So far this season there have only been a few players considered real contenders to match up against Ken, the reigning King of Smash, at an MLG event. After Orlando, that number increased by one. KoreanDJ shocked the Smash world when he solidly defeated Ken 3-1 and made his bid as a real threat to the Smash hierarchy. While he has maintained a consistently high level of play the entire season, Orlando proved to be KoreanDJ’s breakout performance, finally beating rival Mew2King and then sending Ken to his earliest exit of the season. As one of the most skilled, enthusiastic and optimistic players out there, KoreanDJ took the time to sit down with MLG and talk about his recent accomplishment, his overall mentality and his advice to new players looking to improve.

MLG: Before we get into things, congratulations on taking third place in Orlando.

KoreanDJ: Thanks, I appreciate that.

MLG: In 2005 you were a relatively unknown player, but ever since you won the Open Bracket in New York you’ve been one of the most feared players on the tour. How long have you been playing Smash?

KoreanDJ: I’ve been playing the game since the day it came out, but that doesn’t amount to anything until you’ve understood the true depth of Smash.

MLG: What about competitively?

KoreanDJ: Competitively, I’ve been playing the game for a year and a half, and the first major tourney I ever went to was a Rhode Island Smashfest hosted by Unknown Force on March 5th, 2005.

MLG: That’s pretty specific; just a year and a half? Most of the pro players on the tour have been playing competitively for much longer. To what can you attribute your success?

KoreanDJ: I didn’t let the lack of experience intimidate me at all. Many pro players were skeptical about my being any good because I was so new to the game, but I just focused on myself and my goals and never let anyone interfere with my love of the game. I’ve been highly motivated to get extremely good at a rapid speed, and it’s been working pretty well so far.

KoreanDJ (right) can be seen facing off against Azen at MLG Orlando. DJ went on to take third at the tournament after his monumental defeat of the legendary Ken.

MLG: I’d say. Orlando topped your previous best finish of 4th place at Dallas. During this season you’ve seemed to develop a rivalry with Mew2King, could you tell us a little bit about that?

KoreanDJ: (laughs) He and I always fought in the Championship Bracket (except Chicago), and he usually defeated me pretty badly. Then at Orlando, I defeated Mew2King, and he was completely shocked at the defeat. He’s bloodthirsty and wants revenge in New York. It’s only natural to develop a kind of rivalry if you and your opponent fight at major tournaments on a consistent basis. What I found interesting was how we both arrived to the MLG scene at the same time and have been having similar results: Mew2King placed 3rd at Chicago, taking out Azen, I placed 3rd at Orlando, sending Ken to the Losers Bracket. I find it funny how radically different we are, but at the same time, how we are very similar. We are both trying to get to the top, and it’s always been a bet to see who can place higher than the other at tournaments.

MLG: You are one of the premier pro Fox players. Speaking of your match-up with Ken, did you expect to win that first game using Fox?

KoreanDJ: Honestly, I had no clue how my Fox would stand up to Ken since I’ve never fought him with Fox before. I just played my best like I always do and I managed to taste victory the first round.

MLG: When Ken counter-staged after the loss, you switched to Sheik. I don’t think he–or anyone really–was expecting that. Do you think your Sheik was pivotal in your victory, or do you think your Fox could have pulled it off still?

KoreanDJ: On Final Destination, my Sheik would have done much better than my Fox because his Marth can chain-grab my Fox with ease. I knew he was going to be Fox if I chose Sheik, and Sheik versus Fox is one of my worst match ups. During a previous tournament, I had the same match-up and he 2-stocked me. However, I’d rather do my Sheik against his Fox on Final Destination than his Marth against my Fox. In the second bout, I had to experiment with stuff I never did before, sort of like a freestyle rap battle. In that match up, it was pure improvisation that defeated Ken.

MLG: (laughs) Comparing Smash to a rap battle–that’s interesting. So you essentially chose the lesser of two evils. Do you find that your style against unfamiliar opponents deviates depending on what you see working, or do you have one consistent strategy that you say applies to all your matches?

KoreanDJ: My style against new opponents is to become flexible. Learning from my past mistake with Azen, I can now adapt my style to be more diverse. I don’t have a consistent strategy for any opponent, considering that my strategy keeps on changing every week, so I have no choice but to be flexible.

MLG: What would you say your top three favorite characters are? What attracts you to these characters?

KoreanDJ: My third favorite character is Sheik. I really like her because she is the most flexible character of them all. I still think she’s Top Tier (yeah, I’m crazy), and she was the first character I ever used as a main character. Her tilts and grabs are what I find the most unique about her.

[note: Sheik’s placement on the Tier List was recently lowered from Top Tier to High Tier.]

My second favorite is Captain Falcon. Man, he is the craziest of crazy. Who wouldn’t like getting hit by three Forward B attacks in a row, followed by three knees in the air (I’m looking at you, Tink)? (laughs) I think he is the most fun character of them all, and I find Captain Falcon to be one of the best characters in the game. Getting triple Knee’d would make you want to put down your controller and start playing Halo 2.

My favorite is Fox. I have the least enjoyment playing Fox, but what I like the most is Fox’s ability to be flexible and fast. My Fox is known for his Shine Spikes, and even though I enjoy Shine Spiking Captain Falcon at 0%, it isn’t the main reason why I enjoy Fox. Whenever I play Fox, I think the least out of all the characters that I play, and Fox is one of the only characters that can match the speed of my subconscious level of thinking.

While we have already been quite impressed with his trajectory throughout the season, many are looking to Korean DJ to make his biggest showing at the Playoffs in New York.

MLG: (laughs) Well put. Looking forward to New York in October, I believe you are slated to once again play against Mew2King (the 4th seed). Do you think you can take him out again?

KoreanDJ: I promise you that it’ll be an incredible match. Mew2King made an oath to avenge his loss to me back at Orlando, yet if you really think about it, I still haven’t had my full revenge yet. Mew2King defeated me in New York, Dallas and Anaheim. I defeated him only in Orlando. So, to fully get my revenge, I have to defeat him both at New York and Las Vegas. I never think about taking anyone out. I just step up my game dramatically and see how it goes. I am going full force at him, but never letting my guard down.

MLG: If you face off against Ken again, do you think you can pull off another victory?

KoreanDJ: That’s an interesting question. Now, think about how Ken did against PC Chris. When PC Chris first played Ken back in New York, PC defeated Ken, pushing Ken off the throne (temporarily). Then, Ken came back with a strong vengeance and beat PC 3-1 in Dallas. PC Chris hasn’t fully defeated Ken after that. Following that example, this occurrence might happen to me, since Ken is Ken for a reason, but I’ll show him that I am KoreanDJ for a reason. I may not promise a victory, but I’ll promise a good fight.

MLG: Who do you foresee winning the Open competition? What about the Level 1 Playoff competition?

KoreanDJ: I am not sure about the Open competition since I know there are many amazing players out there that haven’t been to an MLG yet, but I believe Azen will take first in the Level 1 Playoff competition.

MLG: If you face Azen again, do you think you may be able to make up for your previous mistakes?

KoreanDJ: Azen is a genius, and I’ll give him kudos for that. If I fight him again, I might consider going with Sheik to amend my mistakes–but either way, I won’t be making the same mistakes I made last time. Azen has made me understand Smash a lot more and I was glad to have fought him. Hopefully it’ll be a better fight than before.

MLG: What are your hopes for the rest of the season?

KoreanDJ: I always hope to improve, since I’m of the mentality that I always must improve no matter what, so I’m hoping to at least last to the Grand Finals. Due to the outlook of the brackets in New York, it’ll be the toughest bracket I’ve ever had, considering the fact that I have the toughest opponents in Smash history to play against early on, but I’ll still do my best nonetheless.

MLG: Is there any advice you would like to give new Smashers?

KoreanDJ: Many people come up to me and ask, “How did you get so good so fast?” There is no one exact answer, but one of the major factors in succeeding is the iron will to improve. It’s the will to keep on playing even when you get 4-stocked on a daily basis. The point is to “Never give up, trust your instincts,” as Peppy from Star Fox 64 would say. When you get frustrated on a long-term basis when you lose, or frustrated because you feel like you can’t improve any further, it radically impedes your chances of improving. Setting goals for yourself is key in this game.

When I first started out, I had a rival who was considered the best in my hometown. His name was Brain and he used Peach. I was in the dramatic Finals of a school-hosted tournament, and I barely lost to him. It just snapped after that moment. I said to myself, “Alright, that’s it. First, I must be the best in the school, then the best in the town, then the best in the state, then the best in New England, then the best in East Coast, then the best in the country, then the best in the world.” As unrealistic as it sounds at first, I didn’t let that get the better of me. I just kept playing, check marking every stepping stone that I complete. I’m still far from completing my goal, but I keep moving on through the list. Right now, my next goal is to be the best on the East Coast. In order to do that, I have to take out Chu Dat, Azen, Mew2King and PC Chris consistently. Those are definitely on the Top 5 List of my biggest rivals.

Though I defeated Ken once, to be the best in the country you must take out everyone consistently, and especially the reigning champion more than once or twice. I will not admit I defeated Ken until I have defeated him in the MLG Nationals.

MLG: That is quite a goal! Do you have any other advice?

KoreanDJ: Mentality is very important as well when it comes to your gameplay. You must never be spoiled when playing this game. You must never expect to win every game. You have to have self-discipline and a strong motivation to excel at Smash. Without that, you won’t enjoy the game as much on the competitive level. Just remember, when you get 4-stocked by someone, give that player a handshake and say, “thanks for the practice!” Because who knows; you might be the one 4-stocking them in the future.

MLG: Thank you for your time, and best of luck in New York!

KoreanDJ: Thanks, I really appreciate it.