Preemptive block

What it is

“Preemptive block” is my umbrella term for a number of systems present in some fighting games. Due to its mechanism, it is often known as “parrying” in a number of games.


The name and nature of a preemptive block differs from game to game, but the end goal is the same: by performing a block in some special way (or alternatively, a special kind of block) in perfect anticipation of an attack’s hit, you will receive a certain litany of benefits.

In general, this will invalidate chip damage, reduce blockstun, reduce or eliminate knockback, build a little meter, and/or reduce or eliminate the guard crush value of the attack(s) defended against.

You can use this for stuffing normally-unstuffable strings, or to attempt a throw.


More often than not, a successful preemptive block will have some sort of graphical effect, usually a flash of some sort.


Depending on the game, the way in which you attempt to block preemptively will be different. Some games will even require you to press a button set aside exclusively for this purpose. Other games have varying commands (see below).

It is worth noting whether a game will allow you to switch right out of a normal block over to a preemptive block. This can affect string strategy by quite a bit, particularly when the defender is in danger of falling to a chip knockout.

Kinds of preemptive blocks

Not every kind is listed here, but all the famous ones are. It should give you a pretty good idea of how different yet quite similar preemptive blocking systems work.


Known under the moniker of “blocking” in Japan, this is the primary preemptive blocking system in Capcom games, such as Street Fighter III, Capcom vs. SNK 2 (P-Groove), Hyper Street Fighter Zero 3 (blue S-ism), and Capcom Fighting Jam (SFIII characters and Shin Gōki).

The basic mechanism is to hit forward (6) on the directional input just as a strike or projectile is about to hit high, or down (2) just as it is about to hit low, for each strike (there are plenty of other subtleties to cover, but this is the basic idea). A success will cause one’s character to flash blue.

The resulting blockstun will actually freeze an opponent if the parry is done against a strike, so it is not of itself an actual stun (multi-hit projectiles? well, that’s a different story).


Unlike most kinds of preemptive blocks, a failure will result in a completely unblocked move, so it incurs high risk, but because all sorts of counterattacks are possible, the returns are also high. Another feature is that one will not take any sort of chip damage if successful. All in all, it’s essentially aimed at advanced players.

Finally, it would be remiss of me to not mention that Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike got rid of the continuous block from New Generation and 2nd Impact, which means that players have to be more careful about letting go of a block, but players may also let go of the block intentionally in order to parry. Although the timing on this is more strict (because one must not only be in block to begin with, but the input is actually allotted less time), this “red parry” causes the character to flash red, and allows one to parry many more hits if he should so choose.

Timing Guard

On the opposite end of the risk/reward scale, we have this system in Street Fighter Alpha 3. By blocking at the last moment, or hitting a button or direction while getting hit or blocking a hit, the character will flash blue. This will reduce damage or chip damage taken, knockback distance, and the accruement of guard crush values.

Just Defense

In Mark of the Wolves, SNK debuted a preemptive block that was quite literally preemptive, and a block. One performs this by inputting the block just before an attack hits.

This system is also used in The King of Fighters: NeoWave and Capcom vs. SNK 2’s K-groove. There is a similar system in Sengoku Basara X.


In MOW, doing this will recover a little bit of life (basically one chip’s worth); in KOFNW and SBX, this will add to the power meter; and in CvS2, you get both.

In MOW and CvS2, Just Defense is possible in midair as well, so long as you are not in a small jump. This is particularly good to attempt, because neither of these games have an air block.

MOW and KOFNW allow you to cancel the resulting stun (see guard cancel), so special move commands that incorporate a block direction can be particularly useful.


This is similar to “Ukekaeshi” from Samurai Shodown II, Instant Block (“Chokuzen Guard”, from loose translation of which I get the term “preemptive block”) from Guilty Gear, and “Agility Defense” from Hokuto no Ken, though the details differ.

Ultimate Guard

A system from Red Earth (and given to characters from that game in Capcom Fighting Jam), where by pressing HP and HK at the same time, you are immune to everything except throws for a very short time (followed by a very long recovery); chip damage and knockback are nonexistent, and the power meter gets charged.

This can be guard cancelled.

EX Shield

As part of the shield system in Melty Blood, a shield activation performed just before an attack hits will not act like a normal shield, but rather like a preemptive block.

Hajiki (“Repelling”)

In this system from the two Last Blade games, pressing the D button will put one’s character in a defenseless-looking state (with a little graphical effect to visually differentiate it from an actual defenseless state); if an opponent lands an attack on this before its recovery time begins, he will be repelled, and be rendered temporarily defenseless himself.

This system is “implemented” (albeit only given to characters from Last Blade) in NEO·GEO Battle Coliseum, essentially implemented as a special move (i.e., a trap move of sorts).


A similar system from the Soul series called “Guard Impact” involves hitting forward or backward plus the block button at the same time. An attempt does not necessarily look very visible, but the resulting flash makes it very obvious when it does happen.


Probably the oldest preemptive block, this system was implemented in Samurai Shodown II, though it was dropped in later series installments.

Essentially, by blocking a standing weapon attack at the very last moment, the opponent will have, instead of the usual stun one gets when an attack is blocked, one full second of stun (and the screen will flash white).

The timing for this is extremely difficult, but it still is a good bonus if one attempts a block on wakeup because the opponent is trying for a perfectly-timed meaty attack.

Reflector (“Kōsei Bōgyo”)

The Reflector system is a preemptive blocking system that merits a mention (from Akatsuki Blitzkampf).

Much like the Hajiki system from the Last Blade games, the attempt requires an explicit button press (BC simultaneously), and will cause a visible effect to display.

Unlike most preemptive block systems, the reflector is rather easy to use by design, but since it is highly visible and is still reasonably punishable, it is pretty fair regardless.

One interesting point is that this system allows time for charge characters to perform their charge moves, among other things.


A “parry” found in Art of Fighting 3, Tekken, and KOF Maximum Impact (among other games, especially 3D games) that looks much more subtle at first glance than most preemptive blocks. When successful, it basically wards off an opponent’s attack, leaving them vulnerable somehow (making it much like a trap move).

Further reading

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Based off the article on the wiki, edited on or before 5 January 2009.
Unofficial translation published by BRPXQZME / Alfie Parthum 1 February 2009. No unauthorized redistribution permitted.