How to E-Sports: Understanding combos and hit-states in Tekken 7

Players who come to Tekken from 2D fighters can sometimes have a bit of trouble adjusting. 2D fighters are largely just a frame-by-frame comparison engine. If your hurt box overlaps the opponent’s hit box on any frame, you score a hit and do damage. Tekken has some of those mechanics too, but unlike 2D fighters it also relies very heavily on “states.”

This is usually what trips up Tekken newcomers, especially when it comes to combos. Most combos look like they shouldn’t hit. Many of Heihachi’s BNBs appear as if he is palm striking mid-air to hit an opponent on the ground. Why is this?

What Is A Hit-State?

To answer that question, first we have to talk about what a hit-state is. A hit-state governs what your character can do – and what can be done to your character – after getting hit. Think of these as operating exactly the same way non-hit states do, and the easiest to understand non-hit states are standing, crouching, and jumping.

There are three types of hits in Tekken: Highs, Mids, and Lows. Low hits need to be blocked low, i.e., crouching, or else they will connect. Mid hits need to be blocked high or else they connect. All of this is fairly similar to the high/low system in 2D fighters.

But Tekken’s high hits are a bit different. Tekken’s high hits can be blocked high, or can be ducked under. Similarly, Tekken’s low hits can be blocked low, or can be jumped over. Ducking a high or jumping a low avoids hit-stun and gives you a chance to counter attack.

You might think that this is all a consequence of character hit-boxes interacting. After all, high moves do look like they go over a crouching character’s head. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. This is an interaction of states. High hits are simply coded (in more recent Tekken games, at least) to not hit a crouching character. Even if it appears as if a characters fist should make contact with a crouching character’s face, it will still whiff. This is why beefier characters like Jack can crouch under attacks, even though it sometimes appears as if they should connect.

Hit-states function in the same way. Each hit-state determines which moves can hit the opposing characters. Unfortunately, there are a lot of hit-states in Tekken. There are high launches, low launches, flips, spinouts, bounds, crumbles, wall splats, and much, much more. Just going over all those hit-states would be an article in itself, but I’m not here to do that.

Instead, follow this simple rule of thumb. Juggle states, i.e. states in which the opponent is in the air, can usually be hit with high or mid attacks, provided that the opponent hasn’t been launched well out of your hit-range. These attacks do still need to connect, after all. The basic “knockdown” state can be hit by lows, and special knockdowns – like Tekken 6’s bound – can be hit by lows and mids. You can tell if a hit-state is a special knockdown if your opponent is doing anything except lying prone on the floor. For example, if their legs are stuck in the air with their face planted in the dirt, you can probably hit them mid. Any other special state, like tailspin or wall splat, can be hit by all three. You will find many exceptions to this rule, but this is a good place to start.

Art of the Tekken Combo

When constructing combos in Tekken, your goal is to find strings that do these things: A) You want your string to leave your opponent within range to be hit again. B) You want your string to leave your opponent in a hit-state that will allow the next string to hit. C) If your string leaves your opponent in a special hit-state, you want the next string to not leave them in that hit-state again, since most special hit-states can only be used once per combo. D) You want your strings to carry your opponent as far across the stage as possible since hitting a wall, falling off a balcony, or falling through a floor provides a combo extension opportunity.

This is why many basic combos start with a down-forward punch or up-forward kick. These moves tend to launch the opponent into the air a short distance close to your character. This allows for a variety of follow-ups that lead into longer and more damaging strings.

You may also find that combos will start with something that puts your opponent into a special standing hit-state, like a crumple state. This is essentially just an extension of the basic combo chain. After the crumple has been achieved, you have a long time to hit your opponent with a launcher and then follow up with a combo as normal.

If you take any lesson away from this article, take this one: comboing in Tekken is a lot less about where your exact limbs are flying – instead, it’s all about timing, spacing, and understanding what your hit-strings do. You shouldn’t always be going for the flashiest or longest combo, but rather the combo you know you can land most of the time. What combo is that? That’s up to you. But you’ll likely find it if you go through your character’s hit strings and find something that hits the opponent on the ground, something that hits them in the air, and something that puts them into a special hit-state. A three-string combo is more than enough to make you competitive.