Neutral is when both players can act freely. It makes up most of the game, so learning how to play it is critical. There's no point mastering all the combos and setups if you can't use them in an actual game.
This page contains a brief overview of this character's key neutral tools followed by advice for putting them together.
- The defining feature of these gold standard pokes are their forward momentum, which makes it difficult for opponents to backdash away from Kazumi's pressure.
- Hit confirm into 1,1,2. A faster, safer option than 4 when you want a big payoff from an interrupt.
- While apparently worse than 1,1 as it can't hit confirm into a big payoff, its advantage is that the second hit is much faster. This makes it more resilient against certain evasive moves (such as Kazumi's d/f+2 and slower shadow cutters) and makes it harder for your opponent to whiff punish when ducking or sidestepping your jab strings.
- Slower than 1 and 4 but more robust against movement, with the second hit being mid and having good tracking. The 20 damage payoff shouldn't be underestimated. Good as a safe composite option with sidewalk left, as if it hits the opponent on their right side it can leave them back turned for a guaranteed 1+2.
- Although it's mostly a whiff punisher, throwing 3 out randomly is serviceable for stuffing approaches when 4 might get evaded, especially if you can hit confirm into extensions (that is, do 3,2 or 3,1 only when you see a dash in—but watch out for dash blocks). It's rarely whiff punished because opponents must respect the extensions.
- One of the fastest, safest, and longest range magic fours in the game. A cornerstone of Kazumi's pressure. Its relatively low risk allows liberal use to discourage opponents from attacking.
- A trusty launcher to use at lower levels where f+3,F~2 can go by unpunished, but otherwise suspicious outside of whiff punishment. To go for an RSS mixup, f+3+4 is preferable as it doesn't give the opponent time to react and collect themself to fuzzy guard, interrupt, or sidestep.
- The most aggressive option for opening up opponents, with the main mixup being RSS.4,2, RSS.1+2, and RSS.1+3, which must be crouching guarded, standing guarded, and interrupted respectively.
- High risk evasive launcher for when you just wanna send it. 2,1 into d/f+2 is a potent noob killer.
- A borderline homing move that is in many cases superior to b+2, doing more damage and having a better situation on block and whiff. Particularly effective at the wall, since on block it pushes the opponent into the perfect range for a d/b+4 and more d/f+4, meanwhile anything they do whiffs against a backdash.
- It's often thought that d+3 is inferior to d+4 because of the frame data, but it's mostly the opposite. The primary purpose of these moves is to do damage, and d+3 does more of it. More importantly, the pushback from d+3 on hit and block means the d+3 situations are preferable, despite what the numbers say. d+3 is rarely launched on block and often can't be.
- Where d+4 does shine, however, is okizeme, where its lower profile allows it to evade spring kicks, and it beats side rolls in many situations where d+3 doesn't.
- Can't be relied on as a mixup tool as it's slow enough to be reactable, but nonetheless a powerful move when used sparingly, and when used for oki deals a bit more damage than d/b+3.
- It's often thought that d/b+3 is inferior to d/b+4 except it hits grounded, but the extra speed from d/b+3 is critical for two reasons. The obvious one is that more speed means less risk of being interrupted, e.g. d/b+3 can't be interrupted at +8 (e.g. after hitting a jab) but d/b+4 can be. But less obviously, having a mixture of speeds on lows makes your offense less exposed to fuzzy guarding.
- The on hit situation of d/b+3 is arguably better than d/b+4 when Kazumi is P2, since the opponent in force crouch is unable to sidestep d/f+1. Usually the worst that can happen to d/f+1 after d/b+3 on P2 is eating a dickjab, whereas even at +4 a d/f+1 after d/b+4 is risky because of the composite option sidestep right into launcher. (This difference is negligible compared to the difference in damage dealt but worth noting anyway.)
- While apparently much worse than an ordinary powercrush given you die on whiff, it has a few advantages—it crushes earlier than usual (pc6~ vs the standard pc8~), doesn't get counter hit by lows, beats pokes (which usually recover fast enough to block or duck), and takes less damage from strings (which get interrupted). This makes it a riskier but more dependable “get off me” button.
- Compared with a parry, it crushes a bit later than usual but for longer and isn't specific to any limb (beats not just punches and kicks but also elbows and knees). Unlike a parry it doesn't absorb the damage of the crushed attack.
- Hit confirm into u/f+3,4,3. Serviceable as an orbital to beat lows on a read. Generally preferable to u/f,n,4 since it's safer on block and both lose to movement.
- One of the worst hopkicks in the game. Nonetheless an essential tool as Kazumi's fastest launcher. Not very useful against lows since it's js13~ (compared with the standard js9~ for hopkicks). Useful against parries as it's a knee.
- The cherry on top of Kazumi's pressure. A mixup of this with d/b+4 is the end goal of all of your pokes. Also useful as an approach tool against opponents who like reacting to dashes with attacks.
- Worse range and tracking than wr2 and can be ducked, so mostly a greedy option when you're confident they're going to attack into your approach since it does much more damage. The frame advantage is not super useful because of the massive pushback, but it can be useful as a way to push the opponent closer to the wall, at which point the frame advantage becomes a bigger deal.
- Critical approach tool to prevent opponents from pressing buttons when you run in. Because of the pushback, the situation on block is more-or-less neutral.
- Surprisingly effective when thrown out randomly as it can evade highs and has a lot of range and tracking.
- Rarely punished properly because of its short blockstun. Its huge range make it a potent threat when you're in a FDFA wake-up situation.
Kazumi’s basic gameplan revolves around three tools:
- her 1 jab
- her d/f+1
- and her d/b+4
Her 1 serves numerous purposes due to its range, extensions, and block situations. She always has enough leniency after 1, 1,1, and 1,2 to sidestep comfortably in either direction. Her 1 being +1 also allows her to set up her 4, an i11 counterhit launcher.
Similarly, her d/f+1 being -3 on block gives her more than enough leniency to move efficiently when blocked. The effectiveness of her backdash and sidestep evasion allow Kazumi to create a lot of scary pressure sequences without needing large plus frames like many other characters do. Typical Kazumi flowcharts like 1,1 into sidestep, d/f+1 into sidestep, d/f+4 into backdash, and so on, are simple on the face of it, but that’s partially why they are so strong.
Her d/b+4, then, is her way of really amping up the pressure and opening patient players up. At +4, Kazumi has a plethora of ways to deter specific responses from the opponent, most of which lead to even more pressure. If they choose to button immediately, d/f+1 will beat all options i10 or slower. If they choose to sidestep the d/f+1, b+2 has her covered. On bigger reads, her magic 4 is always a consideration, and opponents trying to bait a whiff via backdashing open themselves up to her oppressive wr1 and wr2 situations.
By simply cycling these three moves in tandem with her top-of-class movement, Kazumi can fish for info, create oppressive barrages of attacks, and shut down retaliation with well-timed counter-hits and whiff punishes.
Kazumi is a character that excels in small frame advantage and disadvantage. The simplicity of her kit and above-average generic movement options mean she can put up pressure walls without needing plus-on-block moves or repeatable knockdown sequences. The amount of forward momentum she gets out of her core pokes and strings is also partially why it feels as if you can never backdash far enough away from her.
An immediately apparent example of how many Kazumi players of all levels harass and stick to the opponent is through her 1 strings and her d/f+1. Given that 1, 1,1, 1,2, and d/f+1 all include a large step forward over the duration of their animations, Kazumi is able to essentially force her way into range 0 at the press of a button. When you compound the aforementioned ability to pressure even at small frame disadvantages due to above-average generic movement, and Kazumi can sidestep or backdash her way out of immediate retaliation with ease. The opponent has the constant threat of being whiff punished or counter-hit launched by her magic 4 to deal with, let alone the fear of the delayable mid extensions off of 1,1 and d/f+1. While both of these extensions are risky, an effective Kazumi's ability to sow a seed of doubt in the opponent by sprinkling these extensions in during sets will provide the hesitation timings needed to net lengthier pressure sequences, or more counter-hit launches. With her d/f+1 and d/b+4 being easily stepped to the right, it is important that Kazumi players take a hot and cold approach to pressure to avoid a sneaky launch sliding its way in, but her ability to sidestep button, b+2, or backdash further than most does give the most button-heavy of players ways to compensate for not wanting to take their foot off the accelerator.
A less immediately apparent example of Kazumi pressure comes in the form of her wr2, and her ability to harass from afar. In practice, maybe it isn't so difficult to see how Kazumi can be a ranged bully, but on paper, it can be easy to assume that a (technically) i18 mid that's -4 on block might not be of much use. Due to the enormous pushback, unless your character has Gigas-length arms, you can't safely approach Kazumi without forfeiting your frame advantage by advancing forward, or eating a whiff punish on an immediate button. And what's more, the range Kazumi is left from you when wr2 is blocked is the perfect range for her to throw out another one if you hesitate, backdash, sidestep, or do practically anything that isn't approach or button. There is counterplay, of course; if your character has a good keepout tool like a ranged or safe df2, or you make a timing read and sidestep the barrage, Kazumi is headed to the ICU. But clever utilization of the wr2 block situation, as well as a good understanding of when to use it in neutral, can cause Kazumi to be a perpetual threat at all times on the screen.
Kazumi's Fearless Warrior stance (often abbreviated to FLY or RSS) is essentially her mix-up stance. While riskier than your conventional mixup stances, it still allows Kazumi access to high damage when utilized appropriately, and can be used raw in the open, or as a transition by holding f after the following moves:
- The most common way to transition into FLY. Given 1+2 is Kazumi's main i12 punisher, is a mid, and has strong range, this lets Kazumi apply her FLY mixup at +9 with relative ease.
- Provides the same situation as 1+2f on hit. This is a much more situational tool, however, as it is an i14 mid on a character with already fantastic i11 and i12 ws punishment. Will typically be used on long-range lows, lows with pushback, and in some niche cases, as a combo ender.
- u/b or u or u/f+2
- While risky, u+2 has its uses as an evasive get-off-me tool during pressure situations, as well as being used as an option select in some niche scenarios. Holding f after provides the same situation as the aforementioned ws3f and 1+2f.
- Given f+3f,2 is one of Kazumi's main long-range launchers, you'll likely be using this transition a lot, even if it is purely to whiff punish. That said, f3 is a unique option for FLY transitioning as f3 alone is -8 on block, making it the only safe on block FLY transitioning tool. On hit, FLY.2 is a guaranteed, non-confirmable followup, while on block, f+3 yields its own unique situation that will be discussed below.
Kazumi has access to the following moves when in FLY (impact frames beginning from when Kazumi is actionable in FLY):
- i19 mid that's -11 on block. Wall bounces and knocks down. Very linear.
- i15 high that's -10 on block. Launches on normal hit and allows access to her delayed hopkick combo routes. Very strong tracking in both directions.
- i23 mid with active frames until i27 that's between -7 and -3 on block depending on when it hits. Knocks down on counter-hit for guaranteed followups. Has the best low crushing of any FLY options. Very linear.
- i18 low-mid knockdown string. First hit is -31 on block and is a stagger low. Second hit is -16 on block. Wall breaks and provides a low wall splat. First hit has some tracking in both directions, however the second hit can whiff even if the first connects at some angles.
- i20 mid that's +4 on block and +8 on hit, with a knockdown on counter-hit. Very similar situation on block to d/b+4 on hit. Some tracking but mostly linear.
- i50 unblockable mid that leads to a grounded crumple stun. If the opponent doesn't tech out of the stun, FLY.4, FLY.3+4, and a deep dash into d/f+4 all lead to a float combo. Very linear.
- i46 mid, unbreakable command grab. Tracks in both directions. Wall splats. Limited by how slow it is and its borderline non-existent range. Used almost exclusively at the wall during oki setups.
- i19 mid can-cans string. -15 on block with a small amount of high evasion during block stun that can cause fast highs used as punishment to whiff. Launches on normal hit. Fairly linear, though the second hit can clip short steps.
The standard FLY situation
After 1+2, ws3, and u+2 on hit, you can opt to either stay in place, leaving Kazumi at -8 on hit, or hold f to initiate a FLY situation at +9. If you opt to take your +9 and initiate the situation, this is what the interaction looks like for all options:
- Will trade with i10 moves, still giving Kazumi a wall bounce. Can be beaten by SWL if your character has above average lateral movement but this is inconsistent and tricky to time.
- Beats practically all retaliation that isn't immediately high crushing or Yoshimitsu's NSS flash. Tracks both ways. Can't be beaten with SS or SW.
- Trades with i14, and can be floated. Easily walkable to either side. Can also be beaten by SSL.
- Beats i10 or slower retaliation. Can not be stepped in either direction. Can be fully jumped over for a side switch, but given no other FLY option can be jumped over, you are essentially losing out on a delayed hopkick punish on a read.
- Easily stepped in either direction, though SSL yields a back turn situation.
- So slow that Kazumi herself can beat it out with manual FLY entry into any FLY option that isn't the unblockable itself or the unbreakable throw.
- Marginally faster than the unblockable, and as such, Kazumi's FLY.3 will yield a "punish" instead of a "counter hit" as FLY.3 is airborne for its duration. Tracks fully in both directions. Can only be avoided laterally if you pair a sidewalk with an evasive move (e.g. Kazumi sidewalk into u/2).
- Trades with i10. Will launch sidewalking in either direction, but she won't get a combo as only one hit of the cancans will clip you. Remember to appropriately punish this on block as it has some high evasion during its recovery.
- Hold b to enter Last Warrior
- If Kazumi decides to skirt backwards with Last Warrior, extremely far reaching moves can catch her early on for a float after a dash. However, you have enough time (once again, on a read), to chase her down and launch her before she is actionable. Requires some ridiculous foresight (or a highly predictable opponent) to execute on this but it is more than doable.
f+3f on block
After f+3, Kazumi can hold f to transition into FLY manually. On block, she transitions at +5. The interaction for all FLY options in this situation are as follows:
- Will trade with i14 moves, giving Kazumi her wall bounce. Can easily SS it in both directions. Will whiff even on tight SS into block.
- Beats i10 or slower retaliation. However, you now have enough time to SS into duck, allowing you to beat FLY.2 as well as a couple of the more linear FLY stance options, such as the aforementioned FLY.1.
- Will trade with i18 moves, letting Kazumi spike the opponent on a trade. Faster options will float Kazumi. Easily beaten by SS, though blocking too fast after SS will cause you to block the move, so a full sidestep is advised.
- Will trade with i13 moves. If Kazumi commits to the full string and trades with a poke-style move like a generic d/f+1, she can convert for a full combo. Can not be beaten by SS or SW, but it does get beaten by quick SS duck alongside FLY.2 and FLY.1.
- Will trade with i17 moves and Kazumi will get a KND. Easily steppable in both directions, though yields a back turn situation. SS duck will work for characters with above average sidesteps but timing is incredibly strict.
- Not much to say here.
- Not much to say here.
- Trades with i14 for a launch but no follow up combo. If you anticipate it will be mixed up with FLY.3, FLY.1, or something very linear, SS standing block is your best bet as the second hit of the can-cans will launch you otherwise.
- Hold b to enter Last Warrior
- No mad dashes required here; on a read you can immediately throw out a poke for a quick and easy float. You can also just react to this situation and chase Kazumi down, either for a launch, or for a float. She's a sitting duck in this situation if you are prepared. Just make sure if you go for a launch to try and catch her just after both her feet are planted on the ground to avoid getting an awkward float/spike/etc.