Fundamentals of Spacing.

Perfect Legend

Active Member
1. The object of Dead or Alive and a lot of other fighting games is forcing your opponent to whiff so you can hit them with your most powerful attack or in DOA's case: Knock back. That is the very first layer of DOA's mind game.

2. Here is when it evolves from that. When the opponent is looking for you to whiff so that they can hit is when you move in for a quick low poke or an attack to put you in frame advantage or a throw to break their defense and also take a short amount of damage from them. After you have established this you then back away and Layer 1 restarts to form a new situation.

3. Now when the opponent knows you know that they are looking for a whiff, and they also know you are going to want to come in and hit them with a poke into 50/50 or a throw. They will attempt to use a move to keep you out once you get into that zone of space. Moves that can keep you out are say generic like Ein 4K or some characters neutral Kick, aka the counter hit K at the most basic level and of course you have moves like Ayane back+punch or Hayabusa up+kick.

4. However the opponent now knows you know they are looking for and whiff and they also know you are going to come in and try to hit them with something and they are going to try and keep you out with a keepout attack, but now this is when you move in and back away to force them to whiff (going back to layer 1) and you are able to hit them.

These are the very basics of DOA. Of course when choosing a character you can go by the properties of their attacks by how much range/safety/usability the attacks have, oh yes and the damage.

Baron West

This is interesting. My approach to spacing is very different from this. I'm going to be using DOA2HC as my point of reference.

Backdashing Basics

In DOA only a few moves can be evaded using the sidestep. Generally speaking SSing is not used in DOA(the various versions of DOA3 and the DOA5 builds being the exceptions), and when you do SS a move correctly the rewards aren't good. This is because most of the moves that can be SS'd move the opponent too far forward to punish with a decent combo. Usually you have to respond with an attack that moves your character forward. If you're close enough to your opponent you can get a BT combo going, since back throws are not very damaging.

This means that the best way to evade a move is to back dash. All of the characters backdash the same distance. In DOA a backdash can be cancelled into a guard, which greatly increases the overall utility.

For a reference...when you're as close as possible to your opponent, it's range 0. 1 backdash away from your opponent is range 1. 2 backdashes is range 2. 3 backdashes is range 3. Et cetera. Range 1.5 is the range in-between range 1 and range 2.

Most moves can hit from range 1 or 2. A few slower moves can hit from range 3. Some but not all characters have moves that can hit from range 4.

Range 1 is a very aggressive range to play at. Backdashing at range 1 will avoid throws, jabs, and a relatively small number of strikes. However most moves cannot be successfully backdashed at this range. Players attempting to backdash this close are most likely to be hit by strikes. As a result the most effective defense at range 1 is holding, and blocking. At this range most players will be attacking.

Players often find themselves at range 1.5. It's too far away to be throw by normal throws, but well within the range of most strikes. Backdashing at this range will avoid range 1 moves, and sometimes range 2 moves. This is because most Range 2 moves are relatively fast so it's very possible to get hit while backdashing. This is a mostly offensive range. Range 1.5 is a very good range to use strikes that will tech lows and highs.

Range 2 is the maximum distance most characters can go for a mid/low mix-up. This means that a character at range 2 can usually backdash once and cause most moves to whiff. Simply put, backdashing at range 2 puts a character at range 3, therefore range 2 moves will not connect. While some characters have low attacks that can hit from outside of range 2, they are slow enough to be low held on reaction.

The ability to backdash once and punish most moves makes range 2 an ideal defensive range. However Range 2 is not a safe range. There are many moves that will hit an opponent at range 2 which are either difficult or impossible to avoid on reaction. Furthermore the opponent is also in a position to backdash once and punish. Therefore playing at Range 2, requires good judgement.

At range 2.5 characters become limited offensively. While there are moderately fast mid and high strikes that hit from range 2.5, there are no fast lows. Therefore players can simply guard mid and defend against any incoming attacks. Lots of players will attempt to dash or crouch dash in at this distance to put them self in range for a low or a throw, but any character moving forward is vulnerable to strikes.

Anytime an attacking player whiffs a strike, and their opponent did not backdash or use an evasive movement it is a sign of poor spacing skills on the part of the attacker. Spacing is an extremely fundamental skill, yet players from beginner to expert overestimate the range of their moves and whiff. Having a solid grasp on this skill is a powerful advantage.

For example, Ein and Tengu do not have lows that can hit from range 2. Therefore by staying at range 2 I can block high and safely punish any move they throw out at that range. Ein and Tengu players who don't understand this may find themselves whiffing lows, and/or attempting to dash in and close the distance, at which point they become vulnerable.

Kasumi and Helena fall into a somewhat similar boat. Kasumi's 66K has massive range, but it's abysmally slow and can be low held on reaction. Her normal lows do not have that range. Likewise Helena's longest ranged low can only be done from her BT stance. Admittedly this is more of a threat than Kasumi's, despite being a somewhat lower move.

Jann Lee's 1K sometimes whiffs when he's in open stance at range 2. There are a few other moves characters have that will fall short depending on what stance a character is in, but that depends on the character, and whether or not the move they use puts them in a different stance when it ends.

Jumping backwards moves characters back farther than a backdash does. To the tune of approximately 2 backdashes. It's a good way to great a large gap, but the problem is characters are much more likely to get juggled when they're jumping backwards. I don't know the exact frame data, but jumping takes longer than a backdash so there is a larger window of opportunity for your opponent to hit you. I only jump backwards when I'm already at range 2. Tengu can use the jump to greater advantage to whiff punish since he can perform a special attack while jumping.

A few characters, like Ayane, Kasumi, Genfu, and Tengu have special movements that move them backwards in the form of 7P. All of them cover more distance than a normal backdash, but like the backwards jump they tend to leave the characters vulnerable longer. Kasumi's strikes me as the least practical because it's very slow. Genfu's can be mixed up with an actual attack which can discourage people from charging in. Tengu's can attack out of his which makes it more similar to Genfu's movement. Ayane's back flip strikes me as the best by far because it covers the most distance in a relatively short period of time.

Whenever I start to learn a character, I immediately try to gauge the range of all their moves. It may seem like a tedious practice, but it becomes a decisive factor in mirror matches, and against any opponent who doesn't understand the max range of my character's moves. I've also found that consistently backdashing an opponent correctly can be very demoralizing, even if I don't punish properly.

Environmental Proximity

Another important aspect of spacing in DOA is being aware of your environment, or more specifically your distance to walls and ledges. Most players who pick up a character first learn their max damage juggles. In DOA combos that do maximum damage in open space, typically don't knock opponents towards the wall. Conversely juggles that knock opponents towards the wall won't get maximum damage if there is no wall or ledge present.

As a player it's important to know how much distance it takes for your combo finisher to get environmental damage. With this in mind you can decide whether to go for an open space juggle, or a wall splat juggle to get maximum damage.

The same concept applies to throws. Unlike other 3-D fighting games, command throws in DOA can't be broken. Therefore a player can throw an opponent with the specific intent of changing their position. All characters have wall throws. Usually characters have at least one throw that gets environmental damage from a wall/obstacle in front of them, and one that puts opponents into the wall behind them. Some throws will only get environmental damage if a character is very close to a wall/obstacle, and other throws can knock opponents into walls from a greater distance. Going for a wall throw instead of a regular throw does much better damage.

Being aware of what wall/obstacle/ledge is in front of and/or behind your character can make a difference. Is it more damaging to knock an opponent into the wall in front of you, or behind you? To that end it's good to know if a throw/crouch throw puts an opponent in front of or behind you. Even if a throw doesn't directly cause wall damage, simply changing your opponent's position relative to the environment can put a lot of pressure on them, and put you in a better position.

To novice players, it might seem that the difference in environmental damage isn't worth paying attention too, but over the course of the match it will add up, in addition to having an intimidation factor. Often a small amount of damage will decide who wins the round.

I hope this is useful to someone.


Well-Known Member
Premium Donor
Things to bait whiffs/reactions.
  • Crouch dash in and press neutral free to block when you're just about to come into attack range
  • Start a combo from just outside of range and block, continue, throw (66p+f throws have extended range because of the dash input... in doa4 at least) or provide a mixup.
  • Hold 7 while just out of jab range. It causes some attacks to completely whiff.
  • The range in the point above also maximizes the sidestep (whiff potential) of 88/22p/k attacks. Best used while they are mid string and in that range.
  • Forward dash feint (661)
  • Running feint (While Running 11)
  • Back stepping fuzzy stepping/dashing (1414141)
DOA4 has funny hitboxes, attacks where the character steps forwards extends the hitbox to the point of slightly beyond the model. Don't know if this is across the board but this also gives slow attacks (EG tengu's 8k.. or is it 4k? can't remember. Anyway his high kick launcher were you jabs you in the face with his shoe. His 7k actually has the same effect) where you stand relatively still higher priority than, say, a jab.

Same attacks are safe when blocked at range.

Also note, if you get hit while dashing it will be a hi-counter hit. So keep a finger hovering over free.

How to dash back fast:
44212144 (kbd for those without the dexterity, provides 2-3 dashes with easy)
44244844 (stair stepping)

Use 478/412 to activate freesteping. (f+8 in doa2hc, donno what else in the other games)
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Active Member
Ah yes. The PERFECT LEGEND speaks. BEHOLD IT is I, the ONE WHO HAS RETURNED saying. . .

I agree with this WHOLE HEARTIDLY. Everything PERFECT LEGEND said is the upmost ESSENCE of HLP in it's TRUEST FORM! LISTEN TO THIS MAN!


Well-Known Member
Standard Donor
i m totally agree with you @Baron West when you speak about environemnent, often when i play my opponent say me "you re a bitch you win just because you use the stage danger zone."

so i say " dude its not my fault if you can't watch when your are next to a wall or a breakable object !"
this why i like doa more than other game the stage can change the mind game, reaction and other stuff
with my friends, the fight are too different because they know i want use some stage set up (orbital launcher, slip zone,...) so the fight change and mind game, spacing too...

Soaring Zero

Active Member
This was actually a very good read. I feel like proper spacing ends up flying over A LOT of player's heads. It's something I've been trying to improve on because I feel it can apply to not only DOA but to fighter's in general.


Well-Known Member
Premium Donor
Recently I've noticed the top players are all pre-emptively understanding if they need to space, punish, crush and interrupt. Goes to show, once you learn the basics, being more decisive is awesome.

Soaring Zero

Active Member
Yeah the basics are the foundation of everything. Improving upon them alone will make you a better player. There is always room to improve.