A couple weeks ago at Final Round XX in Atlanta, GA I met quite a few people I didn’t know. Now that I’m back home there are some whom I still remember, and some that will probably never come to mind again. Out of sight – out of mind, the saying goes. Well, having said that, I had never heard of Joey Fury before Final Round. Or so I thought. Having looked back I see that I certainly must’ve heard of him in some capacity, because he’s been competing in tournaments for a good while. He wasn’t on my radar though.
We as a community know all of the “big names,” but there are many rising stars out there. Joey is one of them. He has become cemented in my memory banks forever because of two defining moments. One, he sent Echo Fox Saint, who is the current EVO 2016 and King of the Iron Fist 2016 Champion, to the loser’s bracket at Final Round. And secondly, he did the same thing to Echo Fox JDCR when in the Top 8.
I remember telling the InTheSkies team owner who I thought would make the top 8 from her team. Joey wasn’t one of them. Again, only because I didn’t know him. Well, I certainly know him now, and that’s why I had to catch up with him for an interview. Joey Fury ladies and gentlemen…
Mr. Fury, thanks for doing this interview with us. First things first, is Joey Fury your real name? Because if so, that is just too awesome.
The name Joey Fury was gifted to me by my older brother Saint Waffle for my first Tekken 5 IC Card. My first name is Joe and I used Bryan Fury so my brother just put them together and we agreed it sounded badass.
Indeed it does.
I was the little kid in the arcade so I guess it just made sense for me to be Joey. The funny thing is, at no other point in my life have I ever gone by Joey. Still, to this day everyone in the Tekken community calls me Joey and I always introduce myself as such at tournaments.
That’s what’s up, man. Was Tekken 5 your first Tekken? How did you get introduced to the game?
I’m gonna go back to circa 1999 for this one. I was about 7 years old and my older brother was really into gaming on the PS1. One fateful day he and my dad picked up the 1998 PlayStation Underground Jampack Demo Disc! Certainly the greatest consumer purchase ever made by my family. Featured on that legendary disc was a demo for Tekken 3. Two playable characters. Eddy Gordo and Ling Xiaoyu. My brother quickly set off on his journey to conquer the world as an Eddy masher. After living with the demo for a while, we decided we simply had to buy the real thing. I was just a little kid but there was a certain mysticism about this game. So many secrets waiting to be uncovered. The visuals were dark. The music was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Tekken 3 was mind-blowing when it came out. I’d play against my brother and get my ass beat on the regular. He eventually started playing Hwoarang and I was drawn to Bryan Fury (I think it was the maniacal laugh). These would be our characters for many many years. We kept on buying the new installments as they came out: Tekken Tag Tournament, Tekken 4. We even went back and bought Tekken 2. The only people we really played against were each other. And we played A LOT.
Nice. Tekken 3 actually came out 20 years ago as of this week. So you started out using Bryan, I suppose?
I was always a Bryan main in the early days but as I started exploring Tekken 5, I was known to pick Jack, Marduk, and Law in tournament.
You’re from Buffalo, right? What’s the Tekken scene like in New York?
The Tekken scene in upstate New York used to be much more active. I can’t really speak on what it’s like in NYC. I think Upstate, Buffalo is going to see a revival when Tekken 7 comes out though. I’m not sure if NY is regarded as a strong Tekken region at the moment. But it will be.
Being from New York, have you ever played against NYC Fab, Fighting GM, Real Law or Fernando?
Yes, I’ve played against all of those players. GM traveled up to Buffalo multiple times to take our money in Tag 2, so I’ve played him the most. The misconception is often that myself and Mak train regularly with the NYC crew because we’re “from NY.” We actually live about 7 hours away from NYC. We are about as likely to play each other as people from any other Northeastern state. We are looking forward to starting a rivalry with those guys when Tekken 7 is out though.
While at Final Round XX, MakNificent told me that you were a Jack specialist.
If there is such a thing! I do think I am a bit distinct from most Jack players. I treat him as a main character and one that you need to prepare very hard to use. I think a lot of people pick him and say, “Hey, I have good fundamentals. There’s nothing else to this character.” That mentality can definitely be effective. But there is more to him than that in my opinion. To me, you can always tell a Jack main from someone who is just playing Jack. Jack mains are prepared to dig deeper into his movelist and find creative solutions to hard match-ups. They also find ways to be evasive and incorporate sidewalking in situations where normal Jack players will just say, “Jack can’t step.” I’m willing to do those things, I know my frames really well with Jack, and I truly love the character. So sure, I’ll say I’m a Jack specialist.
So then why is Jack your favorite character?
He’s a 7-foot-tall robot with a mohawk who drops hydraulic elbows on people’s heads! How could he not be my favorite? Honestly, I think my Marduk is stronger than my Jack. At least in Tekken Tag 2. Unfortunately Marduk hasn’t shown up in Tekken 7 so I’m rolling with the megaton punches.
Are you new to the tournament scene?
I started playing in Tekken tournaments in 2005, so definitely not new. I’ve recently started becoming more active in traveling, however. I have a few Top 8’s accumulated over the years, but I’ve never established myself as a top player or anything like that.
How did you enjoy Final Round?
Final Round was truthfully the best tournament experience of my life.
It was my first Final Round. I had a really special moment where I broke through the tournament anxiety that has given me trouble for many years. I felt liberated. I was barely expecting to get out of pools so getting as far as I did was an absolute blessing. And very importantly, I had the opportunity to play two tournament sets against JDCR, who I believe is the best player in the world. As if getting to play Tekken 7 wasn’t good enough, right?
For many playing Echo Fox’s JDCR is a dream, and especially in Tekken 7. Tell me, what kind of things did you do to prepare for Final Round?
The past couple months have been very busy for me, so I haven’t practiced as much as I’d like to. Fortunately for me I use Jack 7 so it’s easier to get back into the swing of it. I got some solid training sessions in with Mak immediately leading up to Final Round. He’s my main sparring partner and we have a lot of fun training and bitching about how everything is broken.I watch match videos when I can. Usually of my favorite Jack players: Saint, Anakin and Arario. And if you’re wondering: YES I literally watch Tekken 5 DR videos of Arario for Jack practice. He’s the goat. But like I said, I was short on time leading up to Final Round so my only goal was to get out of pools. I looked and saw that Kodee and The Game were in my pool so I hit defensive training against Heihachi and Law for several hours. I practiced punishing all sorts of moves, I looked at frame data to see what moves are plus on block, and very importantly, what moves have weak frame advantage on hit. You’ve gotta know when it’s smart to MASH. I practiced blocking Hei’s db+2 and Law’s Dragon Tail. Can’t get hit by that Rage Drive! Defensive training is my main practice tool. It’s also useful to go back and do defensive training in DR and Tekken 6 because you can set the CPU to do more than five moves at a time! What were they thinking in Tag 2? Email Harada!
Lastly, mental training is very important for me. Especially because I get tournament anxiety. I save little mantras and pieces of advice I’ve learned from people over the years. I’ve had some good discussions with my buddy Akazukin Cha Cha about strengthening mindset and perspectives on competing. Sirlin’s Playing To Win is an absolute must-read of course. Also, for anyone interested in some competitive philosophy, read The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey.
Wow. What were your keys to defeating Echo Fox’s Saint and sending him to the losers bracket?
I actually didn’t formulate a very in-depth game plan against Saint like I did for JDCR’s Heihachi. I had an entire day to anticipate my first Top 8 match with JDCR. I found out I was going to be playing Saint probably 30-60 minutes before the match. My teammate KawaiiSkies fired me up and told me I’d get free Chik-Fil-A if I beat him. I knew I would have to play super compact and be willing to make big reads when the time came. Other than that, I just tried to get in the zone and play solid Tekken. My boy MakNificent was in my corner just pushing me to be ferocious the whole way. By the last round of the match, I could smell fear. It was awesome!
— TekkenGamer.com (@TekkenGamercom) March 12, 2017
Before the match began, were you confident that you would beat him? What was going through you mind?
I was confident that I was having a very good Tekken day. I was reading my opponents well and my movement was fluid. I put myself in a frame of mind where I would just go all out. Saint is the Global Champion and I’m just some guy from Buffalo. I had nothing to lose. Once the match started, I was in the zone. I didn’t anguish over anything that went wrong. I was on the warpath.
Do you think you would have beat him had he picked someone other than Jack?
I think he did me a huge favor by opting for the Jack mirror in the last game. Not only is Bob very strong against Jack, I personally find Bob hard to deal with. Our second game Jack vs. Bob went to the very last round, so I’m not sure why he switched. He was dropping multiple combos so maybe he wasn’t feeling comfortable with Bob? It also only took me blocking one of his d/b+3+4’s to seemingly scare him away from the move for the rest of the match. Maybe he felt pressured by the 2 out of 3 format into picking a character with safer low options. But I felt a massive surge of confidence when he switched to Jack. I knew it was within my reach.
In a recent interview with Scott Popular, JDCR said he was surprised or shocked that he lost to you. What do you think about that?
Well, JDCR is better than me so of course it was surprising. (laughs) I agree with him that my play style seemed naturally effective against Heihachi. I don’t think he is saying he shouldn’t have lost that first match. He is just saying that he was forced to adjust. Top players have provisions for when things go slightly wrong. So while losing a match to me was surprising, he had an immediate plan for how to win next time. That’s why he is the best.
What did you think of JDCR’s performance from losers to grand finals? And what did you think of his Dragunov gameplay? Do you think you could have withstood what he displayed in those six matches?
His performance with Dragunov was exceptional. Truthfully, I knew if he made it to Loser’s Finals where it became 3 out of 5 we would be in big trouble. I was really hoping that Anakin would be able to take him out in the Loser’s Bracket. I think he may have been able to do it if he had gone Jack all the way. I don’t understand the decision to go with Paul in the first game. Apparently, Anakin doesn’t like fighting JDCR with Jack. I think JDCR’s defense would be even more difficult to overcome with Paul. His movement just neutralizes all of Paul’s big damage options. Good luck running up and demo manning on that guy. And in the end, JDCR had to bust out a ridiculously clutch rage art just to beat Anakin’s Jack in the second game. It was super close. Anakin did his thing though. Props to him. Getting back on topic. By the time JDCR made it to Loser’s Finals, he had adjusted his game plan to what I had presented in our first match. I knew in the Heihachi match-up that I could play in a way that would force the outcome of the match to be determined by hard reads. And I was confident that I could find his rhythm and pick out the moments where he thought, “Ugh this guy doesn’t duck. Time to open him up.” The nice thing is, all of Heihachi’s lows are launch punishable. When I made the right read, it was devastating. No such luck with Drag. I didn’t have the answers and I started to feel overwhelmed pretty fast. Dragunov allowed JDCR to run heavy offense with much better risk/reward. His defense is rock solid. I couldn’t find the rhythm on his d+2’s. It was a mess. He definitely came back with a vengeance. However, I wasn’t really surprised by anything he did in our match (besides that ungodly rage art he landed with 1-pt of health left). Reflecting on it, there were missed opportunities to swing rounds back in my favor. I need to be a lot more proactive about trying to low parry d+2. The risk, reward on ducking is not worth it at all. I know that we got massacred, but I didn’t feel dejected after my match against him. If I create some low parries, break throws better, and make a few adjustments to my reads, I think that set becomes a lot more competitive. Sometimes it just takes minor adjustments to produce big results. And to put my thoughts on record. JDCR’s Dragnunov is beatable in tournament. And it can be done with Jack. All that said, the task of competing in long sets against someone like JDCR is a big mountain at the present moment. We need the game to break down match-ups at the level required to beat him, and we need to practice a lot harder (and smarter) within our communities. So no, I don’t think I could have done better than Speedkicks in the long set. I’ve been hitting the lab though and I have some new ideas to introduce for next time.
I noticed that you prefer to sit behind your opponent. What’s that all about?
That is actually a known old-school strat to ensure that your opponent can’t see your buttons and so that you can potentially see what they are doing. However, that wasn’t my motivation in doing that at all. (laughs) I just like to be far away from the screen. It feels more comfortable for me.
How come you don’t use Bryan that much anymore, or even at Final Round?
Bryan has a large execution barrier at high level. You need to put in serious work if your Bryan is going to be tournament ready. I like the character a lot, but I knew it would be foolish to pick him against high level players. I’m going to work him back up as Tekken 7 approaches though. From the looks of him, I think Bryan is a top five character in this game.
On Twitter I saw you say “Looking at frame data and realizing I’ve been getting mauled by the dumbest sh*t.” What did you discover?
Well, I’ll just say that I was doing some analysis of my losses from Final Round. If you want the knowledge, go browse those frames.
You recently got sponsorship with InTheSkies. How did that come about?
HeavenlySkies took notice of me after I got 4th place at KIT 2016 in Tekken Tag 2. I got double eliminated by BxA Kodee and I’m still salty about it. Kodee. I also got 5th place in Tekken 7 Vanilla that year. That game was whack. Anyway, HeavenlySkies is really doing an exceptionally admirable thing for the Tekken community. She dedicates countless hours of work and invests her own money to help players like me compete. And she does it all out of a genuine interest and love for the community. I cannot thank her enough. You can expect me at more majors repping ITS.
Historically, American players have struggled against Asian players. Why do you think that is?
They play sun up ‘til sun down. They have constant access to great training partners. When you play in tournament, you sink to the level of your training. These guys train at the peak level. America needs to generate solutions on how we can train at a similar level. We are disadvantaged by our lack of arcade scene and by always being behind on the release of the latest Tekken. It’s a significant obstacle. The last time Tekken had a near simultaneous release date between NA and Japan was Tekken 5. The playing field was even. And when the Internationals came for Evo 2005, America beat them. The situation is different now, so we need to use every resource available to improve. Is it possible to best the Koreans? Those who want to achieve greatness don’t concern themselves with such a question.
I agree with you 100% that there isn’t enough high level competition in America for practicing. What can be done to fix that?
I think the immediately obvious solution is using practice mode to explore the game. There is no perfect substitute to training with top level competition. But there is also no substitute for knowledge and fundamentals. GM made a video a while back about just how sharp you can stay by training in practice mode. His preparation always shows despite the fact that he hasn’t been able to train with anyone on his level for quite some time. People who are running the same flow chart BS for 15,000+ online games are doing themselves and the community a huge disservice. They are showing that they have the commitment and means to invest massive amounts of time, but just squander it without improving. They could make huge strides if they used their time more wisely. I think we need to promote a culture that is obsessed with practice mode and not with getting blue ranks by mashing raw-tag hop kicks on 3-bar connection. Last thing on this. I have met so many people who say, “I can’t do practice mode. It’s so boring. I just want to learn by playing.” Listen. Training time isn’t fun time. Here’s some inspiration: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” Muhammad Ali. Boxers have to endure getting punched in the face repeatedly. We just have to sit in front of our TV for a few hours. Let’s get to it.
Nice. Just a few more questions, Joey. Aside from the delay of the game to console from arcades, do you think that Asian’s generally play Tekken smarter?
Tekken employs many different kinds of intelligence: analytic, emotional, creative, etc. If they “play smarter,” it’s a result of their training. Asian players don’t have any genetic advantage that would make them innately better at Tekken than anyone else.
What can we expect from Joey Fury this year? Will you be attending EVO?
I will be making my best efforts to attend CEO and Combo Breaker. And you can expect me at Evo.
What is your life outside of Tekken? Are you a family man, in school, working as a stock broker?
I am an Electrical Engineering major at the University at Buffalo, a saxophonist, and a bassist. I am also the biggest Police fanatic you will ever meet. Sting is god!
What are your thoughts on Tekken 7?
It needs to come out! Tekken 7 is exactly the type of game we need to create a revival for our community. Some of those slow motion finishes will seriously make your heart skip a beat. It’s fun to play and it’s fun to watch. I hope this game gets a lot of exposure. MLG let’s go!
Indeed! Any last words?
Spero Gin may be the hardest working Tekken player in America right now. America needs to go hard and bring the pain in Tekken 7. Don’t wait for June 2nd. Do it now. Make like Spero. Get in the lab!
Well said. Thank you Joey!