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Tips on switching from a pad to a joystick

Guide last updated on
July 9, 2009 at 10:09 p.m. PDT

Helpful tips to improve
your skills with a joystick

You've been a pad player for awhile, but you've heard about the great things you can do with a joystick, so you finally took the plunge and bought a stick. The problem? You suck with it, and like Blanka is doing in the picture above you've probably have been tempted at one point or another to bite the controller, throw it through a window or do something else horrible to it.

This is a very common and normal issue that pad players have brought up, and there's a number of things you can do to ease the transition. Here's a run down.

Picking a joystick grip

One of the things that may not occur to you right away is how you're holding the joystick. There's a variety of ways to do this, but here's some things to keep in mind.

  1. Find something that's comfortable. Don't overlook this step, if you're planning on playing the game for hours on end, if your arm wears out after 30 minutes your grip isn't going to work long term.

  2. How's your execution? Can you hit all 8 points on the stick with ease from both sides? Try a variety of moves, Shoryukens, 360 motions, Charge Commands, Supers Moves and C. Viper's Super Jump command. It's OK if your execution isn't perfect, but if you heavily struggle with these commands, either try a new grip or make slight adjustments. You just want your range of motion to be good — it doesn't have to be perfect.

Here's some of the more popular grips used by Street Fighter players. Remember, there's no right or wrong way to grab a joystick. Quite simply, if it works — go for it.

Pinkie on the bottom joystick grip, side view
Pinkie on the bottom joystick grip, top view
1. Pinkie on bottom. Your pinkie goes on the bottom of the stick with your ring, middle and index on the other side, thumb on the top. A popular technique.
Ring and middle fingers on the bottom, joystick grip, side view
Ring and middle fingers on the bottom, joystick grip, top view
2. Ring and Middle fingers on the bottom. Stick between middle and ring fingers, middle and index on the other side, thumb on top. This is also popular.
Two finger joystick grip, index and thumb, side view
Two finger joystick grip, index and thumb, top view
3. Two finger grip. This involves only grabbing the stick with your thumb and index finger, where it doesn't actually touch your palm.
Three finger joystick grip, index, middle and thumb, side view
Three finger joystick grip, index, middle and thumb, top view
4. Three finger grip. Like the two finger grip, except you also use your middle finger. Some players claim the extra finger gives them more control over the stick.
Palm/Fist joystick grip, side view
Palm/Fist joystick grip, top view
5. Palm grip. Basically making a fist around the joystick. This grip might work better if you have smaller hands, or if you feel like the other grips don't give you enough range and control.
Middle Ring Finger grip with upwards palm, side view
Middle Ring Finger grip with upwards palm, top view
6. Open palm with ring and middle fingers on the bottom. Much like grip #2, but your palm is facing upwards more instead of to the right. Some people find this very comfortable.

Important Note: Most players do not keep their hand it the exact same position all of time. They keep it loose and let it flow into comfortable positions as dictated by the moves.

Finding the right surface to play on

Now it's time to decide what surface you want to place your stick on, and it's usually one of two choices. Either your lap, or something else that's more stable, like a coffee table, chair, TV stand, lamp stand, etc.

Your lap: The problem with playing on your lap, is some people people have a difficult time keeping the joystick steady when they're doing big complicated motions like 720s, double fireballs, etc.

The big plus though is that wherever you go — you've got a surface to play on. The only thing is keeping the joystick from bouncing around while you're doing moves, but if your lap provides a steady surface — use it.

Other surfaces: If you're going to use a surface, there's two important things to keep in mind. One, does it keep the joystick steady while playing? And two, is it comfortable?

The floor, a chair, a custom arcade cabinet, whatever you can find that will work will do the job, and as long as the two rules above are met, you should be good to go.

OK, I've found a grip I like and a good surface, what now?

Now it's time to practice, a lot. If you're pretty good at fighting games, you probably don't have to think about executing most moves, you just do them as needed.

It wasn't that way when you first started playing though, it probably took months or even years to develop your skills.

While switching from a pad to a joystick isn't starting all over again, it will take some getting used to before you train your 'muscle memory' to automatically do the moves without thinking again.

While running execution drills might seem boring, it's a quicker way to get your technique back up to par. Hit training mode and throw 50 fireballs on the left side, switch sides and do 50 more. 50 Shoryukens on the left side, switch sides and do 50 more, etc. etc.

This is tedious, but it's often faster than playing games because you're working on the motions over and over again without having to worry about things like blocking, counters and actually playing.

Diagnose and work on your execution problems

No player has perfect execution, but if you find there's a certain move or technique that you consistently have trouble with there's a few things you can do to improve.

  1. Hit training mode and execute the move you're having trouble with. If your game supports it, turn on "Show Inputs."

  2. Do this repeatedly to see where your "hitch" is at. i.e. where you're making mistakes.

  3. Once you've discovered the problem, try focusing on hitting all of the required inputs slowly, and then speed it up to normal game speed.

  4. Practice to build the proper movements/inputs into your 'muscle memory'. In most cases this will take care of the problem.

  5. Optional Steps: If this still doesn't work, you might want to try over compensation. The idea is if you're always missing an extra input at the end of the motion or pressing a button too early, you can over compensate to help ensure the move comes out.

    For example, if you keep pressing the button too early when doing a Super Fireball, like when the joystick is still in the down-forward position, causing a Shoryuken to come out instead, you can try ending the motion with an up-forward command. The input would look like this:

    Joystick Joystick Joystick Joystick Joystick Joystick Joystick Joystick Joystick

    Since you normally press the attack button too early, if you think you're keying it in instead when you press up-forward, you'll probably be hitting it perfectly.

  6. While over compensating can be a bad habit to get into, sometimes it's best to use whatever works, because getting the move to actually come out is a lot better than missing it entirely — in most cases. ;)

Other helpful information

Capcom's Street Fighter games feature a number of tricks you can do to improve special move execution. Some of the tricks are universal to all of their games, like Piano Key button presses, while others will only work in a specific title like Street Fighter 4 (Shortcut motions for Shoryukens).

But all of these guides can be helpful, so they're worth checking out.


TimsonRyota said on April 21, 2010 at 3:50 p.m.

When if playin sf4, i change between method 2&6 for me any of those two are the best

oh yh and...SSF4 FTW!!! :D

Sagats_Scar said on May 1, 2010 at 2:45 p.m.

I have just bought a joystick and hold mine with my index finger wrapped around the top with my thumb around the right side and my middle finger curled on the left side of the stick, Is this a good grip?


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