It's halfway into 2018 already and five months since my last post about the 7th KAC and where I stood with my DDR progression. That should have given myself enough time for reflection and coming up with approaches to climbing past plateaus. While I'm still not completely satisfied with my rate of progress, there are a few milestones I've achieved that I believe are noteworthy. Not to sound unappreciative of my accomplishments, because I was very happy to achieve them. I just believe that there is more I can do to improve at a steadier pace.

Paranoia survivor MAX S-Challenge AAA

Let's start off with a pretty great birthday gift. This song and chart, for a long time, has given me a ton of grief since the EXTREME days. Being able to AAA and even PFC this chart is a hallmark achievement for any DDR player, and because of my stubbornness and unwillingness to give up, I was able to achieve it.

My crossover technique was poor and uncoordinated, and still needs a lot of work. While not a very complicated chart, the crossover runs at the end of the song wrecked me every time. What I felt like I was doing right, I was doing wrong. And the judgment and scores don't lie. With my combination of poor technique and compromised muscle memory, I needed to pull out all the stops to correct this once and for all. And not just try something a few times and write it off as a failure if it doesn't work, but I needed to find a method and fully commit to it.

I've tried so many methods over the years just to figure out how to do the ending runs. The ones that I know for sure do not work are: 1) taking a break, and 2) cross-training, such as ITG. I believe that the worst thing you can do with working towards correcting bad muscle memory is doing nothing at all. When I have done something poorly the same way so many times, I'm going to remember doing it that same way no matter how much time passes. Breaking bad habits takes a lot of deliberate and dedicated work, and ignoring it for twelve years wasn't doing me any favors. So why doesn't cross-training work? I've found over the years that no matter how many crossover-intensive charts I play, no matter how more or less complicated than they are than the ending of Paranoia survivor MAX Challenge, it doesn't make them any easier. I was able to execute many crossover-heavy charts in ITG without much issue, but for some reason I wasn't able to transfer that ability over to this one specific chart. So perhaps my real issue was with the chart itself. That despite my efforts, my body would go into auto-pilot while anticipating the ending run. I needed a more precise method to fix such an isolated issue.

In order to practice this chart the right way, I need to be able to do it the right way. But there was no way I could do it at normal speed, so I had to find a way to slow it down to the point where I could do it without error. This is where rate-modding comes in. It involves playing the song in StepMania on a slower music rate so that I can comprehend the patterns and execute proper technique in a controlled manner. Without getting into too much detail, this is how I would practice playing the chart almost every day or as often as I could. I would make sure that I could at least full combo the runs every time for at least ten repetitions before bumping up the speed. If I had too much trouble at a certain speed, I would slow it down again and repeat the same procedure. Leading all the way up to normal music rate, I wanted to make sure that I could full combo the chart on command.

I was able to finally score the AAA on this chart, but I still have some way to go before I can realistically grind for the PFC.

First Level 17 PFC

When I saw the chart for Be A Hero! for the first time, I knew that this would likely be my first level 17 PFC. It was very straightforward and catered to all of my strengths, so it was just a matter of time before I would nail it down. There were a few other candidates I had been working on for my first level 17 PFC, like Emera, Triple Counter, and PRANA+REVOLUTIONARY ADDICT (U1 DJ Mix). Each chart had at least a few tricky sections, leaving much room for error. Be A Hero! was just a matter of having the stamina to keep my timing stable throughout the song.

New Level 18 AAA

Come to Life is such a bangin' track, possibly one of the best songs ever made for DDR. Seeing that a Challenge 18 was made for it was very exciting and made the 18s level range much more approachable. With its fast candle runs and sudden crossovers, I had a hard time keeping up with the chart during the 7th KAC qualifiers. My stamina and familiarity with the chart had improved since then, so gunning for that AAA score seemed like less of an impossible task. I cranked the speed up to x3.75, double-stepped most of the crossovers, and went to town with timing. It only took about two or three attempts that day to get that AAA, making it my second level 18 AAA after Triple Journey Challenge.

There's still a long way for me to go and this journey isn't stopping any time soon. This at least shows that I am still capable of improving at least physically; I will need to come up with some new training methods to overcome some large mental blocks. Specifically targeting my ability to read slow speeds for songs in the 15+ range that have rhythmically complex slow sections. I have some ideas in mind, but I need to stick with them to find the results.