Knee of Korea is ‘the greatest Tekken player of all-time’
Anakin called him the best Tekken player of all-time. That is a compliment of the highest order. Attempting to comprise a list of players who would also be worthy enough to receive such a title would prove almost futile. And guess what? No-one batted an eye when Anakin said it. Knee is that good.
There’s possibly only one other player that could be mentioned in the same breath as Knee, and that is Jang Iksu. While Jang Iksu has moved on, Knee is still here – still hungry, still playing professionally, and still playing at the highest level.
Hailing from Korea, where some of the world’s greatest Tekken players are born – Knee is a legend. He is a champion. He is more times than not the standard by which others measure greatness. But more than any of that, he is humble, and a man of character. When I contacted Bae Jae min, better known as ‘Knee,’ and asked if he’d be willing to do an interview with us, he said “Yeah sure. Sorry for the late reply.” Because he hardly ever reads his direct messages, he said. But he read ours, and then apologized for not getting back to us in time. Again, character.
I wanted to catch up with Knee because who better to gain insight into a new Tekken game from? He’s played it more than anyone. I also wanted to learn more about his trip to EVO, as well as learn about his past, present and future. I hope you enjoy.
Knee, thanks so much for consenting to an interview with us. You’ve been playing Tekken for a long time. When did you first begin to play?
The first moment I played Tekken was when I was in elementary school. It was Tekken 1.
Tekken 1? You’re the first person I’ve heard say that.
At that time, in my memory, I just recognized it as a fighting game without knowing it was Tekken, as I was so young.
I can imagine. Your real name is Bae Jae min. It’s cool that you already have “bae” in it. (laughs) Everyone calls you ‘Knee’ though. What’s the meaning behind that?
It came from Tekken Tag 1 when I used Bryan and Bruce as tag partners. As you know, these characters have many skills using their knees. I started to use the internet when I went to middle school. As I accessed a Tekken commnity site, I thought about my nickname when I saw a blank for writing it. And then, it came to mind that my tag team had a lot of skills with their knees. That’s how my nickname ‘Knee’ is made.
You just learned something folks. I’m surprised I never figured that out. You seem to play Tekken for hours on end. Your YouTube videos are sometimes 3-4 hours or more long. Why do you love Tekken so much?
I like games, and fighting games are the most favorite ones among them. So I’ve played most of the fighting games. In the past, there were plenty of famous fighting games in arcades. In my late teens to early twenties, the most amount of games was Tekken in arcades. So, it was natural that I played it for a long time. Moreover, Tekken was the most famous game in my school days so I played with my friends a lot. Therefore, I think this is why my main playing game becomes Tekken.
How did you become so good at playing Tekken?
From the end of Tekken 4, I began to know many Tekken master players. I took and learned their Tekken knowledge while I played Tekken with them. From that time, I started to play Tekken professionally, differently from the time I was just casually playing. Since then I’ve done numerous of competitions and practices. I think that’s what makes me professional.
Have you always been good at Tekken?
There was one occasion during the times of Tekken 4, I lost 30 times against a player! (laughs) At that moment I realized that there are lots of skillful players. Also, I knew my ability was far less than the Tekken masters.
And when did you decide that you would start playing Tekken professionally?
It was during Tekken 5. National tournaments and events at arcades began to increase as Tekken got its popularity again. When I participated in these kinds of tournaments, as well as international tournaments for the first time, I decided to go pro in Tekken.
Knee playing Tekken 4
Tournament in 2007 with Tekken 5 DR, held at Green Arcade. Many
teams participated. After this tournament, Knee entered into the army.
Okay, so during Tekken 4, that’s when you realized you needed to get better, and with Tekken 5 that’s when you actually started playing more professionally. The arcade scene was a huge influence in your career early on, but I am hearing that the arcade scene in Korea is now dying. Is that true? Why is that?
I think it’s the current state of the times. PC gaming is so strong, not only in Korea but all over the world. Because of this, many of the arcades disappeared, and internet cafes have increased in Korea. I think this is why arcades began decreasing because people don’t have to come to the arcade and prefer to play computer games in their home or internet cafe.
That actually relieves me, because it lets me know that gaming hasn’t decreased, but only transitioned to a different platform. Tekken 7 is coming out on PC, so I’m glad you said that. It’s not that Tekken is dying or anything. Just the arcades. Now, I know that Tekken 7 isn’t out everywhere, but you were still the first person in the world to reach True Tekken God in Tekken 7. Why did it take so long?
Nowadays, since there are few players in Korea, it isn’t easy to do high rank matches. Especially when the number of players in high rank is too small to be matched, so I waited a little. Another reason for my waiting is that there are some players who don’t want to play rank matches with me. So, I had to wait. (laughs)
Well, duh! That’s an automatic demotion! (laughs) Is it true that you have a Tekken 7: Fated Retribution arcade cabinet to practice with at home?
The answer is no (laughs). It was last summer that a Tekken 7 cabinet had been in my house for about two months. After then, I’ve played in Green Arcade.
Let’s talk about EVO. How did you like it this year?
Actually, I didn’t intend to enter EVO in this year. This is because, although it’s so exciting and flattering to go to EVO, the expense was a lot more than I had imagined.
Oh wow. You aren’t sponsored?
I don’t have any sponsors. Therefore, it isn’t easy to make a decision of my entry in a U.S. tournament. However, when Bandai Namco announced providing seed tickets for The King of Iron Fist Tournament 2016 which will be held at the end of this year for two players in first and second place at EVO. I decided to go in spite of paying my cost.
Hopefully a team will sponsor you soon. I’d pick you up in a heartbeat! Once Tekken 7 is out on console, this could change. So then no thoughts on EVO next year?
I haven’t thought about the next year yet.
When you played JDCR, why did you pick Akuma and not Bryan?
There are three reasons. First, at that time, Akuma was a very powerful character. Second, I anticipated that JDCR would be unfamiliar with how to deal with Akuma. Finally, it is hard for Heihachi to handle Akuma. That’s why I used Akuma in the tournament instead of Bryan.
EVO 2016 Semifinals: JDCR (Heihachi) vs Knee (Akuma)
Now that Akuma is getting nerfed, do you think he will still be good?
Yes, I do. Even though Akuma gets nerfed, he’ll be still be powerful. What’s the matter is difficulty of managing him. I think he will be changed like this – to be powerful only if skillful players play from any players do.
Everyone thought you would win EVO, but as we know you lost to Saint. What happened?
I had no chance to practice Fated Retribution hard in this EVO, mainly because at the time I was moving my house, and other businesses. So, I could concentrate on practicing only about two days. In other words, I couldn’t prepare enough for EVO. Moreover, I didn’t know Jack-7 became so powerful like that. And lastly, I lost Saint’s daring, which means his attack was so aggressive despite the frame loss of his character.
EVO 2016 Grand Finals: Knee (Bryan) vs Saint (Jack-7)
That confirms an article I wrote about how Fated Retribution changed the game at EVO. It evened the playing field by introducing a lot of unfamiliarity and randomness. Next EVO will be very interesting since everyone will have had the game.
Korea got first, second and third place this year, and out of the last four EVO’s, Korea has won all but one. Does Korea have the best Tekken players in the world?
It’s true that there are plenty of the best players in Korea. But I don’t think they are only in Korea. What’s more, it’s also natural that both Korea and Japan have an advantage comparing other foreign players to win championship in EVO, since console version of Tekken 7 isn’t released yet.
I don’t know if you heard, but in an interview with Anakin he said that you were the best Tekken player of all-time. What do you think when you hear something like that?
I think that’s such a great compliment (smiles). Anakin is also an outstanding player, as he has been one of the best players for a long time.
Final Round 16 Top 8: Anakin (Jack-6/P.Jack) vs Knee (Lars/Devil Jin)
Throughout your Tekken career, which player has always given you the hardest time?
It’s difficult for me to pick up the particular one because those players have always existed. Since I’ve never met easy players to win, I didn’t think about the hardest one to me from the time I started to play Tekken.
I interpret that as you saying “Hard Tekken player? What’s that?” (laughs) Why is Bryan your favorite character?
Personally, I think Bryan has the best hitting impact among Tekken characters. Also, he set my identity and made me famous in Tekken. Moreover, I like insane characters in fighting games such as Yamazaki in King of Fighters.
Very true. Now, you are very good with a lot of characters. How do you choose which one’s to use in a match? For example, when you participated in the Kuro Kuro cup, you used Heihachi instead of Bryan. And at EVO, you used Akuma against JDCR. How do you choose?
Usually, I choose characters either using incompatibility among them. Or, in case of characters for tournament, I choose them after I have enough discussion with CHANEL. In another case, I choose characters who opponents are likely to find it difficult to win. Lastly, I choose characters after I check whether he or she fits to me at that day in the tournament.
EVO 2013 TTT2 Grand Finals: CafeId|Knee vs Eightarc|Bronson Tran
Master Raven was announced at EVO. Do you think you will use her?
Once she is released, I will. This is because ninja’s are splendid!
What characters do you hope returns to Tekken 7?
I hope that Zafina returns.
Interesting. I wouldn’t have guessed that. What kind of things does Knee do for fun? Any hobbies?
I play PC games a lot, such as the Starcraft series, Diablo series, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Overwatch, etc. Also, I like to read comic books since I like cartoons.
Right now everyone is talking about tier lists. Our website visitors would be very pleased if you could give us your character tier list for Tekken 7FR.
Although I’m not absolutely sure to make my tier list since I haven’t played every character, I would choose these characters as the characters with the highest rank:
Especially, Steve. He is too strong.
You heard him people. Steve players, where you at? (laughs) I wondered why you didn’t pick Bryan against JDCR in the VSL finals. Now I know. Lastly, as you stated earlier, you’ve been playing this game you love so much since it first came out. That’s 20 years. Will Knee ever retire from Tekken?
I have considered that more times than I can think, but eventually, I always come back to Tekken. Because of that, I don’t think about it anymore.
Thank you, Knee.