True to the Core: An interview with René ‘Kor’ Maistry, EVO Champion and KTA founder
He has a mystique about him. If you didn’t know him you’d think he was an model or something. He has this air about himself that suggests that he has seen the world a few times over. But, no, he’s just like the rest of us. Down to earth. A family man. A working man. An aspiring business man. And he does the normal things everyone else does to have fun and relax. One thing he can say that many other can’t though is that he’s an EVO and MLG champion. Yes, he will most likely body you in Tekken. Plus he has a very cute dog that he’s dedicated an Instagram page too. His family calls René, but in the Tekken community he’s the one and only Kor.
Kor! Thanks for the interview, sir. Congrats to you and your lovely wife on the new baby. How are you enjoying fatherhood? I see the dog has even warmed up to her. (laughs)
First off, thanks for the opportunity for this interview, it is a great honor for me. As for fatherhood, I am very lucky. The hardest part of having a newborn is being handled mainly by my wife and her parents who are here helping out for a few months. I know sooner or later I will have a much better answer for you regarding fatherhood. (laughs) And yes, our fluff baby has definitely shown his ‘big & caring sibling’ side to his little brother.
Any more children in the future?
Hmmm, can’t say for sure. But, yes, that is in the plan, to have a little girl. Just trying to get through one first.
Now, you’re from Durban, South Africa. Is that right?
That is correct. Born and raised for 16 years of my life.
When did you come to the US, as a teenager? Did you come alone?
I was a teenager. Yes and no, I came with my family. Most of them at least.
Man, I’m sure that was a culture shock. South Africa and America seem very different.
There was a little culture shock, but not too bad. South Africa is a melting pot similarly to the US. The only big difference for me was how informal high school was versus the strict, military-like school I attended in South Africa. Fortunately, I had Tekken to fall back on which cushioned the little “culture shock” I faced.
Perfect segway. Was there a Tekken scene in South Africa?
Hmm, I was never really into the scene. I am sure there was back then, I was just too much of a filthy casual. (laughs) Right now, I know the scene over there as they have reached out to me. It’s pretty cool knowing that if I ever go home to visit, there would be a group of players I can call a community.
When did you first get into Tekken?
For fun, since like 13 years old. Competitively, 2005.
Why Tekken above other fighting games?
I’ve always played fighting games my whole life, for fun, not at any sort of competitive level. When we were kids, my brothers and I would play on the 16-bit Mega Drive and play Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Primal Rage, etc. When we used to go to the arcades, Tekken was always the first game I would play. Back then was Tekken Tag Tournament, which I remember would always draw a crowd to the machine. I guess Tekken was always intriguing for me due to its 3D platform and popularity. When I came to the USA, I saw Tekken 5 in the arcades and thought I would play for fun, and with not much else to do after arriving into a new country, I explored and played deeper.
It sounds like Tekken was a way to adapt with living in a new country, not knowing anyone or anything. Almost like a bond had been formed between you and the game. When did you realize you were good enough to start playing on a pro level?
Definitely after playing with some of the Houston guys who were considered “good players” back then. Of course, I would get destroyed and they would be just so bored beating me but I watched, learned and got advice to get better, and eventually saw myself improving over days, weeks. They saw the same improvement in me, which gave me the confidence to take it to the next step and play professionally.
During the Tekken 6 era you won a couple of MLG events in 2010, and EVO 2011 as well. Would you say that those accomplishments really helped propel your Tekken career?
Tekken 6 was definitely my most accolated Tekken, however, I do feel that Tekken 5 and DR was when I made the most personal accomplishments – overcoming some of the toughest obstacles and players to reach levels I never thought I would. Through the tournaments I did win in Tekken 6 I saw more opportunities within the community and more recognition from outside communities and leaders. This is when I considered Tekken being more professional for me rather than just a game with matches I would try to win. I feel each Tekken had significant meaning to me on a personal level.
Tekken has taken you all over the world, and I have seen you everywhere representing Tekken. You were even in a music video with Snoop Dogg. On top of all of that, you’re respected as a person and player. I would venture to say you are viewed as somewhat of an ambassador for Tekken. Do you see that as well?
It’s a great honor to have people know me as ‘Kor’ a Tekken player from the USA. But as an ambassador? I never looked at myself this way. I do believe anyone that is traveling to another country to play or hosts a Twitch or YouTube channel, or is involved at a Tekken event is an ambassador, representing their home and themselves. How they choose to carry themselves or the impression they leave is really up to them but can make a pretty large impact on people. Maybe people look at the Academy (Kor’s Tekken Academy) as a form of larger group representation for Tekken, like Tekken Zaibatsu once was. But it really is just to help people improve, distribute news, share thoughts and opinions of gameplay strategies and communities. I had no intention of it being the online Tekken community.
Speaking of Kor’s Tekken Academy, what made you decide to create the group?
It was created in the limbo of Tekken 6 to TTT2 era. Kind of like the era we are currently in, just waiting for Tekken 7. It was made to help players from the beginning of TTT2 with answering any gameplay questions to improve. Anakin was actually involved with me from the beginning as we discussed the idea and thought it would serve a decent purpose.
What is that purpose?
The academy’s purpose was to alliance the world of Tekken in best efforts of coming together to help each other improve.
Is the goal of the group being fulfilled in your opinion?
Some say yes, some say no. There are a lot of helpful and caring people who are out there, which surprises me daily. The group has also somewhat navigated to a discussion board also and amongst other things. But people should really look at the documents/files- there exists some pretty epic information which can help newbies and top players alike!
Like I said earlier, you’ve traveled the world playing Tekken. Which country has the best Tekken players?
Regarding top players, I would say Korea has the most “famous” top players in skill and in numbers. But there are hard opponents existing all over the world. To me, a few in at least each continent. (laughs)
That’s a very real answer. People act like only certain places have the best players. Who would you say was the best player you ever encountered? And why?
It’s very hard to answer that question, reason being is that I have lost to many great players but for reasons I could always pin-point out. The most challenging player would be someone I could just throw my controller down and say, I absolutely cannot beat you. For me, I would say there are none. So regarding the best player I have encountered would be on a scale whereby I judge on an overall scale against all players – In which case I would say Knee or JDCR. Experience says all.
Okay, back to you. Rene’ Maistry. That is your full name?
And you used to DJ, going by the name DJ Kor. Are you still into music?
I’m a phony! (laughs)
Okay. Explain this madness! (laughs)
The origins is that I used to really, really be into trance, dance, all the now called EDM, genre of music. There was a European DJ named DJ Cor Fijneman, who’s name I stole and turned the C into a K, and called it original.
So you’re phony and a thief! (laughs)
Nowadays, I just listen to absolutely anything that sounds good. So totally not into music these days.
I’m still laughing. Now, you were once sponsored by MadCatz, as well as EMP. It seems like more New York players were on EMP back in the day. So, how did you land on EMP being from Houston, TX?
I’ve been trying to recall how I landed that and I am having a hard time remembering. I believe it was after DMG fell through, and the VxG community of the Caribbean had picked up an EMP alliance. After traveling to St. Maartens, I was closer with the VxG, EMP team, and I think that’s how it happened. I could be wrong and discrediting someone who had a part to play, but that is all I can remember. I’ve burned a lot of brain cells since then!
You’re from Houston, and Houston has some pretty well known Tekken players. One such player is Crow. As you know, he won EVO twice, and his name always comes up as one of the top USA players of all-time. I know that he took you under his wing and helped mold you into the player that you eventually became. In what ways did he help you improve your game?
Wow, yes, I really owe a lot of my player skill to Crow. We played for so many hours on end during the Tekken 5 era. He had the patience to play with me, and I had vigor to improve and learn from him. This incidentally was a recipe to success. Through the years of playing each other constantly, it eventually came such that we improved off each other. We would travel together, and of course support and advise each other through tough matches. Not to mention, Houston is full of old-school top players, who Crow was able to train with when he was coming up. These players had a big part to play in molding who I became as a player through the years.
Where is Crow today by the way? Do you know? Has he retired?
Yes, Crow is still around and still plays – much more casually these days. I believe if he made a return, he would be a strong contender amongst the top guys today as he was in his prime.
When you first started playing Tekken, Ganryu was your main, which made your a defensive player. You later transitioned to Bob and became an offensive player. Why the switch, and which do you prefer?
It’s hard to say which I prefer.I enjoyed playing Ganryu back then as much as I do playing Bob. The defensive style was more consistent, but after Tekken 5 I felt you needed more offense to win. Which is why Bob playstyle was spawned.
You definitely play Bob aggressively. Is there a key playing Bob like an offensive monster?
The key is to mix up frame advantage pokes and attacks with slower moves to create further frame advantage situations, giving “fake frames.” And to setup for evasive movement and attacks to punish them into thinking it was a disadvantage situation they could have taken advantage of.
It sounds like Akuma may be right up your alley.
Hmmm, maybe. Akuma always has been my favorite Capcom character. I may give him a try!
When Bob was announced at EVO this year, not too many were excited because it brought back memories of 2011 when there was Bob mirror match grand finals between you and NYC Fab. How do you feel about Bob being back in the game?
Of course, I was happy to hear the announcement of Bob. I don’t believe people felt the memories of 2011 would return. In fact, players just have a negative stigma of Bob as a character due to his simple shutdown playstyle and effective offense, attacks. Regarding the EVO grand finals, it was a favorable match up for me being that Crow played Bob and we would train that match up for hours on end.
Who is the best Bob player in America and the world?
Hmmmm. I would say, I honestly think, and this is only my opinion, that I play Bob the way he should be played – an offensive monster. But of course, there are players like Saint, Take, Genkids, etc, that are better players than I and use the tag system and their overall player skill and experience to win more with him.
Have you had any experience with Tekken 7?
I have played Tekken 7, Vanilla version. It’s fun and it’s Tekken. Tekken is Tekken to me. You learn the new system and you continue traveling and playing competitively.
How have you personally handled the long wait for Tekken 7
TTT2 feeds my “Tekken fix.” And to be honest, I wish TTT2 would never die. It was truly the best and most challenging Tekken for me, I love the game. I would play it forever!
So you still play TTT2?
I do play once in a while. I do have the urges to play and I still watch videos of top players or people who would like me to watch their videos. It is still very much enjoyable to me.
You’re married now, just had a baby, you’re working and are a family man now. Do you plan or have time to compete once Tekken 7 comes out?
I think I will give it a try casually first, and then see how time allows me to play locally, regionally and then nationally. Baby steps!
eSports is upon us. Do you think Tekken 7 will make the Tekken scene great again? Will it reach or exceed the heights Street Fighter V?
Hmm, I don’t want to sound negative but I do not believe Tekken will ever reach those heights here in the USA.Simply because of the smaller and less driven, motivated community we have. This extends to a handful of top players who are fan favorites to win events, and most likely do. Whereas Street Fighter V has an abundance of players, international competition, top US players who are sponsored, travel and have the vigor to be the very best and try to win major prizes. Tekken is much more minute on this level of eSports.
You may not remember, but I first met you in 2013 at The Fall Classic. You had just gotten eliminated, but I thought you played great. We were walking past one another and I told you that you played well. I was already familiar with you, but that was the first time meeting you in person. One thing that was noticeable was that you had your own sense of style. It’s very unique. Having said that, you’re a very intriguing person from your personality to your appearance. Where does all of that stem from?
I wish I could remember, but I do have horrible memory. I would definitely remember your face though if we met again. And thanks, I will take what you said as a compliment. (smiles) Hmm, style-wise, I don’t know where it stemmed from. A lot of people ask me if I watch anime, or follow Japanese culture, or Zoolander or whatever – all of which have zero influence to my “style.” (laughs) I really don’t know, I guess it’s just something that formulated with time? Whatever came to mind? (laughs) Such an uninteresting answer, I know. Personality wise, I have always been a certain way, from the way I was raised, and have certain rules and beliefs that will stay with me in regards to my behavior and how I treat people.
I feel that. Just a few more questions. What’s next for you in the Tekken world and in life?
Tekken world? Not much. We shall see. Life? Big dreams! I am hoping to be able to start my own business in the near future in the same, related field I have been working in for 11 years. I live and breath the copper industry now.
Copper? What exactly do you do?
I work with manufacturing companies who make semi-finished copper alloys and I sell and market their products in the US market, to OEMs and the industrial sector. Pretty fascinating stuff! It is now my passion in life.
Very interesting. Sounds like you’re very busy. What do you do to relax?
My life pretty much is just working, going to the gym, spending time with the dog and wife, and new baby now.
All that working, man. What do you do to let loose, have fun, or get wild and crazy?
This is a strange question. I will say, drink beer at home and watch a TV show or something. That is the extent to my crazy fun these days!
Last question, what do you think of our site TekkenGamer.com?
I love it! It’s the greatest Tekken site to exist since TekkenZaibatsu. Keep it up man. Your posts and updates are always exciting! You’re revitalizing the scene.
Thanks so much man. That means a lot coming from you. How can people keep up with you?
Best way to keep up with me is on Facebook. I am on Instagram but my Instagram follows the life of my fur baby.
You and my mother both love dogs man! (laughs) Before we go, I just want to personally thank you for all you’ve done for the Tekken community. You’re a great leader. You represent us well and professionally wherever you go. You carry yourself with class, and I can tell that people highly respect you. So, thank you for that Kor. I mean it.
And thank you, sir, for your efforts to bring interest and excitement to the community through your website.