I usually get a lot of questions at majors about Zangief. "Hey, smart guy, you think you're so cool with your dragon punch shortcuts. But what about Zangief? That sounds impossible." And to that question my eyes light up and I proceed to get really giddy. Here's a tip: I LOVE ZANGIEF!
Hit Box Zangief is one of the most unique and rewarding and misunderstood and underutilized things out there in the FGC. In fact, Hit Box reinvents Zangief. He's no longer just "Zangief." He transcends to Hit Box Zangief.
So with that said, let me share with you my knowledge on how to properly protect the Russian skies on Hit Box!
How 360's Work on Hit Box
Grapples in Street Fighter can be summed up in one word: "wonky." So I'll tell you right now, throw out everything you think you know and let's get wonky!!!
First: SPD motions are not actually 360°, they're 270°. So that means you don't need to roll a complete circle, only a 3/4 turn-- one of each movement button on a Hit Box!
Second: You do NOT need to press any diagonal directions. They're just fluff; you ONLY need to hit the cardinal directions Up / Down / Left / Right.
Third: You do NOT need to hit these directions in any particular order.
With these tips, what you thought was extremely difficult on Hit Box is actually MASSIVELY POWERFUL.
Take your index finger and let it rip! By sliding our index finger we're skipping all of the diagonals! This is the fastest way to raw SPD.
Slide Right, Down, Left
Up + Punch (Right Hand Thumb and Index)
For all of these grapple techniques we'll be using our right thumb for the Jump (Up) button. It let's you slide like crazy and still time the finish perfectly!
It's also important to note that you don't need to slide from Back to Forward!!! Remember that as long as you hit one of each direction button, you're going to get a piledriver! So Player 2 side, use that same index finger and slide from Right to Left.
See how fast you can SPD from crouch?
This technique is so blindingly fast that you can pop it out anywhere when you spontaneously decide it's time to hug someone.
Now things are getting interesting! Getting in with Zangief can take an entire round, so you don't want to miss your brief window to get the party started. In this part I'm going to show you three critical ways to hide the SPD motion inside your footsies.
Walking back and forward is actually our first two inputs of our Piledriver (Left and Right)!
[Left / Right] Shimmy
Down -> Up + Punch (Down into Down + Up + Punch)
This can also be input rapidly as
Up + Punch
Down + Up gives you an SOCD Up input. On a Hit Box, Up always beats Down, so you just need to add the Jump (Up) button with your thumb.
Up + Punch
Rolling a quick Quarter Circle Back sneaks in our first two inputs: Down and Back, and when we begin walking forward we now have 3 out of the 4 cardinal directions buffered up and ready to go.
To finish the SPD simply add Up + Punch before your buffer window runs out (20 frames or so). It doesn't matter that you end with a diagonal, the game still accepts it as a 360 motion.
So if you want to approach you can recycle [QCB, walk Forward] over and over again to refresh your piledriver buffer. And then when that magic moment arises, you simply finish the motion in one frame.
Walk Up Crouch Block Buffer
Back -> Down (hold) (tap Back into crouch block)
Forward -> Up + Punch (SOCD (Left)Down(Right) -> SOCD Up)
This one is the most complicated, but it's absolutely amazing!
Instead of approaching into a crouch block, we're sneaking an extra cardinal direction into our neutral game to queue up a grapple. By crouch blocking with Back into Down-Back, we now have Forward and Back buffered into our crouch block.
From this point we have our buffer frames to decide whether or not we want to commit to a grapple. If your opponent also decided to block or whiffed a normal and stuck out a juicy hurtbox, we now can instantly finish our grab motion with cunning use of SOCDs.
By adding Forward to our crouch block we're using SOCD Neutral. On Hit Box Left + Right cancel each other out to neutral; so Left + Down + Right gives us only a Down direction.
By adding Up to this we are now holding all 4 cardinal directions. On Hit Box Up > Down, and Left + Right = Neutral; so Left + Right + Down + Up gives us a single Up input.
Confused? Don't worry about it! Nobody wants math class right now. All you need to know is that it works. So give it a try! In 2 frames you can go from crouch block into a SPD without hesitation. The buffer window is just enough time to react and make sure that they're blocking.
720s require practice. Straight up. They feel super awkward at first, but when you get down the muscle memory it is unparalleled. You'll get the fastest and cleanest 720's possible. To prove my point, here is a standing 720:
You see how fast that was????!!!! Don't worry about learning standing 720s. I'm going to teach you how to do it at the bottom anyways, but it's seriously hard. Not for the faint of heart.
First things first though, let me show you two solid methods to 720 and how to practice them.
This is the most intuitive way to 720. I recommend starting here to get a feel for how deliberate the motion is.
Left (left ring finger)
Down (left index finger)
Right (right index finger)
Up (right thumb)
Left (left ring finger)
Down (left index finger)
Right + Punch (right index finger + middle finger)
We're reaching over and using both hands to piano out the motion. Your left hand uses its ring and middle finger, and your right hand uses thumb and index. By splitting them up it lets you piano extremely fast and precise. Sure, you can do it all with your right hand, but why make it harder on yourself?
The best way to practice is from a simple neutral jump. Watch how I start slow and speed the motion up. The key is to build positive muscle memory, not to see how fast and sloppy you can go. Once you get a safe rhythm, just keep it simple and build from positive reinforcement. You will piano blindingly fast in no time!
This method is the harder to learn of the two, but it's also the most simple and fast.
Slide (Right, Down, Left) (index finger)
Up (tap) (right thumb)
Slide (Left, Down, Right) (index finger)
We're not actually doing full circles at all. It's sort of a wax-on-wax-off motion.
Slide left, Jump, Slide right, punch.
It's very important that you are on and off of the Jump button instantly. It has to be a very quick tap. It's the hardest part to learn of the Slide 720. The quicker you're on and off of the Up Direction, the better and faster you can slide. If you're on the Up too long, you might be sliding back at the same time and muddle up your inputs.
I'm not sliding very fast. You don't need to start at full speed, you just need to be very fluid. Glide your finger and be quick on and off the Jump button. It is very important to build the right muscle memory so that you can eventually slide your 720s at blinding speed.
Now we're into the extra curriculum. I do not recommend even trying to do this until you are extremely confident in your Slide 720s (above). In SFV it is much harder to get a Standing 720 than previously in SFIV, where it was still thought to be basically impossible.
It's the exact same motion as the Slide 720, but this time around we need frame perfect sliding and to be on and off that Jump button instantly.
It's very difficult to press and release a button in one frame, so when attempting this pay extra attention to how you press the Up direction. I slap the button at an angle and drag my thumb inward. You'll find what works for you with enough practice.
But, my god, when you have this in your arsenal, your opponent is terrified.
If you're going to attempt to learn Standing 720s, be sure to take breaks and stretch your hands. I repeat, that this is not for the faint of heart.
But this is the potential of Hit Box Zangief.
Instant piledrivers and sneaking buffers into your movement so that at any moment's notice you can reach out and grab someone.