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Tekken 8 Beginner Series: How to Read Notation Part I

Patrick Bonifacio

As far as fighting game titles go, Tekken 8 is up there among the most complex. Short of anime style games like Under Night In-Birth or BlazBlue, Tekken 8 is as hard as they come. With hundreds of moves per character and maybe half as many interactions that aren’t immediately obvious or apparent, it can take years to really get good at this game.

Tekken 8 Splash

via Bandai Namco

But as with anything else in the world of competitive video games, everyone has to start somewhere. Not even famous players like Arslan “Arslan Ash” Siddique and Bae “Knee” Jae-min were born ready to take on the Tekken World Tour right away. They too, believe it or not, had to go through the beginner phase before becoming champions.

With that in mind, we’re here to get you started on this arduous but wonderful journey. Whether you’ve never touched a Tekken game in your life or dabbled in the franchise once in a while, we’ve got you covered with our beginner guides. Welcome to the first entry in our Tekken 8 Beginner Series — starting off with how to read Tekken’s universal notation system.

What is Tekken Notation?

Like many others in the genre, Tekken is a fighting game that has its place in both arcades and in home consoles. The first title in the series released on arcade machines in 1994, followed by a PlayStation release in 1995. Every new Tekken game thereafter followed suit, with the exception of Tekken 8 which released on console first (with the arcade version still pending). And starting with Tekken 6 in 2009, other platforms like the Xbox 360 and Wii saw Tekken released on their side as well. Tekken 7 then put the series on PC for the first time in 2017.

Knowing this, and the fact that all three major consoles have different naming conventions for their face buttons, it became necessary to develop a universal notation system for commands in Tekken. Rather than using “square”, “triangle”, “X”, “Y”, etc., the community follows said universal system to eliminate confusion between players that aren’t familiar with other platforms.

Thus, whether you’re someone that grew up in the arcades or got into Tekken from the comfort of your own home, you’ll be able to speak the lingua franca of the series without difficulty if you learn the notation system. At first, it’s going to sound almost alien, but as with any language, it just takes practice and repeated exposure to get used to it.

First Things First

The first step to learning the notation system is to start with the very basics. Movement and basic attacks are both the foundation of any fighting game, and Tekken of course is no exception. Movement includes directional inputs such as forward and back, along with 3D movement such as “sidestep left”. Basic attacks, meanwhile, refer to offensive moves such as punching or kicking.

So to begin, the most fundamental pieces of notation you need to learn are in the following diagrams:

Movement and Direction

Tekken 8 Movement Notation

Figure A. Note: the notation assumes that your character is on the left side, facing the opponent on the right side

These refer to the cardinal directions of an arcade stick or d-pad on a controller. For example, the notation u/f, read aloud as “up-forward”, means that the joystick or d-pad is moved or pressed towards the northeast position, i.e. up and forward simultaneously. The notation b meanwhile simply means “back”, which means the joystick or d-pad is towards the west position. d/f or “down-forward” means southeast position, and so on.

With regards to forward and back in particular, the reason these directions aren’t called “left” or “right” is because the game bases directional input on where your character is on the screen relative to your opponent. For example, a character on the left side facing their opponent on the right side will need to press right on the joystick or d-pad to move forward. Conversely, someone on the right side facing left would need to press left on the joystick or d-pad instead to accomplish the same thing.

Tapping the same direction twice in succession performs a dash — double forward executing a forward dash and double back executing a back dash. Dashing allows you to safely close the distance to your opponent or create distance to give yourself breathing room. Tekken is unique in the sense that it is one of the few fighting games out there where it is possible to cancel your dash into another dash, but this is more of an intermediate concept that we’ll discuss in a future guide.

As for n in the star shape in the center of Figure A, this refers to “neutral”, which means that the joystick or d-pad is not pressed in any particular direction; in other words, it is resting in a neutral position — like in a car with a manual transmission. Though this particular notation doesn’t come up very often (depending on the character you’re playing as), it’s important to at least know that it exists just in case you come across it in your character’s move list.

Basic Attacks

Tekken is unique with regards to basic attacks, as they are all tied to the four limbs on each character. This is in stark contrast to other fighting games like Street Fighter and Guilty Gear, which tend to assign basic attacks according to the strength of each attack. Where Street Fighter might have a medium punch or heavy kick, Tekken instead has left punch, right punch, left kick, and right kick.

Tekken 8 Basic Attacks Notation

Figure B. Each button in the diagram corresponds to the four face buttons on a controller or arcade stick

To that end, we will refer to each basic attack command with the digits 1, 2, 3, and 4. For those used to PlayStation controllers, these correspond to Square, Triangle, Cross, and Circle, respectively. For the Xbox users out there, these correspond to X, Y, A, and B, respectively.

Putting them Together

Okay, so you know how to read movement and attack commands out loud. In practical application, they don’t really mean much on their own, so let’s look at an example of how to put them together to form a cohesive string of commands that you can use in actual gameplay.

For instance, let’s pretend we’re playing as Kazuya Mishima. One of the first things on his move list is the Flash Punch Combo, which is done by pressing left punch, left punch, and right punch, one after another. In universal notation, you would read this move as 1, 1, 2 — with commas separating each individual button press.

Now what about his Left Splits Kick? This move is done by pressing forward, then forward and left kick at the same time — or f,f+3 in notation terms.

To read this aloud, you would say “forward forward three”. The plus sign in there denotes pressing buttons simultaneously, so keep this in mind as we go into more complex input combinations.

Leveling Up

Speaking of complex inputs, let’s move over to Paul Phoenix this time. One of his most notorious moves is the Phoenix Smasher, which we actually talked about in one of our previous Tekken 8 guides. This move requires a down input, quickly followed by down-forward, then forward and right punch simultaneously.

In notation terms, you would think this would result in d, d/f, f+2. And while this would technically be correct, this particular directional input and other similar inputs actually goes by qcf+2 in Tekken parlance, or “quarter circle forward two”. For those that have dabbled in Street Fighter before, qcf is the exact motion required to fire Ryu’s Hadouken.

Abbreviations like this essentially shorten and simplify the notation required. However, this only really applies to inputs that would otherwise take more effort to type out or say out loud, so generally you’ll only see things like qcf or qcb (quarter circle back) when the move in question requires three or more directional inputs.

As a side note for those new to fighting games entirely, the exact method of how to execute complex inputs like qcf isn’t readily apparent. To the untrained eye, it would seem like it requires one to press the directional inputs individually. On the contrary, the way you do a qcf is by “rolling” through the required inputs in one, sweeping motion.

On a controller, you would normally do this by gliding your thumb from down, to down-forward, then forward in the space of about one-third of a second. On an arcade stick, this would involve swiping the joystick with your hand in much the same way. Doing the inputs one at a time won’t work in this case.

Now, let’s go back to Kazuya for the last part of this section. If we scroll through his move list, we’ll see that there’s a move called the Wind God Fist, which requires an input of f, n, d, d/f+2. You would read this as “forward, neutral, down, down-forward two”. Remember when we mentioned that the notation for neutral doesn’t come up very often? Well, as Kazuya is part of the Mishima family of characters, this input is central to some of his most important moves. Under the move list, this appears as a star (★) in between other directional inputs.

As you can see, this would be a real mouthful to say out loud. That’s four directional inputs in the same command, after all. Thus, the community normally shortens the notation for this to cd, short for “crouch dash”. The name comes from the fact that the animation associated with the input itself sees the character dashing in while ducking. Note that only a handful of characters in the game, the Mishimas included, have access to crouch dashing.

So in this case, you could simply use the notation cd+2 to refer to Kazuya’s Wind God Fist.

Thinking in Three Dimensions

Moving on, we should also touch upon the fact that Tekken is a three-dimensional fighting game, which means characters can move into the foreground and background. Again, this is unlike other franchises Street Fighter and Guilty Gear, which don’t feature a third axis of movement at all.

In order to move into the foreground and background as such, Tekken characters can execute a sidestep. To perform a sidestep, briefly tap either u or d. Your character will step towards their left or right shoulder depending on where you’re facing relative to your opponent. For instance, if your character is on the left, facing their opponent to the right, tapping u would cause them to step towards their left shoulder into the foreground.

Knowing all this, we would refer to such movement as sidestep left, or SSL in notation terms. The opposite would be SSR or sidestep right.

Furthermore, it is possible to sidewalk continuously in either direction, executed by tapping u or d, then tapping and holding the same directional input immediately thereafter. We refer to this as either SWL or SWR, which read as sidewalk left and sidewalk right respectively. On that note, we should also mention that when a directional input is capitalized, that means you need to hold that input. So in the case of SWL, the full input would be u, U.

The primary purpose of this type of movement is to evade certain moves which are linear or have poor side-to-side tracking. Moves like Jin’s Demon’s Paw (f,f+2) will whiff against 3D movement more often than not, allowing his opponent to dodge the move while simultaneously leaving him completely vulnerable.

Aside from this, most characters in Tekken 8 have moves locked behind sidestepping. Take Devil Jin’s Devil Twister, for example: it requires a sidestep followed by a 2 input. Under notation rules, this would read as SS 2, or simply “sidestep two”.


To wrap things up, let’s summarize all the inputs we’ve learned thus far and their respective notations:


  • Forward: f
  • Back: b
  • Up: u
  • Down: d
  • Neutral: n
  • Up-forward: u/f
  • Up-back: u/b
  • Down-forward: d/f
  • Down-back: d/b

* Capitalized directional inputs denote that they must be held.

Complex Directional

  • Quarter circle forward: qcf (d, d/f, f)
  • Quarter circle back: qcb (d, d/b, b)
  • Half circle forward: hcf (b, d/b, d, d/f, f)
  • Half circle back: hcb (f, d/f, d, d/b, b)
  • Crouch dash: cd (f, n, d, d/f)

Basic Attacks

  • Left punch: 1
  • Right punch: 2
  • Left kick: 3
  • Right kick: 4


  • Press in sequence: , (comma)
  • Press simultaneously: + (plus sign)

3D Movement

  • Sidestep: SS (u or d)
  • Sidestep left: SSL
  • Sidestep right: SSR
  • Sidewalk: SW
  • Sidewalk left: SWL (u, U or d, D depending on where your character is facing)
  • Sidewalk right: SWR (u, U or d, D depending on where your character is facing)

These basic notations will get you started on the right foot when communicating with other Tekken players, especially more experienced ones that may be willing to help newbies. If you see them typing tips and advice out this way, our guide will help you make heads or tails of what you see on the internet.

We’ll leave things here for now, but we’re honestly just getting started. Stay tuned for further entries in our Beginner Series, where we’ll go over more advanced notation such as those used for stances, moves locked behind the state known as “while standing”, and more.

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick has been playing Dota since the dawn of time, having started with the original custom game for WarCraft III. He primarily plays safe lane and solo mid, preferring to leave the glorious task of playing support to others.

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