a couple of weeks ago, and how that time has upped his game recently. Our guy spent a couple of days before the tournament hanging out with some of the best players from the area and getting some good practice in as well.
“Some of the best Korean Tekken players (Saint, JDCR, Dimeback and Jeondding) let P. Ling and me visit their home and play Tekken with them and online. They also hung out with us and took us to some godlike Korean restaurants. I don’t think I’ll ever forget eating Korean BBQ style duck,” recounted Speedkicks. “They helped us get good practice and showed us a lot of fun in Korea. I don’t think words can really express how grateful I was for that.”
He also mentioned how great the online environment is for Tekken in South Korea. With lag being an issue usually in the states for fighting games online, quite the opposite was said by Speedkicks:
“Due to the really good internet, higher player count, and population density, you can find very competitive matches just doing online rank match. The ranked environment felt very similar to the Japanese arcade environment except you can play whenever you felt like and with less lag.”
The key practice time would be needed with the insane skill level at Korea Masters this year. With over 230 competitors in attendance, Speedkicks talked about how he saw almost all of those in attendance were very capable opponents: “...There were about 200+ invested Tekken players of all skill levels there and each match was observed more as a display of skill instead of just a spectacle. It was a really fun experience for me,” he said.
There was someone cheering in the crowd from a fellow teammate, however! Infiltration stopped by to watch and also support our boy in his pool matches. Infil tweeted in support for his fellow Panda:
Speedkicks’ first set went 2-0 in his favor, but he soon found himself to the loser’s bracket by a formidable opponent, Rangchu (2-1). In loser’s, our boy was eventually eliminated in by NightMare MoQ (2-1) in an intense match.
“While I didn't make it too far in the tournament, I was really happy with the way I played. I had a lot of new theories about how Tekken is played before I went to Korea and I got to sort of confirm them and sharpen my gameplay around it. I also learned some things about the Korean playstyle that I do and don't want to integrate into my own,” he said, ”I think if I hadn't caught the death pool, my performance could have taken me a little further but with everything I learned, I'm happy with the results.”
Coming straight back from South Korea, our fighter went down to Texas Showdown the following weekend and gave a knockout performance landing second for the weekend and showing how diverse his playstyle is. You can read more details about his performance here. Speedkicks picked a wide array of characters, including Dragunov (a character he barely learned the combos for from his stream a few days prior to the tournament!). Speedkicks affirmed that his newly found confidence in character changes was a direct result of his experience in Korea and his exploration of ideas and theories while there.
“Being able to confirm all of the things that I thought I knew in that really strong scene along with the fundamentals that I picked up from their gameplay gave me the confidence to play some characters that I'm not so strong within situations where I believe that I needed their tools.”
With a strong finish and still much to expand on, our fighter looks to this year’s Evo as a mid-way point on his progress he’s making in Tekken:
“I'm using Evo as a bit of a mid-way checkpoint. Racing to get to my best level possible before then, that's the tournament where I won't be experimenting and I will only be focused on performing and going as far as I can.” Speedkicks said.
With all these new exciting developments for our guy, we look forward to future tournaments and what kind of techniques and play-styles he’s looking to pull off next. Look out for Speedkicks at Combo Breaker, May 25-27!
- Zackary Potter