Daigo Umehara: 'I've never thought of myself as talented', talks about his gaming career and views on what winning means

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • May 30, 2013 at 11:20 a.m. PDT
Daigo Umehara: 'I've never thought of myself as talented', talks about his gaming career and views on what winning means In a 7-page interview with Tokyo Keizai, Daigo Umehara's life is detailed, and he explains his thoughts regarding his pro status in fighting games and what it has taken to bring him there. This article will feature several translated quotes from Daigo, as the original article is exclusively available in Japanese.

Below, you'll find the line Daigo started the whole interview with, and after that, there will be several quotes and excerpts covering different periods of his career.

Though I've been called "God's Hand" and "The Beast", I've never thought of myself as someone with talent. Actually, if we're only talking about talent, I think there are a lot of people who have more of it than I do.

Hit the jump to read more about Daigo Umehara.

In the interview, Daigo explains that during childhood, he had to move from Aomori to Tokyo, and had to make new friends. His main method of doing so was through games, and before long, he was the gamer kid in the neighbourhood, and everyone came over to his house to play games with him, and Daigo's favorite game being Street Fighter. But as he and his friends grew older, they found other interests, and started pursuing futures in sports or other fields, which led Daigo to feel that they were giving up on gaming too easily, making the young Daigo resolve that, partly out of pure stubbornness, he would become the best in the world at video games.

His resolve paid off as Daigo became well-known not only in Japan, but throughout the world, winning tournaments all over the place during his youth. He trained strictly, and was motivated to become the best. During the now legendary Evo Moment #37, Daigo managed to beat Justin Wong in a comeback that became world famous. When prompted by the interviewer about what went through his head during his comeback parry, after the whole crowd seemed to have long since given up on Daigo winning the match, he put it simply.

There are no definites in fighting games. Putting it that way, there was also no "definite" that Justin was going to win.

At that moment, I didn't hear the crowd roaring. If I had heard it, I don't think my comeback would have succeeded.

A testament to Daigo's power of concentration, it allowed him to not only overcome the odds, but to completely block out the roar of the crowd, leaving him to focus solely on the game in front of him. Despite this tremendous success, it was only a year later that Daigo retired from gaming and started playing Mahjong instead. While he did make some impact in the Mahjong scene as well, he also decided to leave it after having played it for three years.

During his time with both fighting games and Mahjong, Daigo explains that he viewed the winning or losing of the match at hand as unimportant. He said that if you only focus on winning at the moment, you aren't going to keep winning in the long run. Daigo also remarks that his goal was never to "win", but rather to "work hard to enjoy the hard work that leads to victory", and that every match is truly a battle against yourself above all else.

People who focus solely on the winning and losing of it all are bound to not experience significant growth.

At this point, Daigo grew tired of being in a competitive field, as he always enjoyed being a challenger more, and felt that with his reputation in Japan as "unbeatable", being a challenger was no longer an option. As such, Daigo decided to retire from both fighting games and Mahjong all-together. He had no plans to return to fighting games, but the future had different plans than Daigo had envisioned.

At this point, Daigo decided to start working with care of the elderly at nursing homes. This was partly due to his parents having experience in said field, but it also had to do with his willingness to leave the competitive field behind.

I couldn't stand watching people's sad, irritated or suffering faces after they had lost. I realized that in a competitive field, there was no way out of seeing this time and time again, and that felt difficult. So I decided to try something completely different from everything I've done before.

While working at nursing homes, Daigo realised a lot of things. Seeing old people who had grown senile, and people who could no longer do everything they used to be able to physically, he realized that he would one day end up in the same situation. This is when he decided that when faced with the choice of "do or don't", he would aim to "do" rather than "don't", so as to live without regret.

One day, on his way home from work, Daigo stumbled upon an old friend by coincidence. The friend got Daigo to come with him to an arcade in Shinjuku where skilled players gathered to play each other. This was right after Street Fighter 4 had begun appearing in arcades, and everyone was playing it. Daigo reminisces that he had no intention of playing games half-heartedly, but that his friend convinced him to give it a shot, and that Daigo easily beat ten people in a row.

Realizing that his absence from gaming hadn't dulled his skills as much as he thought, he experienced new found love for the game, and the rumors quickly spread throughout Japan that Daigo Umehara was back in gaming. Feeling that the games were still fun to him, Daigo began entering the Japanese tournament scene once more to polish his skills.

At this point, he was approached by arcade stick manufacturers Mad Catz who said that they wanted Daigo to become Japan's first pro gamer. Daigo explains that he felt reluctant, because on the one hand, he could play the games he loved again, but on the other hand, he had never heard of anyone who could make a living by playing games. He struggled with the choice between trying his hand at the pro scene, or just playing the games for fun as a hobby. At this point, he remembered his earlier resolution about living with no regrets, and resolved to try his hand at playing Street Fighter on a professional level.

He explains that while he felt a lot of pressure during these early days, he also had overwhelming confidence that "If anyone can make it as a pro player, it's me". Now, three years later, he notes that he's come to many realizations throughout his long gaming life, one being that "To win and to keep winning are different things. Sometimes, the two are even opposed to one another".

Daigo's book "The Willpower to Keep Winning" expands on this concept. A short excerpt is included below.

For most people, the better they get, the more they develop their own style within their gameplay. On that point, I'm different. I have no style. One might even say that I strive to not fall into the trap of developing my own style.

There's always a theory present in fighting games. "If I do this, I'll win" or "If I do this, I'll be in the most advantageous situation possible", which leads you into a sort of "pattern". Of course, I think the theory of it all is important. But if you rely only on theory, you'll get stuck in one pattern. If that happens, you'll win for now, but eventually you're going to stop winning.

Daigo recently held a lecture at New York University, during which he was asked the question "Why don't you ever try to win the easy way?", presumably referring to why Daigo doesn't tend to switch to top-tier characters all too often, to which he gave yet another simple response.

I want to improve myself as a player through my matches. That's why I don't try to win the easy way.

Another question Daigo received was "What's the best way to get better at fighting games?"

Love. If you can feel that you love what you're doing, that's the ultimate talent right there. Compared to that, all other merits or demerits are just small potatoes. Ever since I was little, my feeling of "I love games" remained undefeated amongst all other kids. I still hold on to those childhood feelings, which makes me believe that I can still grow and become even better than I am now.

Do you agree with Daigo's thoughts on what makes a good player? Sound off in the comments and let us know.

Original source: Tokyo Keizai.


Yungin_BLU said on May 30, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.

Good man.

disp said on May 30, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.

What a guy.

abirzenith said on May 30, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.

That guy right there is an inspiration to us all, anyone who loves gaming should learn about him, he inspires people something i dont think anyone else can do like he does. Daigo Truly the greatest FGC gamer of all time.

Foot_Foot_Dive said on May 30, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.

(This user was banned.)

DjHiroshi said on May 30, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.

good man, indeed

ZaFuuru said on May 30, 2013 at 11:33 a.m.

Indeed, Sako is more talented than you

gentlestrength said on May 30, 2013 at 11:34 a.m.

He really is something else, a great role-model for gamers everywhere.

Virtua_Kazama said on May 30, 2013 at 11:39 a.m.

This is some very deep stuff. Great read!

Cauptain said on May 30, 2013 at 11:39 a.m.

Lee Jun-fan "aka, Bruce lee" philosophy. Only this.

liddell1988 said on May 30, 2013 at 11:40 a.m.

And he's actually hawt.
God, Justin is fugly.

Anon said on May 30, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.

Daigo is the Bruce Lee of video games. His life's philosophies are pretty much the same.

Although I think most would agree Daigo has a pretty distinct style, even if he doesn't think so himself.

Sasuga said on May 30, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.

Cool. Can the original interview be read somewhere?

RandomDP said on May 30, 2013 at 11:47 a.m.

Dat Japanese mentality...

RAW said on May 30, 2013 at 11:49 a.m.

" 7-page interview "
wowww!!! what could possibly they talking about all so long??

MicWitt said on May 30, 2013 at 11:51 a.m.

interesting read...

IMainDanHibiki said on May 30, 2013 at 11:54 a.m.

Wow... Daigo is amazing.

HooliganComboFTW said on May 30, 2013 at 11:59 a.m.

The pure humble attitude hurts. You rarely see that over here.

diddysinatra said on May 30, 2013 at 11:59 a.m.

Gotta respect his Mahjong game too. I'm in the planning phases of making a cross-platform Mahjong game, maybe I can get him to endorse it :) lol

ec0ec0 said on May 30, 2013 at 12:01 p.m.


Ryose said on May 30, 2013 at 12:04 p.m.

Several tears were shed.

humanspider said on May 30, 2013 at 12:10 p.m.

Infiltration = The NEW Daigo. Now he's a true talent if ive ever seen one.

Hayabusa_San said on May 30, 2013 at 12:12 p.m.

Really inspiring words from Daigo. The guy has a great way to see life and videogames, and been humble as he is, Daigo deserves the success he had all this time.

Comments like this are what made Daigo Umehara so famous and so loved by his fans. I hope the FGC starts emulating his attitude more often.

RunningWild said on May 30, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.

(This user was banned.)

SuperMeatHead said on May 30, 2013 at 12:26 p.m.
DragonEXecuTionER said on May 30, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.

so, he prefers to stick with his same character instead of just tier-whoring? He just went from "Super-respectable" to "Ultra-respectable"

Chrisuchiwa said on May 30, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.

I reaaallly hope he will give some lessons to AGE team at EVO, they really need it.

Zenfluence said on May 30, 2013 at 12:41 p.m.

He has a real strength in his seperation from "ego", Very impressed by his humble attitude.

irrenmann said on May 30, 2013 at 12:52 p.m.

A very interesting read.

EHC said on May 30, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.

For anyone who wants to know, Toyo Keizai is the publisher of one of the leading business magazines in Japan. The reason Daigo gave this interview is because he was chosen as one of the 50 new generation leaders in Japan by Toyo Keizai. Full article is here if you can read Japanese http://toyokeizai.net/articles/-/14091. Source: Beast Note and Tokidoblog

Bayfighter said on May 30, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.

Gotta respect the Beast for his attitude toward gaming and life in general.

VolcanicAkuma55 said on May 30, 2013 at 1:18 p.m.

god has spoken to us again

electpaisa said on May 30, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.

I think that this "friend" that took him to play SF4 for the first time is actually Nuki, since a very similar story has been said by Nuki in a previous interview.

Gameplan said on May 30, 2013 at 1:28 p.m.

Spoken like a true Champ. I wish more top players had the same attitude.

YoraiDragon said on May 30, 2013 at 1:36 p.m.

Respects. =)

Graphf said on May 30, 2013 at 1:41 p.m.

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YanDaMan said on May 30, 2013 at 1:42 p.m.

Inspirational man right here. Too bad most Americans cant learn from his attitude.

BlackMasamune said on May 30, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.

So refreshing compared to the usual stuff that comes out of the FGC.

LK said on May 30, 2013 at 1:56 p.m.


It was Nuki and they're still great friends till this day. Take note Chris G, this is how you can become famous.

CoastalmixX said on May 30, 2013 at 2:03 p.m.

Shots fired at potatoes.

But on a serious note: Daigo is living proof that you can make your dreams a reality with discipline, justice, and commitment.

And the Nuki interviews provide another interesting look at Daigo's return in SF4:


LK said on May 30, 2013 at 2:03 p.m.


go to beastnote.blogspot.com. Daigo's booked all over Japan, it's tough when you're an inspiration in your own country.

Cleckley said on May 30, 2013 at 2:23 p.m.

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llSilkCutll said on May 30, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.

Daigo is too modest. He will always be the greatest in my eyes. No one dominated like he did, and that's why he will be remembered as inspirational and the best ever. No other player is as inspirational as Daigo, in regard as hype to inspire players and why people like to interview him and make videos of him (they wont with a lot of other players as they are not inspirational). At his peak he was unbeatable!

OhYouDontSayThat said on May 30, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.

that Daigo... he's a real man.

ShinAkiraDesu said on May 30, 2013 at 3:38 p.m.

this is why Daigo is such an inspiration to a lot of us.

b0uff0s said on May 30, 2013 at 4:05 p.m.

cool stuff from a pretty cool person
where are the haters?

mvegetam said on May 30, 2013 at 4:37 p.m.

I had a blast reading this!

throughsilence said on May 30, 2013 at 5:33 p.m.

Gotta love mature & intelligent gamers with heart. Can't dislike the guy for his pure humbleness and modesty. Good read.

Spiral0Architect said on May 30, 2013 at 5:36 p.m.

@Cleckley But is it talent or just pure discipline and hard work? I'd respect the latter far more.

TheMasterPlayer said on May 30, 2013 at 5:40 p.m.

Nice read, and great interview! Daigo is truly the greatest Street fighter game player ever!

Hackstermatrix said on May 30, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

The arrogance. I can just imagine the confident smirk on his face.

SteadiestShark said on May 30, 2013 at 7:11 p.m.

I don't think it's fair to say that Infiltration is the "new Daigo" just yet.

Akuma is straight-up undeniably broken in his hands. When he's (presumably) brought down a couple of notches (to Ryu's level) in the new update, we'll see how things really are.

oro77 said on May 30, 2013 at 7:22 p.m.

The japanese site source is Toyo Keizai and not Tokyo Keizai.
Asking for correction.
Thank you.

LK said on May 30, 2013 at 7:23 p.m.

In America, you are smart if you got a 100 on a test that you never studied. But if you studied and got 100, you would appear to others as just average.

Not so in Asia, and especially Japan, hard work and modesty is considered far more valuable than being a genius.

ILoveTheHate said on May 30, 2013 at 7:29 p.m.

(This user was banned.)

LK said on May 30, 2013 at 7:35 p.m.


It's not arrogance if you actually live up to your fame, that's called confidence.

ILoveTheHate said on May 30, 2013 at 7:47 p.m.

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ILoveTheHate said on May 30, 2013 at 7:55 p.m.

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goldengol said on May 30, 2013 at 7:55 p.m.

he and chris g have almost the same mentallity Kappa

NInJabReaKa said on May 30, 2013 at 8:06 p.m.

@21, Nah. Infiltration takes the easy way out.

ILoveTheHate said on May 30, 2013 at 8:11 p.m.

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LAU said on May 30, 2013 at 8:17 p.m.

Good man

ILoveTheHate said on May 30, 2013 at 8:30 p.m.

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doomfanatiq said on May 30, 2013 at 8:47 p.m.

@56 yea if u can tell from that, then everyone certainly can tell from your past conments and now that u are a complete arrogant + ignorant fool lol...

doomfanatiq said on May 30, 2013 at 8:54 p.m.

@62 man..not everyone is born with looks like brad pitt or tom cruise lol... at least those you insulted are good in the games they played (they are not earning anything off their looks), pretty sure chris or daigo would body u anytime in sf so chill lol

ILoveTheHate said on May 30, 2013 at 9:02 p.m.

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illness690 said on May 30, 2013 at 9:28 p.m.

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doomfanatiq said on May 30, 2013 at 9:44 p.m.

most of what daigo said makes sense, the only things i disagree is although he says that hes not talented, but its pretty obvious that he is at least more 'talented' than so many other players.
the question "Why don't you ever try to win the easy way?", his answer should have been more honest that he stands more chance of winning as ryu than other characters anyway i think(Counter picking yun vs xian but failed before)

HooliganComboFTW said on May 30, 2013 at 10:31 p.m.


Its not d1ckriding. You don't have to be a rabid Daigo fanboy to see this kind of mentality as a refreshing contrast of what the 'norm' of the fgc usually delivers.

doomfanatiq said on May 30, 2013 at 10:53 p.m.

well sometimes somebody just hate to see the guy they hate on eg chrisg daigo infiltration sako justin getting the respect they deserved. It's understandable since those emotions are what would create the hype in tournaments based on who you support.
But end of the day, hopefully there's no personal insults involved since we should respect everybody's opinion on who they like or dislike.

A4headedninja said on May 31, 2013 at 12:48 a.m.

this is whyypeople love daigo he is humble.

JIHADJOE said on May 31, 2013 at 3:55 a.m.

I think he recognizes that; they've certainly played each other enough times before. What's impressive is that it doesn't stop him from trying to win.

BladeStunner said on May 31, 2013 at 3:56 a.m.

I can't help it. Daigo always sounds like Ryu to me. Same mentality

Echo01 said on May 31, 2013 at 4:45 a.m.

Seeing Daigo smile and having fun is more entertaining than seeing him win.

rosy said on May 31, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.

I would say Talent is just 10%. 80% is all the hard work. Talent is just give you a head start but without a hard work, you can't improved. I bet Infiltration win many competition are not by mere talent. I believe that's all from the hard work he put in.

Vernon said on May 31, 2013 at 5:26 a.m.

Umehara is the best, hands down.

misternimesh said on May 31, 2013 at 6:45 a.m.

@24 you legend...

xanderglz said on May 31, 2013 at 9:28 a.m.

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MaverickHunterX said on May 31, 2013 at 10:14 a.m.

Reading a lot of shonen manga has its perks.

DORMWORM said on May 31, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.

RYU LIVES IN DAIGO......continue your journey brother.

shinclimax said on May 31, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.

There should be a Daigo movie. lol

GH0ST said on May 31, 2013 at 11:54 a.m.

I'd watch it haha!!!

Jayson619 said on May 31, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.

Daigo > ChrisG+Justin Wong

If Daigo loses, he doesn't brag; LEGEND!!!!!

If ChrisG and Justin Wong lose, they brag at PS3 lag and stuff like that; ULTIMATE LOSERS.

Joe86 said on May 31, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.

inflitration should write something similar to this now

suprez said on May 31, 2013 at 4 p.m.

Daigo '' I am not talented''

First time he play SF4 . He beat 10 people in a row.. Talent do exist, but talent without hard work and willpower is just meaningless and wasted. I would love singing, but I just can't. I sing like a squirrel falling to his death. That why others people with singing talent exist. So my talent is elsewhere and I can hear their talent. Like mine might be playing music or just being good at sport.

Sure if I practiced 10 hours and had lessons etc I would probably get better, but some people out there just have the voice of a singer. It's genetic and the first time they will start singing it's will be great and melodic.

Daigo is very talented, but he did not get on the top only because of this would have been the best answer.

EnsignHiro said on June 1, 2013 at 3:23 a.m.

Good stuff. Man I love reading about his personal life and gaming experiences. This guy has to be a genius literally because some of the stuff I never even thought of. Like trying not to make your own style so that your not too conditioned to one particular thing which. Will cause you to lose eventual more then win. Damn so true

SteadiestShark said on June 1, 2013 at 3:42 a.m.

@ #84

The meta-game wasn't very advanced until near the end of Super. Near the start of Vanilla it is easily plausible for this to happen, especially after the amount of time and effort he put into SF2 (pretty similar on a fundamental level) - as well as other fighting games.

A lot of skills transfer over.

Mrb20028 said on June 1, 2013 at 9:33 a.m.

I haven't read something this long in a while, but I had to. This guy lives life the way he wants in the best manner possible. I hope to become a player like this who doesn't worry about the wins or losses. I feel like I've became a little too competitive over the years I have played SFIV, thus affecting my state of mind when I do play. I have much more fun when I realize I love it that much. That's what I feel it means to be a true champion. Just gotta gain some of the love and passion back that I lost.

JC093 said on June 2, 2013 at 6:44 a.m.

Once a gamer always a gamer Daigo just couldn't resist coming back

Crysalim said on June 2, 2013 at 10:44 p.m.

To reiterate what everyone already knows, the reason Daigo is considered the best FG player to have lived is because of his mind.

It's just so easy to practice and get good at a game, and eventually excel. What's really hard is acting like a true champion once you get there.

BladeStunner said on June 2, 2013 at 11:15 p.m.

Can't wait for EVO to see what Daigo still got left in him! Grand Finals against Infiltration would be hype that I wouldn't be able to handle!

rayray said on July 20, 2013 at 11:21 p.m.

inspiring. i'm addicted to video games and maybe i can comfortably tell people "I love Street Fighter" or "I love games" in general now that i've read this.

lueymann said on September 9, 2013 at 10:22 a.m.

The humility of this man daigo is so humbling.
Daigo is the best. #respect


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