Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Learning to Learn: 4 Resources That Have Helped Me Improve

One thing that I've always found fascinating within Smash is how every player will improve at drastically different rates. I've seen people that have played the game for years and are still stuck at the level that they had always been at, and I've seen people explode onto the scene and start to win tournaments within months of starting to compete. Some people tend to think that some people that start winning rapidly like that were born with some natural talent to win. I think this couldn't be further from the truth. Nobody was born to play Smash, it doesn't work that way. The reason some people see rapid improvement is because they are better at learning. This ability to learn isn't innate, it is a learned skill itself.

Although teaching somebody how to learn is a very difficult, I've found many different books, articles, videos and more throughout my years competing that have personally helped me in my quest to becoming really good at Smash. I wanted to share with everyone a few of my favorite things that I have saved and watched or read countless times that have helped me immensely. I recommend going through these at your own pace and coming back to revisit some of the ideas as you've learned more and gotten better as a player. No matter how many times I come back to these, I feel like I've always gotten something new out of them. I hope that these help you as much as they have helped me.

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin 

"One thing I have learned as a competitor is that there is a clear distinction between what it takes to be decent, what it takes to be good, what it takes to be great and what it takes to be among the best..." - Josh Waitzkin 
 Josh Waitzkin was considered a prodigy in Chess when he became an International Master and the U.S. Junior Champion at the age of 16. At the age of 21, he picked up a Chinese martial art called Tai Chi Chuan, "Push Hands." Although he originally did not intend to compete, through Push Hands he discovered his love for the learning process. Waitzkin went on to win five national titles and became the world champion in this sport.

Waitzkin later wrote this book, The Art of Learning, in which he tells his story about his experiences in International Chess Championships and Push Hands World Championships and the lessons he learned along the way. He explains in great detail about how he learned chess through push hands, and how he learned push hands through chess. If you are interested in "getting good" at anything, then The Art of Learning is required reading.

Download the PDF
Purchase on Amazon

The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey 

“There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How you play this game usually makes the difference between success and failure.” -Timothy Gallwey
Timothy Gallwey is a tennis coach who became an author to show to the world his method of teaching tennis. Although this book is specifically about tennis, the same methodology can be applied to any game. In The Inner Game, Gallwey explains that within a game there is two areas of engagement: the outer game and the inner game. The outer game is the phsical match against the opponent that we all know of. However, Gallwey's focus is on the inner game, that is the game within the player's mind in which they face off against their own fears, self doubts, assumptions, etc. He asserts that if you can overcome these inner interferences, you can reach your full potential in the outer game.

Download the PDF
Purchase on Amazon

Jeff Schaefer's YouTube Improvement Series

Jeff Schaefer is known for being a Street Fighter player, but he has been ranked amongst the top players in the world in many games of other genres as well such as Age of Empires. He originally uploaded a series on his YouTube channel LAAkuma about improving in Street Fighter, although all of the videos can apply to any game. The videos mostly focus on how you can remove limits to your human potential so that you can play at your peak. He deleted his YouTube channel a few years back, but luckily somebody that had downloaded the videos was able to re-upload the series.

Thorin's Thoughts 

Duncan Shields, more commonly known as Thorin is an esports historian and writer. Shields has been around esports for a long time and has witnessed the rise and fall of champions in many many different games. He became famous in the esports world for his lengthy interviews with players and his analytical articles as well as his YouTube sereis "Thorin's Thoughts." In each of these videos he talks in depth about a particular subject in esports, many of which he talks about how certain players became champions and the winning mindset in general. Most videos aren't relevant to Smash players, so I've chosen a few of my favorites to share which tend to cover more general concepts that can apply to any game. If you enjoy these, be sure to check the channel for more of them as there are many great ones I did not include.



  1. Thanks for this stuff

  2. It really speaks to the quality of this stuff that nearly every Smash player mentions these as being useful. Thanks for all the links, JJ. I know what I'll be studying tonight.