The Red Bull Kumite is an annual invitational event that features that typically focuses on Street Fighter. The event is held in a spectacular venue that resembles a fighting arena, with a live audience, a DJ, and a hype commentator. The Red Bull Kumite is not only a showcase of skill and talent, but also a celebration of the fighting game community and culture. The event also supports the growth and development of the scene by inviting rising stars and local players to participate and challenge the established champions. The event is streamed online for millions of viewers around the world, who can enjoy the action and interact with the players and the hosts.
The players are invited based on their performance in previous tournaments, their popularity, or their potential. The players face each other in a round-robin format, followed by a single-elimination bracket. The stakes are high, the matches are intense, and the atmosphere is electric!
This year’s Red bull Kumite was hosted in Pretoria, South Africa. Street Fighter 6 was the game of choice. Having been released just 4 weeks prior to the Red bull Kumite, fans were curious as to what level of combat to expect. Street Fighter 6 players had clearly been hard at work training, as the competition was of the highest level!
The tournament consisted of a last chance qualifier where players could compete to win the one spot available for the last 16.
The last 16 with, one match up in particular, is what got South Africa’s attention. South Africa’s top Street Fighter player, JabhiM went head-to-head with fighting game legend, Tokido.
Tokido, whose real name is Hajime Taniguchi hails from the fighting games capital of the world, Japan. Tokido is a veritable fighting games legend. Having won 3 EVO championships (the biggest fighting game tournament in the world) the first win being at the age of 17. He is known for being able to compete at the highest level of any fighting game he participates in. Tokido is also known for being one of Japan’s 5 fighting game Gods.
It was clear that JabhiM had a monumental challenge in his first opponent. Jabhi "JabhiM" Mabuza hails from the township of Alexander in Johannesburg. Wanting to be a professional gamer, but not having access to a console, he started by watching fighting game tutorials on the internet. He begun entering tournaments, using the moves he had seen online, and found that he had a natural affinity for fighting games. His perseverance paid off as he was lent a console that he could practice on. In 2019 JabhiM cemented his place at the top of the local Street Fighter scene by winning the Red Bull hit the streets tournament.
Some people may have thought that the match between Tokido and JabhiM was over before it had begun, but those people seriously underestimate both JabhiM’s skill and South Africa’s talent.
In a tightly contested match, where the winner was the first to five, it was the home crowd that was feeling all the nerves. The first six games went equal, with three each. JabhiM went on the win the next game 2-0, making it 4-3. By this time the crowd was going absolutely insane, not a single person was in their seat. The last game was close, with JabhiM wining it 2-1 and securing his place in the next round and pulling of one of the biggest surprises in esports history!
If ever anyone asks you if being a spectator at an esports tournament is eventful, just show them this game. I have been to a lot of sporting events in South Africa, and the energy and excitement in the arena during JabhiM and Tokidos match was right up there with anything I have experienced before.
Big Bird went on to win the Red Bull Kumite, by beating Akainu in the finals. Most players will now be preparing for the EVO championship in August in the United States.
If you love fighting games, you don't want to miss the Red Bull Kumite. It's a unique and thrilling experience that will make you feel like you’re part of the game. As it’s an annual event, you will have to wait for the next one. But in the meantime, check out your local gaming scene, go support tournaments and get involved in the scene. Let’s all contribute to growing esports in South Africa.