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Once a leader of the Northeast Tekken scene, Real Law talks the good, the bad and the ugly

On Thursdays we want to begin highlighting some of the Tekken veterans who have contributed a great deal to the Tekken community. They are rich in history, stories, and have some of the best memories to share. Juan ‘Real Law’ Zerbarini is one such player. A New Yorker who loves his city and Tekken, he used to be one of the leaders of the Northeast. Take a trip down memory lane as he shares his heart, rehearsing past experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Hey Juan, thanks for the interview man. You’re a proud New Yorker. What part are your from, and were you born and raised there?

My heart pumps NYC. I was born and raised in the Bronx, moved upstate to the Hudson Valley in ’95, and still reside there. But always a BX kid at heart.

You and I came up during the era of arcades. What were they like back then in New York?

It was a shark tank. People were killers, man. Either you won or waited for like 20-30 minutes to play again. Most times, if it was a new Tekken and people knew strings, no-one told you. Or, it was a character you had no matchup experience with, no-one told you how to deal with it. You just had to find out yourself, not like today when there are so many resources to help players get better and get info.

You sound like one of those parents who tells their kids about the long walks to school, when school buses didn’t exist. (laughs) Something I find interesting, though, is that you’re from NY, but you used to play at The Break in New Jersey. Did you used to live there? 

Crazy part is, no, I have never lived in New Jersey. That is actually an old NY joke that people would laugh at whenever people asked me that. I was always asked for directions in New Jersey from out-of-towners when The Break ran ECC or Clash back in the day. It happened constantly. (laughs)

Who were some of the players at The Break?

Players that were at The Break every week were Steve H, who ran the weekly, Brian H, Teky, Mr. Quotes, Mr. Cakes, The Realyst, who traveled from NYC, and later Conn. Bryheem, yes, that Bryheem, was there heavy at the start of Tekken 5, Josh Wong, Seeing Red, a few locals that would show up. Once in a while we’d get visitors from the DMV region. If it was a special week, we’d get guys from SOVA like Jinmaster, SMP, LOC. It was a pretty cool time to play and get better. I miss those days.

I know that Justin Wongg used to play at Chinatown Fair arcade. Did you ever run into him?

Oh yeah, every Friday night. Sometimes Saturday if there was a monthly there. (laughs) Friday was the night everyone went down to China Fair to play Tekken or whatever game they were into. Tuesday night was Break Tourney Night and Friday was casuals at China Fair. I still know and talk to alot of the crowd that played Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and 3 from China Fair, and later Street Fighter 4 in ’09, people like Justin, Sanford, Yipes, LI Joe, Arturo, Desmond, Landon Twins, Jeron, etc. If you were a regular at China Fair, and were a good player at whatever game you played, people knew you and we knew or knew of each other.

It’s amazing to see how far many of those people you named have come within the FGC. And I mean doing it big. When did you start getting into Tekken and taking it seriously though?

When I left the Air Force in 2004. I was walking around my local mall arcade and saw Tekken 5. That happens to be the time of the national tourney qualifiers. I won the qualifier there to play in Philly. On the arcade cab I saw the website that would alter my future forever – Tekken Zaibatsu. I went on there and saw the match maker thread, saw there was a scene in NYC, and saw there was a weekly in Dunellen, NJ, and the rest is history. I showed up to my first Break Weekly and got introduced to the world of competitive Tekken.

That’s awesome, man. I love hearing how people get into the game. I understand you had a rough introduction into it though. You had some friends that helped you “git guud” during a trip to Virginia or something?

Yeah, I was steady getting 9th or 13th at 16-man weekly’s at first, going 0-2 at tourneys in 5.0 until Jinmaster convinced me to come down to Virginia to learn how to properly play some Tekken. I stayed there for about ten days or so. I learned from him and at the same time got pummeled by him and the likes of SMP and LOC. Right after, though, we drove up to Maryland for a monthly and immeditately I saw some improvement. I got 4th in a pretty big event. I left there and DR just dropped in arcades. I got 2nd at the Break weekly, got 5th at NEC in 5.0, losing to Sanford 2-1 in a down to the wire match. Then, at Crown The King, a huge NYC monthly, I got 4th in DR. The next event was Clash ’07, the epic Break major, where the highlight was Mojo beating Crow and Slips for NYC’s first major win. And I got a pretty respectable 9th. From there I tried to continue to do well at events and did for a while through DR and Tekken 6.

It’s amazing how you remember details from that far back. But I guess you never forget the things that make you the player you become. Since we’re going down memory lane, many newcomers don’t know your contribution to the Tekken community. You’re one of the founding members of 4 Horsemen. How did 4H get started? 

As far as contributions, most of them don’t know I ran the monthlies for a while at China Fair, and ran the Tekken events at Big E events and ECT during Tekken 6 and some of Tag 2, also doing most the commentary of EC events for Tekken 6 and early Tag 2. I came up commentating during the very start of streaming events for Team Spooky and Jaxel and was actually first to be the other commentator with Seb at MLG. So besides playing I’ve done what I could to help whenever the community needed me cause I loved it so much.

I hear you bro.

I’m actually the founder of 4H.

Ah okay.

It was my idea, but Brian H and I are co-captains. I pitched it to Brian H and Teky at the original VTYME in 2005.

Why did y’ll decide to build a team then? I mean, this was way before eSports was ever thought of.

The reason behind the team was that Brian would go to NYC a lot and win their tourneys, so NYC started to kind of gang up to try to stop him. So I figured since NYC had their own team, TNY, we should have ours. So oddly enough, 4H was first an anti-NYC team, to go against them.

Interesting. Who were the original members, and who were some the others? 

Brian H, TeKy, Josh Wong, and myself were the original 4H. Josh stopped playing after 5.0 and was replaced with LOC. It was that lineup for years until Vtyme ’07 when I took FightingGM under my wing to take over my spot. I just had my daughter and was planning on leaving the scene. Brian was being less involved as well, so we brought on NYC Fab to replace him eventually. Neither of us could stay away though, so we had 6, but only really 4 active players with TeKy playing sparingly and LOC away in Ohio.

Man, you’re naming so many well-respected players.

Inkognito moved to New Jersey in 2009, and started hanging out with me and Brian. So Brian invited him on the team, now there was 7, but only really 3-4 actively playing. (laughs) Tekken 6 arrived and it was mostly me, Fab, and GM traveling heavy for it with Inkog traveling for Tekken 6 MLG’s. Things started to change a little as the sponsors came in.

Change how?

I was the first east coast player sponsored to vVv for MLG for a while, and then DMG MCZ. And Fab and GM followed me after being in Empire for a bit, so 4H was put in the background as we did our own things. After Tekken 6 and leading into Tag 2, 4H became nearing non-existent, with myself and Brian being inactive through most of it. LOC was the only one still repping, and honestly some of us were not getting along. Not until KIT last year when Inkog and Fab surprised me and Brian with putting 4H back in front their names, and Inkog doing it for Final Round. To answer the question, 4H past and present members are Real Law, Brian H, LOC, TeKy, NYC Fab, FightingGM, and Inkognito. To me, when you are a horsemen, you are always a horsemen.

Is 4H still active?

Well, that’s a good question. Recently I’ve mended a few fences within the members so who knows, maybe one day there will be a full 4H comeback. Maybe we’ll come back and start some rivalries up. We’ve noticed a lot of smack talk from players and they need to be reminded who the greatest team in Tekken is and always will be, so it’s not completely out of the question.

When you look back, it could easily be said that you were one of the leaders of the Tekken community in the Northeast.

I can see how people would say that and I haven’t shied away from that role. I mean there are a few I would say as well, The Realyst being one, as well Fab and Bloodhawk have started to show some leadership abilities, but I think because of my age and how I am, most would look up to me in certain ways. I try to support my friends and offer advice to those that are willing to listen, coach them up and fire them up if need be. I wasn’t afraid to tear a new one verbally into a player if I felt they were short changing themselves.

Switching subjects, how did the matches between you and Pokchop become a thing? Did it begin at Final Round? It’s straight up entertainment and comedy all in one!

No, it started at Winter Brawl X last year February 2015. The event itself for Tekken wasn’t being looked at as a big event. And for the most part, for whatever reason, northeast tourney’s besides NEC wasn’t big for Tekken. So I wanted to change that. I challenged him to a first-to-5 and that’s how it started.

Who is better? You or Pokchop?

I mean, he sucks. I mean, he really does. (laughs) But it just so happens that at the moment I suck as a player more. (laughs) It’s kind of like asking which is better, rotten eggs or sour milk. But he sucks even when he plays. I suck cause I don’t play anymore. Big difference. (laughs)

Next year makes 20 years for Final Round, so I’m going to need y’all to do it big! (laughs) Go ahead and start planning it man. We want a first-to-whatever to remember!

Well, from the commentating of that last match, that doesn’t seem like that’s a popular opinion, man.

What do you mean?

We got slammed hard as we were playing a game neither of us played before. It’s weird cause the other exhibition didn’t have quite the response from them, which seemed odd. But ours is way more popular, and more views, funny huh? Now I’m not too sure I want to put myself out there again to try to help the community get exposure and hype just to be bashed for it. That was rough. But if the community responds to you via the TekkenGamer social outlets, or to me @real_law_4H and asks for part 3, then maybe we can convince folks at Final Round to make it a main stage exhibition next year.

Why Law over other characters?

The same as any other Law player, a huge Bruce Lee fan. That, and I enjoyed taking a character that was at one time played so boring and changing it to how he’s played now.

Played now? What do you mean?

Ok, Law prior to Tekken 5 and in Tekken 5 was played as a counter-hit character with b121, and with heavy emphasis on his ws2, slide mixup. I got bored with that and started watching a Japanese Law player named Naoking, who didn’t play like that at all.

He was a flashy Law player relying on dss stuff and some frame trap stuff, but was very aggressive. I saw what he was doing and took it a step further, and in DR I relied on frame traps with f1+2 and iws4 dss 2, which is now dss f2, it was +1 and couldn’t be ducked, and alot of BT stuff – 2,2, db2. I used to cause whiffs after going from BT and spinning away, or quick turn fishing for a counter-hit or a low that could help advance my rushdown, or stay BT for whatever mixup I wanted to. I played Law as a rushdown character since DR and everyone that saw me play him in NYC knows that to be factual. Now I don’t play any different than any Law players cause now they all play this way. Maybe it’s time for another change in style. Who knows.

Would you consider yourself the best Law player in America?

I would be delusional if I thought that. (laughs) But honestly, there is no best Law player. Some do some things better than others. Some perform in tourneys better than others for God knows whatever reason. When I hear people praise some Law players I think to myself a Jay-Z line “he’s alright but he’s not real.” (laughs)

Are you retired, burned out, doing the family thing, just waiting on Tekken 7 or what?

I have a family, but that’s nothing different. My kids were born in 2007 and 2010 and I kept playing so that’s not the reason for my long absence. I think the answer is honestly, I became disenchanted and had some resentment with the community itself as a whole. Meaning, I felt snubbed with some of the opportunities and recognition given to other players from the other side of the country just from contacts they had on the inside or where they lived, whether it was full-time commentating jobs or community jobs, which has now currently lead to their overall gain in popularity. Whether I was correct thinking that or not, that was how I felt at the time and it rotted away at my love of the game, so I fell back. Looking back I may have handled things in a different way, not been so jagged, but at that time I was and it ate me up. Now it’s whatever to me. It is what it is. Things haven’t really changed that much, still same politics going on but the difference is now I could care less about that stuff. I just want to go to events, play some games, hang out with my friends, then go home to my family.

Will you be at Summer Jam X or The Fall Classic this year?

SJX? No, unfortunately. I have prior engagements, but I’m really hoping to go to TFC. I’ve always enjoyed that event and love supporting Shin Blanka, Big E, LI Joe, John Gallagher. I have a long history with them, they’re good friends.

Without any nostalgia or anything, who are the top Tekken players in America right now?

I mean that’s hard to say without a current version of Tekken being played by everyone in the USA, so I’ll go with the last active Tekken, Tag 2. Its top 5 in my opinion, in no order, FightingGM, Inkog, Mr Naps, Lil Majin, Anakin.

In a recent interview with Anakin he named Knee as the best Tekken player of all-time. Who do you consider to be the best player of all-time?

Most players would say Knee or Nin, but to me, a Korean Tag 1 player named Jang Iksu is the greatest player to ever play Tekken, no-one was more dominant in a Tekken game than him.

I will have to look him up.

He was so dominant that he got bored and became a pro roller blader, who does that?

Ah, yeah! I’ve heard of him!

No, seriously, who does that? The greatest USA player ever is JOP, with considerations to Slips, Crow, Tom H, and a tossup between Bronson/Arario. That’s prolly your Mount Rushmore of US Tekken.

What’s next for you?

Honestly, like everyone else waiting on Tekken 7, watching vids, maybe try to go to a few events in the meantime. Start talking some stuff, make fun of a few people, crack some jokes, yell socially insensitive things to people I may not like. You know, normal Real Law stuff. (laughs) And on the low helping the new players with tips and advice, but I don’t let people see that too much. It kills my persona. (laughs)

Anything you want to say to our readers and site visitors?

I want to thank you Zee, for all you do. The website is amazing, sign up if you haven’t yet!

Thanks, man.

Thank you for letting me voice some things, some of it I may catch some heat from the boys about, but hey, it is what it is. Love to my other half Maggie, and our beautiful children, Bella, Olivia, Emma, Jacob. Love you guys!!! 4H lets get the band back together. NYC lets get back to the top. See all of you soon at an event hopefully. Come talk to me. I’m actually really cool and nice. (laughs)

Real Law. 4H. I’m out.

Aziz Peregrino-Brimah aka Zee the CEO | Founder / Editor-in-chief of TekkenGamer | Gaming has been a passion of Zee's since the early days of Atari and ColecoVision. His first experience with Tekken was in the early 90's, and it was Tekken 3 that sealed the deal. True story... As a teenager Zee once received his Winn-Dixie paycheck and spent it all at the arcade the same day. Needless to say, his mother wasn't pleased.


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