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The Unsettled Wrath and Fury that is Bronson Tran

He makes just about every top 5 best USA player list. He’s insanely good. He knows he’s good, and that’s why he’s a bit cocky. But he’ll tell you that himself. He’s a seasoned veteran who has the battle scars to prove it. He’s warred with the best of them. He has also witnessed the Tekken greats in action. Though he is now a lesser version of his former self, he’ll still say he’s better than you and mean it. See, cocky. But it’s all fun and games – until you pick up those sticks. You’ll quickly find out just where your skills lie. You’re no match. 

You see, for him it’s not about beating an opponent anymore. His war is within that started many years ago. He has a score to settle with himself. There’s a dream still to be fulfilled, and it is that dream that keeps him alive and hungry. He may make you laugh and giggle, even sometimes at his expense. But best believe he’s plotting. Yes, Tekken 7 is around the corner, and 2017 is going to be his year. Don’t believe him? You’ll find out soon enough.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my interview with the one and only Bronson Tran.


Bronson, thanks for the interview. Before we get into Tekken, I like to learn more about the person behind the player. From what I understand, you are Vietnamese, correct? Were you born there?

What an odd question. But to answer your question, yes, I am Viet. I was not born in Vietnam, Norcal born and raise.

Really? I get asked that sort of question often because of my name. You recently stated on Twitter that you’d like to see a Vietnamese character in Tekken. What kind of character would that be?

No idea. (laughs) Probably some Viet dude that’s addicted to gambling.

You and your brother, Jimmy Tran, are some of the best Tekken players in America. You’ve been on hiatus quite a bit these last few years, but when you were playing, you were a fierce competitor. What would you credit your high skill level to? Was it the quality of competition in the NorCal area? Was it hours upon hours of practice? Because I hear you play for nine hour blocks against each other. Or was it your self-proclaimed cockiness, which you said is also your strength and weakness? What was that “thing” that placed you and your brother heads and shoulders above the rest?

First that’s actually not true at all that Jimmy is my brother. We are not related at all, in fact he’s a fake Viet!

Are you serious? Why do I feel like you’re trolling me right now? (laughs)

Jimmy is not my brother, and he is Vietnamese.

Are you by chance related to Anthony Tran, aka Jackie Tran?

Yes, along with Jimmy Tran, Long Tran (ShadyK), and Campbell Tran (Buktooth) we form the greatest family of FGC players ever.

Okay, I see how this is going. (laughs) But anyway, as you were about to say…

Norcal has always been strong in the past when it comes to fighting games so that definitely helped my growth as a player. When you have amazing players (at the time) like 725,shockwave,m3, Joeking, Matk and many many more (the list can really be 30+ players), of course you will improve. Specifically the first three players I named, I have always credited as my true teachers. They’ve taught me how to be dumb/cheap (725), how to be annoying/cheap (shockwave) and how to think about the game analytically (m3). I’d like to add though, a lot of it is just my natural intuition. Just because you have great teachers does not necessarily mean you will become amazing.

True. Well, those guys were obviously very good, if you’re somewhat a product of each of them.

To that note I put in the time. As a high school student, shit didn’t matter so I was able to play at least once or twice a week at the arcade for 5-8 hours. The main learning block that really got me improved was spending basically a week in San Francisco – 45 min drive away – playing with the three guys mentioned. Without that I would not have been able to fully sponge/immerse myself in the knowledge that they were providing. I also had a training partner, PVB, who was at one point at my level or even better. We would grind Tekken 3 on PlayStation 1 since Tekken Tag Tournament was not out on console yet. It was basically a six month process from learning the game, then finding out there were tournaments, to placing, and eventually winning locals. I still remember the first time I placed 2nd at a tournament which was at CVGL versus Joeking, which I should’ve won because I came from losers but we never reset the bracket after I won a set.

Those were the days you were still known as “InsaneLee.” How’d you come up with that name, and when did you decide to let it go?

Please, it is all lowercase.

Apologies. (laughs)

I first started off as “insaneleedevoted,” because I am super Asian and shit. That account got banned a few months in at Tekken Zaibatsu because I was talking too much shit to the OG players. However, I started winning some tournaments and was allowed back in on TZ as “insanelee.” I am not sure when I dropped the name. At my old age I don’t remember much.

Back in those insanelee days, I heard you say that for the first six years of your Tekken career that you were the best overall Tekken player, and that in your latter years you weren’t quite as sharp. You were very, very hungry for an EVO championship title, but it kept evading you and you grew a bit weary. You were always just right there at it. The advent of Tekken 7 is upon us. Do you think that’s something you’ll be interested in again? Is winning an EVO title still important to Bronson Tran at this stage? Or have you come to terms with it?

I can lie to you and say that I don’t care about the EVO title anymore, but that simply is not the truth. Everyone that knows me, knows how much I want that title. I still believe I am one of the top Tekken players in the country, even in my downgraded shape. That’s more talking about the overall skill level of USA, that a shitty Bronson can still compete. One thing I have come to terms with might be the fact that I just might not have the time anymore to play the game as much as I would like. That seems to be the normal ebb and flow of gaming though, people grow up. There are much more important things in life than a video game hobby. That’s not to say I won’t be sneaking in some, probably a lot, of time to play Tekken 7, and eventually win the EVO title in 2017 though.

If you get back into the game, I think that will really excite people. But you say that the downgraded Bronson is still one of the top players in the country? So do you think today’s USA players aren’t that good compared to back in the day? How do you gauge or measure that?

USA has always been shitty overall, so I wouldn’t say that USA players are not as good as before. Thing is though, nowadays, players have so much access to information regarding the game that they should be better than the past scenes. I really have no idea how to measure things like that when comparing the mid level / upper mid level of each generation. We don’t have the stats nor the historians needed to do such a thing. Seeing as how I’m bias though, I’ll just say the old men are better.

Show these young bucks something, Bronson! They still wet behind the ears! (laughs) Now, the last time you were actually competed at EVO was 2013, I believe. You defeated Nin of Korea, arguably the best Steve player on the planet. That match is one of my favorites! And then you faced Knee, also of Korea, in the grand finals. As we know, you came in 2nd place, which no-one can do anything but still respect. Especially that EVO being filled with so many heavyweights. But for you I feel like coming in 2nd that wasn’t enough. Did that loss bother you at all? And is that why you haven’t been to another EVO since?

I actually competed in the 2014 EVO Championships also, which I lost pretty badly to someone who is great.

Let me look that up right quick. Genki “Gen” Kumisaka of Japan? (View EVO 2014 brackets)

Oh yeah, that’s right. I did lose to him. I didn’t even remember. But that’s not who I meant. Jody The Great.

Oh really? Interesting. But as you were saying…

2013 was a pretty crazy EVO for me. I lost to Kuro Kuro (JPN) during pools and I basically said “fuck it” at that point, and not cared about the tournament anymore. I knew losing that early was going to make the rest of the tournament incredibly hard. That mindset was probably what got me to grand finals because I was finally having fun in a tournament. When you are so confident in your skill, you start to put a ton of pressure on yourself and shit can’t go wrong in your mind pretty quickly. Losing to Knee was heartbreaking, I knew I let myself down and more importantly I let my friends down who I could distinctly hear cheering for me in the crowd. Screaming dumbass shit like “Korean BBQ” every time I landed Ogre’s flame throw.

You did much better in Tekken 5 than you did in Tekken 6 where EVO is concerned. You didn’t make the top 8 at all in T6, but Jimmy did, and more than once. Why not you? Were you not that into the game?

Basically after 2007 EVO I did not win anything. When you previously asked me about how I took the Knee loss, there is nothing compared to how I took the 2007 loss. The top 2 USA players at that time were Arario (Socal) and I. I was confident versus everyone in USA but him, so I had a plan to counter-pick his Jack. I trained up Julia with Jimmy secretly, to a point where I thought she was better than my Ganryu at the time. Even if I thought she was better I did not play her in any tournaments, because I wanted her to be a surprise. And there were no streams at this time. The whole plan worked and I ended up in winner’s finals where I played against a top NY/EC player, Spero Gin. That’s where it all started, I was one hit away from sending him to losers and then it all went to shit. He blocked a 50/50, next thing I know I have lost every round after that, and every round in the Arario rematch. Ever since I have been one of the weakest tournament players in the US.

Surely you don’t mean that. (laughs)

It’s really crazy what your mind and heart can do to your skills. I was super into Tekken 6, just couldn’t get over the tournament hump.

Your “brother” Jimmy has been more active than you lately. And your Twitter says you’re a “tekken has-been / retired casual player.” Are you really retired?

The retired thing is a joke, I don’t believe any player “retires” from a hobby. We just kind of fade into the abyss.

Since you plan on winning EVO 2017, you obvoiusly plan on playing Tekken. How do you like what you see so far?

The brief experience I have had with Tekken 7: Fated Retribution has been overall positive. Again, I will definitely play it as I’ve put way too many years and made too many good friends through the game to not support it at all. The best thing I like about Tekken 7 so far is that it is aesthetically pleasing. This is really the first Tekken in a long time that I hear people that don’t play it say “Wow, it is a beautiful game.” That has to help out Namco in their quest to recruit more players, or at least viewers going the eSports route. I do not like supers at all. They do a shit ton of damage and adds to the craziness of the game.

A Tekken purist. Do you think you’ll get the game on console or PC?

Console.

How do you feel about this being the end of the Mishima saga? Any theories on what will happen?

I could care less about the storyline. I have a cool fact about this. I only found out about there being two Armor Kings during Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion era. I remember Jimmy laughing at me as he told me about this.

Do you plan to stream?

Yeah, I gotta get all the right Disney songs and 90’s TV show themes ready for my stream.

You mentioned eSports. Harada and Michael Murray have said that 2017 will be “the year of Tekken.” Will you be participating in any events other than just EVO?

Honestly, I don’t see myself attending that many majors, whatever that word means nowadays. If I was traveling I’d rather travel for vacation with my wife. Yes, eSports is definitely growing but really at what pace for FGC? At my age the prize money with the time you have to put into it is not worth it. Esports to me means money and fame, however it is not that much money and do I really need that fame?

What if you had a sponsor though?

To be a top player that is worth anything you have to put in a lot of time. Now I don’t mind putting in the time to play because I thoroughly enjoy Tekken. However, the traveling and packing/unpacking and airport shit is a real turn off. Also having to come back into work the Monday afterwards sucks. If it is a legit sponsor that will pay me a salary then I’d definitely think about it, but if its just “hey here’s free tickets and entrance fee,” that is not worth it at all. Speaking of sponsors, everyone should go to eightarc.com where you can get your hands on a great starter stick that is compatible with PS3, PS4 and PC like the Quanba Drone, and amazing accessories like the Guardian backpack.

Yes, that is a great stick. We just gave one away a few weeks ago. We’ll probaby do it again. Can’t beat the price either. How old are you?

I’m 32.

Why do I feel like you’re trolling me again? Are you really 32?

Yup, 32. Why? Do I look that old to you?

Not really, but you’re talking like you’re an old man! (laughs) You could definitely still be jetsetting. Quit talking like you’re a grandfather or something. (laughs) Neither Ganryu or Julia have been announced yet though. If they don’t get announced, who do you think you’ll main in Tekken7?

The few hours I’ve had with the game, I’ve been playing “Gigass.”

Gig-ass? Okay.

I already have a character in mind to switch to though, but that’s a secret for now.

I’d have to say it’s Kazumi Mishama. You seem to like wild and crazy characters, and she has that tiger too! That says “Bronson Tran” all over it. Am I hot or cold?

I will say you are not cold.

On the topic of wild and crazy characters, in all of my years of watching Tekken, especially Tekken Tag Tournament 2 in tournaments, I think you’re the only player I’ve ever seen use True Ogre. Well, except that one time Tasty Steve got pissed at a guy using him in Tekken Ball. What drew you to that character, when in the past you were a Ganryu and Julia player?

Because he’s beautiful inside and outside. Also I love to throw people and Ogre2 lets me do that. When you are playing against Jimmy, who breaks a shit ton of throws, it’s gratifying to wear him down throughout the session. Ogre2 has a pretty simplistic style of throwing until the opponent just gets tired of it and you get to narrow the list of shit opponents will do. It also forces random ducks which leads to launchers and power mids.

This is something I’ve been asking players in interview lately. Anakin, Speedkicks, and many others consider Knee to be best Tekken player of all-time. You’ve played some of the best in the world. Who do you consider to be the best of all-time?

When you talk about dominance, you only talk about Jang Iksu.

That’s the name everyone always brings up! I wish he were still playing.

All the players nowadays are super good, however their is always someone or a few at that top level. Back then no one touched Jang Iksu. Even when you watch Tekken Tag Tournamment vids, he was way ahead of his time. Strongest players I’ve seen in USA are probably Tomhilfig, JOP, Arario. Moreso the first two I listed, at a time where USA was not competing with Asia at all, those guys were able to stand on their own and even dominating (Tomhilfig T4).  Also Fuck Tom.

Did you ever play against him?

I have never played against him, and honestly if we were to play at that stage in time he would have owned me 100%. As in, I would not have been able to beat him at all. Literally, talking about winning zero matches.

I wonder what made him such a dominant player. Do you know?

Probably some natural intuition along with a shit ton of practice.

Who would you say are the best USA players today? I already know you will name yourself and Jimmy. But who else?

Currently I would not be in the discussion if we are talking about Tekken 7, so top players right now are probably Jimmy, Speedkicks, and Anakin. Oh wait how can I forget America’s best player Geesemaster!

Yep, I can agree with that. Though, I’m really look forward to see Geese play all three. You’re a co-founder of StrongStyle, said to be the biggest Tekken tournament series in America. What’s up with it right now?

It is currently standing. There have been talks about Strongstyle for Tekken 7 in 2017, but at this point it is just talks. When we run a NCSS we want it to be better than the one previous, and I am not sure we want to put in the time and money to do that. If we DO run another one, I will still shoot for no stream.

No stream? Why are you opposed to streaming it? Or will you at least later upload the matches to YouTube?

I’m not particular opposed to streaming, I just believe it makes it much more special for the people that actually traveled to the event. Phone cameras are so baller nowadays. The players can just film matches and upload it on their own. It’s not like we are making any money off of the event anyways.

See, there goes that “old man” thinking again. (laughs) How did StrongStyle begin anyway?

It all started with a random conversation between Subtl (Steven), 725 (Andy, eightarc.com) and me. I wanted to run something similar to Socal’s Electric Cancel and just brought it up. They agreed and “boom,” NCSS1 at SVGL.

Man, this has been a delightful interview. I thank you for your time and willingness to do it. You know, with a Tekken “OG” like youself. One more question though. Who’s better at this point in time? You or Jimmy?

Definitely Jimmy, which is always the case when it comes to a new Tekken. He’s generally always had his hands on it first before I do. Whether I catch up this time or not is the real question.

You’ll catch up! Thanks young man!

Aziz Peregrino-Brimah aka Zee the CEO | Founder / Editor-in-chief of TekkenGamer | Gaming has been a passion of Zee's since the early days of Atari and ColecoVision. His first experience with Tekken was in the early 90's, and it was Tekken 3 that sealed the deal. True story... As a teenager Zee once received his Winn-Dixie paycheck and spent it all at the arcade the same day. Needless to say, his mother wasn't pleased.

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