Tournament performance and strategy

by dj 8-ball, 3 February 02

OK, this FAQ is designed to build more on what you have already accomplished. You've got a routine ready to go now your gonna enter a tournament with it. It's going to study more in depth on what your mental and psychological mindset should be and not so much the physical skill. For excellent tips on what to do for a routine, Hyperbroken's FAQ covered a great deal and was short and to the point. Also, I realize the strategies I put forth may not cater to some people's taste but these are what works for me. It might not be suitable for others due to their differing views of competition and friendship. I also apologize that a lot of this will be compared to DJ battles. That's where I learned this way of thinking and that is the closest thing to DDR competion I can relate to. And as always, respect is automatically given to all others regardless of what I said.

So what exactly does it take to do well in a tourney, let along win one? Well, yes, having a kick ass routine is obviously the first step. But that's just the physical aspect of it. Being able to apply it in a highly competitive environment is totally different than when you practiced at home or at a little arcade. There is a mind set involved and some sort of strategy as well. Having the proper attitude and confidence can and will make a difference in not only how well you do but also how well you execute all the moves in your routine. So what I want to do is attempt to touch up on some of those mental and psychological aspects.

1) No mercy - "Nice guys finish last."

Ruthless sounding isn't it? This really comes from a DJ battle theory. DJ's would go one on one up a stepladder until only one was left to be declared the winner. And we were ruthless! We didn't just "perform." We were literally trying to CRUSH and DESTROY our competition. Sure, there was respect and friendship there, but once we were on stage - WE ARE ENEMIES. Same with DDR. You have to think of it as competing against others. It boils down to YOU versus THEM. Your chances of winning may be extremely limited if the only thing on your mind is "I just want to play and have fun. We are all friends here.". OK OK fine. Have your fun and what not, but still aim to win (if you want it). Think about, do most people genuinely mean good luck when they say "Good luck?" True, you do somewhat want the others to do well; you just don't want them to do as well as you! The driving force of wanting to annihilate your enemies is what can give you that edge and confidence in your routine. Once you're done, you're all friends again!

2) Aim a lot higher than you should

First of all we have to keep in mind that these DDR (freestyle) tournaments are in essence, performance tournaments. Sure, have all the fun you want, blah blah blah, but the overall goal is still winning. No one likes to put hours and hours of practice into a routine to lose, let alone not even have a good showing. Having a good (and very very impressive) showing should be the worse that you should expect. A lot of times you should actually look past your goal. You might not exactly achieve it, but the other things that happen along the way will be a nice bonus and might include winning! How's this? A good example was when Samantha (Butterfly Girl) and I did our Synchronized Love routine. In our mind we weren't competing against NorCal or SVGL. No, we were thinking of trying to beat the "Brilliant Steppers!" Maybe the routine did, maybe it didn't. But the mentality is - something designed to compete against a higher level of performance, should do well against "lower levels" of competition. It's almost like chess, you're only as good as your strongest opponent. Well then, why not practice as if you were going to be in the World DDR tournament and up against the world best? Striving for quality is what makes the routine that much better. What is the best routine you've seen out there and how does your routine fair in comparison to it? Now, what can you do to equal it if not better it?

3) Tip as many things to your advantage as possible

Yeah it sounds dirty. But remember, COMPETITION. No friends on stage, just enemies. Your goal is still winning which is in turn achieved through other means besides your routine. First of all, research the tourney your going into to. Who will you be up against? What style is favored? What is liked/disliked in that area? Personally I don't think I'd ever enter a tourney where EVERYONE favored in that area are people that do nothing but Dynamite Rave hand slap, knee drop, bar flare. Sure, you might just luck out and have judges that might see past that, but unless it's some major prize (like a machine) ask yourself is it an acceptable risk? There is a reason why some players don't like to enter Improv tourneys Or sometimes the prize was just not worth it and it could be just a waste of a good routine (i.e. you could have saved it for when it really would have counted). Save your fighting for when you know you can win or when the stakes warrant the risk.

4) Mind games

Even worse than the previous paragraph and once again a staple in DJ battles. There is no dishonor in screwing with your enemies' minds. Let's go back to what Hyperbroken said a good routine should include:
It takes many things for a quality routine. Technique, Flow, Content, Comedy, Corrdination, Shock Value, and Crowd Control. Any one of these alone will just not work.
Shock Value. And therein lies another way to your opponents defeat. This ties in very nicely with crowd control as well. Anybody remember how I pulled off PYFIM at Tournarochi? For weeks before the tourney I ranted and complained on the board that I injured my leg, having to walk around with a cane. For that matter, every time I went near a DDR machine, I had the cane with me. But then what happened at Tournarochi? Surprise! The cane was actually a prop, my leg was perfectly fine. (couldn't fool Pakwan tho ) Now, why did I do that? Shock Value and Crowd Control. If I had walked into Tournarochi or up to the DDR machine with the cane in hand w/out that BS story, people would expect me to be using it. Why tip them off? Also, the whole "random partner" story with Samantha for Synchronized Love. Riiiiight.
You can also downplay yourself too, "I never practice. I just hope I do good." etc.
Lesson from the Shaolin, "When you are weak show them strength, when your strong show them weakness."
Let's say you really are not very confident or nervous. Honestly that's OK too. The key is to not let it show or affect your routine.
It doesn't have to end there. You can and should screw with your enemies' mind as much as you want. At one tournament, I told one of the other top players, "Your routine is hella tite when I saw you practice. Except you almost always miss the left arrow on the 2p side." Oh boo hoo! He just happened to fail his routine later. Well, one less opponent to worry about right?
Dirty yes. Cheating no. Arnold Schwazenegger and DJ Q-bert have been known to do similar things. Which also leads to...

5) Practice in private

Duh! If you're going to show your routine to others for critique, show it to very few. Also, try to make sure they are not in the tourney (then again, they could be playing mind games with you!). If you must practice in public, make sure it is in a location that is not populated by anyone that might be competitng against you. If I see a possible opponent practicing in public, guaran-damn-teed I'm going to exploit any weakness I see in the routine or think of some ways to counteract it.

6) Small note on building your routine

Other than what Hyperbroken has stated, I still like to think of routines as actual dance routines. All these fancy bar tricks, stunts etc. will only be impressive for so long. Back to DJ battles again. For a while many DJ were into body tricks (spinning around, using there feet, elbows, under the leg etc.) but in the end what mattered was how good it sounded. After almost 2 years of body trick dominated battles all DJ's realized, "Dude. This sucks." So my take is, if it's not dance related, avoid doing it (now). Too many routines out there look like they require a DDR machine or they look like the person is playing DDR. It shouldn't be like that. It should be something you can do regardless. Possibly at a night club (for those that can actually go to clubs ). Your dance style is what you naturally do when you dance (some work is of course required if you can't dance that well in the first place). On a side note, there is absolutely NOTHING stopping a professional level dance group from coming in and destroying everyone with an EDIT routine. Scary huh?

7) Final notes when on stage.

Yes yes relax and have fun, be confident, look at the crowd blah blah blah. Honestly this is something that just comes with experience. It doesn't have to be DDR experience necessarily. Some people out there may be in band and have had to play solos in competition. Others go to clubs and dance and are just used to people looking at them. Same thing. People come to watch you and you better damn give them something to look at...and revel in it! Basically the more you do ANYTHING where you have to perform in front of others, the more you get used to it, the more natural it feels, the better you will do. Don't let little mistakes bother you. You make a mistake, move on, and play it off like it never happened. Cafe' was far from what it should have looked like (ask Oki and Nobody) and was full of mistakes. But I kept going. And of course...DESTROY AND ANNIHILATE ALL YOUR COMPETITION (or at least think that way till the routine is over).

So combine a routine worthy of the World Finals and this type of mindset and it can be possible to go a lot farther than you thought you could have. (Having a twisted mind and a cold heart also helps) Like I said before, it might not just be everyone's cup of tea, but this is how I go about things. Hopefully this will stem more competition and better quality routines with people wanting to do more than just win...but out dance each other.