Response to reader: bailey
Oh man... The ways I studied this game was insane. I am probably a crazy person. I tell this to my friend all the time but he's nice enough to tell me otherwise. My references will be through Vanilla then Super.
Step 1: Execution [VANILLA]
First, I learned how to use a TE Joy stick. That was really hard since I only knew how to use pad. I couldn't even do fireballs or dp's. What I did was rotate on each side of the screen (left/right). Fifty fireballs/dp's on the left, and 50 more on the right. If I messed up once I did it all over again. Did that with FADC's into ultra.
Step 2: Execution with Character (Maximizing Your Damage) [VANILLA]
I tried to learn every combo I could with Ryu. I wasn't trying to be fancy at all. I tried to learn all of his 1 frames. Anything that will maximize my damage. That would be f.HP xx cr.HP xx f.DP ect. At tournaments I would mess up a lot. Getting EX fireball or missed links and my buddies hated it. But I didn't care. It helped my muscle memory. Now I think I am fine with links for the most part.
Step 3: Match-ups (Character vs Character) [VANILLA/SUPER]
Every time I lost it was because I didn't know the match-up. I studied videos only. Whatever I had learned from videos I did it. I didn't know why it worked but it worked. Youtube is a goldmine for videos. Use it. My go-to channels for youtube were lordaborigine, lordaboriginesf4, and sf4db. For Super/AE I have many now. I study almost every day now. "It's okay to copy." - Tokido (from there you can sprout your knowledge and get a good understanding of the game).
Step 4: Fundamentals/Footsies [SUPER]
This is huge. Steps 1-3 are very minuscule to actual game play. You can execute and know every move in the game, but if you don't have fundamentals or footsies you will lose a lot. Fundamentals and footsies are unlimited. The player potential is unlimited from here on. The only thing stopping the player is if they stop trying/playing. Fundamentals include spacing, mind games, block-strings, frame-traps, baiting, ect. The list goes on. I used sonichurricane's footsies guide for that. I read it once and got a bit better. However, I had to read it 2 more times to completely understand it and be able to implement it into my gameplay. I won't go any further than this since it's too much to get into.
You will lose a lot before you start winning. Against everyone I had lost to (besides PR Rog because I forgot) I always asked them, "What did I do wrong and what did I do right?" They'll give you a straight answer. At least most of them did for me. You take that and study at home. Come back and beat them. The players are pretty much helping you get better. Take their advice. Anyone (more or less skilled) who observes your game play and critiques it... Listen to them. They are observing you. That's something YOU can't do (unless you record your footage). But still listen to them. Be open to what they say because they wouldn't come up to you and say, "Hey you know you can so and so against this and that" if they weren't trying to help. Be respectful to any player no matter what skill level. You will always be able to learn from them someway.
Make small realistic goals - I want to get top X at event Y. What I did was made goals in the Fresno scene, "I want to get better than... this person." It went on for a while from there. "Okay I want to get better than... NorCal/SoCal." What I usually do is record my goals and achievements to look back and see what I've accomplished. If I can get top x at this event then I can get top x at another event. It's a motivational factor for me to continue training/studying (but then again I'm really competitive xD).
Know yourself. If you learn from watching videos then watch videos. If you learn from reading then read to study/learn/train. If you need someone to show you personally what they mean then ask questions. Know how you learn and implement it into your study/training habits. I learn from anything if I am interested enough. :)
I spent a lot of time playing online/offline. I am very thankful for the people I play online. With great connection and skill, I learned a lot from the many players I had played online. I was very lucky to be able to find them and constantly train against them.
Don't auto-pilot. That's in the footsies guide. Don't do things just because you think it works 10 matches ago. Push yourself to sweep that low forward. Don't just jump-in because the guy is not punishing it. You learn more from 1 hour of actually playing on top of your game than 10 hours of auto-pilot footsies.
One thing Mike Ross told me was to practice vigorously even with little skilled players. Don't anti-air, don't throw fireballs, ect. You get the picture? Push your character and I stress that a lot. Some players play this game yet don't know every single little thing about their character capabilities. Even I don't.
My friend and Kenny told me the only reason I beat players is because I outplay them. I didn't know the match-up I just knew what works. This was after Hadocon when Tatsu killed me and knocked me out. I didn't know the Vega/Claw match-up at all. It wasn't close either. I went home and studied that match-up hard. Kenny, of course, helped me with it. West Coast Warzone 3 came around and Tatsu was my 3rd match. I was happy to say I was able to take him down! It wasn't easy though.
My point is. Study and train a lot. It's very important to know the game you're playing and to train as much as you feel you can. I have a weird thing about being able to play in long intervals. I must thank DotA for that (1 hour average games @_@). That was back then though. :)
Knowledge of the game is so little for me. I don't know a lot about the game and I'm very curious. That is why I want to travel and compete against the Japanese. But I can't do that if I can't even beat the players in California and so forth. That doesn't mean the players in the U.S. are weaker. It just means I want to know more about every single character. I haven't been able to do that since the character variety in the U.S. is very limited.
Hope this helps and isn't too much. Now I must sleep! Thank you for your question