Daigo Umehara, globally known as the biggest legend in fighting game history, needs no introduction. Countless world titles spanning multiple games, clutch moments in fighting game history, and a fighting game spirit second to none – you name it, he’s done it, and he’s not even close to finishing yet.
In this interview with SRK, he shares his thoughts about his future with AE2012, his new training regimen (full with vitamins and minerals), and more. Check out the full interview below.
So let’s cut to the chase. Are you going to use Akuma on AE 2012?
“Everyone knows everything?!?! it’s true that I’ve been practicing Akuma for now. I don’t know when the AE 2012 version will be finalized, and I don’t think it would stay the same. While it is going to change, Akuma as of now fits my style, so I am using him. But again, the balance is not finalized yet, so depending on how Akuma would balance out, I may switch to another character.”
You were a favorite for this year’s EVO, but you finished 4th. What happened? Do you think that you could have placed higher if you were playing Ryu?
“I don’t think Ryu would have made a difference. Coincidentally, I actually didn’t run into anyone who uses a character that Ryu could not have won, but it was just an accident. Yun is the strongest character by far in AE. And I was inspired to win the tournament.
I think the overall level of the players at EVO have gone up so much that it just became so much more competitive. The world fighting game community has grown so much, thanks to EVO staff and supporters. This all means that I have to work even harder. The level of competition out there and where the community is at have made it so much more fun and interesting for me. By nature, I am a challenger. I like to be on the challenger seat than setting on the champion chair all the time. So I only will work harder for next year’s EVO.”
Can you put in words what it feels like to compete?
“It is a process of like piling a round stone one after another, very carefully and creatively. I enjoy a process of challenging myself. I set goals for myself. I identify what’s missing in myself and find out what I need to do in order to reach the goal. That revelation and growth process is so valuable to me.
For me to play a game means trying something new and pushing myself to a new boundary. It’s not whether I can win, throw a cool combo, or just simply have fun with it. So it has nothing to do with what others think of me or my play, but how I feel. I keep pushing myself, and that’s all there is. I don’t compare myself with others. My inspiration and drive comes from my internal desire of wanting to challenge myself. I think that’s what people see in me as a competitive person.”
What is the secret to being a top gamer?
“Though it’s a video game, I look at it as an athletic sport. As preparation is most important in every kind of professional work, it’s no different for my profession – practice is the key. Specifically, in my practice I aim to achieve both a high volume of play as well a high quality. In order for anyone to rise above all the others, he has to practice, even when a game is less popular and some people are not playing. That’s where I believe champions separate themselves. It’s easy to have fun when everyone is crowded around and playing, but it’s not so easy when it’s just you driving yourself forward.
In terms of quality, I not only practice continuously, but I’m always thinking about and searching for the most effective methods. Without this kind of consideration, your practice may not be stimulating, and your growth will come to a halt. Even if you don’t know how you should think about and approach your practice, if you strive to be self-aware and reflect on your game, your way of thinking will evolve. In this way, my conception of the game and how to win evolves continually.
That said though, you can’t discipline yourself to that degree without a true passion for the game. So my ultimate secret to staying at the top would probably be my everlasting passion for fighting games.”
“I’m doing great! I feel I have mentally reached another level, personally and professionally.
I am working on my own projects which I feel very passionate about. One is that I am going to tour around Japan, visiting local arcades to promote Japanese arcades, and I will play against good local players. It will be my own campaign to promote the arcades. You know, there are many many great players who are yet to be known outside of Japan. This will be my own way of honoring the arcades. I would not be here today without them. There is another one that no one else in the community has ever done. I’m sorry, I just can’t tell you yet, but I hope I can share it with you very soon!”
You reached another level in what way?
“Domestically and internationally, I’ve been getting many interesting, real offers of projects that would mean a lot to me. And that’s given me a different motivation. Of course, I love fighting and traveling to another country to fight. At the same time, these new challenges have brought my professional life to another interesting level. As a pro gamer, I used to think I only need to focus on playing games and I need to bring the result, which is to win. I still want to win, but my way of thinking fundamentally changed and gotten even deeper.
I am taking more holistic approach to my professional life by taking care of my body. I’ve changed my diet to macrobiotic, and have been working out to build balanced muscle. I don’t even drink any more except for special occasions. I have set a strict schedule for myself consisting of 8 hours of sleep, 1 hour of gym training focusing on weight lifting or jogging, 1 hour of bike ride between home and the arcade for each trip, 9 hours of game practice, and the rest is spend for eating, shower, and the likes. [Editor's Note: You gamers that want to become pros, this is real tawk.]
There are two major reasons for my physical training. First, in Street Fighter, mental strength holds such a large part in one’s winning. And in order to stay mentally strong, I have to be physically healthy and stay balanced as body and mind are related to one another. Secondly, I want to look good in order for the sponsors, fans, and supporters to feel proud of me and feel good about myself. As more people get to know about me, I want to give them a best impression as possible and believe in me.
I take my profession very seriously and am confident that I am the only one who takes it this seriously. I work the hardest. I am proud of my profession, and I am determined to make the best out of the opportunity given to me, for myself and the community. And this confidence has given me another level of confidence in me. Nothing and no one can defeat me.”
What do you hope to accomplish in this field?
“I love fighting games. I have learned so much from playing the games, and it’s just so much fun to play them. When I decided to become a professional player, I have also taken a responsibility of an ambassador for the community. I want more people to learn about fun and depth of fighting games, and want to help the community to grow, self-sustainably. I would be happy if I could contribute to the community’s growth in any way.
As for myself, I don’t have any set “goals” in a traditional sense. I want to keep challenging myself. My growth never stops and I have no limits for myself. Of course, I want to win, but to win at EVO or to get an international title at such and such, etc. are not my ultimate goals. There are no ultimate goals. I only have a desire to keep challenging myself. I will never stop challenging myself.”
*****BONUS ROUND: FACTS ABOUT DAIGO*****
How old were you when you entered your first tournament?
“I was probably 11 or 12 years old. I entered a small tournament for “Street Fighter II Dash Turbo” known as “Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting” in the West at a game center by a train station near my house. I lost at a second round (LOL)!”
How many world records have you broken? And how many do you plan on breaking?
“I was awarded with Guinness Book Record for the most international winnings in the fighting games. I don’t have a particular plan of breaking any records as I tend not to care so much about titles like that, but I care about whether I am satisfied with how I did.”
Outside of gaming; what do you do?
“I love good food, so I like to go eat out at good places I know of, and also try out new places. I like cooking as well.”
[Photos courtesy of Karaface]