Kung Lao’s primary footsie tools are his D3 and F1. Kung Lao’s D3 is a 7 frame low poke with decent range. Use the hit advantage on D3 to approach opponents. F1 is a 10 frame advancing mid attack that can be staggered into a throw. Mix up F1 with F12 and F13. Kung Lao’s F13 is unsafe so it should not be used often. Since opponents will attempt to punish F13, you can mix this up by doing F13U2. Be wary as F13U2 is also unsafe and can be interrupted or Flawless Blocked.
Since Kung Lao’s 1 and 2 have similar start-up and animations, you can mix this up by either using 12 or staggering with 2. Kung Lao’s F1 can also be used as a stagger. After staggering with 2 or F1 you will want to use this opportunity to throw the opponent.
Kung Lao’s 21212 is +1 on block, however the first two hits of this string are high attacks making this very unsafe if used up-close. For this reason, you will want to use 21212 at a distance so that the opponent cannot punish 21212.
Hit Confirming F4
F4 is Kung Lao’s strongest mid attack as it is only -3 on block and can be hit confirmed into a combo. Although F4 is only one input, it consists of two hits, which means it can be hit confirmed. If F4 is blocked, you will be able to use D3 to counter opponent attacks that are slower than 10 frames.
In Kung Lao’s Lotus Fist variation, he gains access to Orbiting Hat, or DB1. This move is very resource-heavy as it will automatically use up 1 bar of Defensive Meter and 1 bar of Offensive Meter. Once the Orbiting Hat is used, it will surround Kung Lao with a moving hat. It’s best to use Orbiting Hat in the neutral, then use it to approach the opponent. It’s very advantageous on block and allows for free pressure. After it’s blocked, you can either throw the opponent or use F4.
Orbiting Hat can also be used to beat counterpokes. Use either D1 or D4 into Orbiting Hat to punish counterpokes for a full combo.
In Kung Lao’s Hat Tricks variation, he gains access to Z Hat, or DB2. The Z Hat has very slow start-up so it should not be used up-close. It’s best to use Z Hat when spaced out. When Amplified, it is at least +20 on block depending on how far it’s used and allows for free pressure. After it’s blocked, you can either throw the opponent or use F4. The Z-Hat also deals a great amount of chip damage as it hits multiple times.
Orbiting Hat & Z Hat Setup
End combos with F4 into Orbiting Hat or Z Hat to create a knockdown setup. If your opponent does a Getup Attack, they will be hit by the hat. If your opponent does a Roll Escape, you will recover in time to pressure them. Your opponent will have no choice but to block the hat. Note: F4 Orbiting Hat does NOT work in the corner.
Another option is to cancel out of the Z Hat and go for a throw. This will make your throw even more difficult to react to.
Kung Lao has many ways to set up a strike/throw attempt. The most common is after an Orbiting Hat or Z Hat is blocked. Use F4 to strike and hit confirm into a combo. Mix this up by going for a throw. It’s best to use Kung Lao’s Back Throw because it leaves the opponent close and becomes a Krushing Blow if the opponent fails to Throw Escape the previous throw.
(Air) Shaolin Drop, or D4 is a divekick that allows Kung Lao to attack from the air. While jumping backwards, you will want to use divekicks to whiff punish opponents trying to advance. This also becomes a Krushing Blow when Amplified and used twice in a row.
Because F214 is unsafe on block, it’s best used as a whiff punish. When done this way, it becomes a Krushing Blow and launches the opponent for a combo. This is great when used to whiff punish opponents’ Getup Attacks.
While Kung Lao doesn’t have very strong zoning, he can still keep opponents’ movement in check with Hat Toss, or BF2. Kung Lao’s zoning is better in Kung Lao’s Hat Tricks variation as he is able to direct his hat upwards and downwards. Most of the time it’s best to use the downwards projectile as it is a mid attack and cannot be ducked.
Kung Lao’s teleport allows him to counter zoning and approach opponents from behind. The teleport is punishable on reaction, so it should not be used often. The safest attack off the teleport is to use Heel Flip, or 2, as it is a -5 on block overhead attack.