1 Meter: HP double > light Dragon Dance > HP double > light Dragon Dance > Shadow Dragon Dance > Dragon Kick ender (53%)
2 Meter: HP double > light Dragon Dance > HP double > light Dragon Dance > Shadow Dragon Dance > Shadow Dragon Kick ender (63%)
( Damage calculation notes)
Notes: Kim typically has very high damage, but her counter breaker combos are not best in class in KI. Both Dragon Dance and Firecracker do identical damage and seem to take about the same amount of time, so they are largely interchangeable. Kim can't get to level 4 without spending meter if she counter breaks at the very beginning of a combo, which means her high damage shadow ender has to be kept in the bag until the 2-meter combo. If you counter break with white life already available to you, and you just want to spend 1 bar, you will be about 3-5% better off doing the 0-meter combo and tacking on shadow Dragon Kick, rather than doing the listed 1-meter combo. Because this scenario is very likely most of the time, in practice, you should always be spending the meter on shadow Dragon Kick.
Throughout the course of a match, Kim can acquire Dragon Spirits, an essential resource for her gameplan. Not counting her instinct mode, she has only two ways to earn Dragon Spirits; namely, she gains one Dragon Spirit each time she successfully uses Dragon Counter or performs any level of Firecracker ender. She can hold up to a maximum of three dragons, and her current supply can be seen floating around her body during a match.
At any point in the match, Kim can spend one Dragon Spirit to perform a Dragon Cancel. Her primary use of dragons, a Dragon Cancel is effectively a special forward dash that can be performed out of any neutral or offensive action, as well as any successful Dragon Counter as long as she had a dragon before attempting the counter. Usable on the ground and in the air, and after any move on hit, block, or whiff, Dragon Cancels can keep Kim safe after a blocked reversal, make her combos trickier to combo break, and add an extra layer to her offensive pressure. During instinct, Kim can also press HP+HK to fire a Dragon Cannon, which is a very fast, high-priority horizontal projectile that causes stagger. While Dragon Cannons are only usable during instinct, they can enhance Kim's long-range game and extend combos with unbreakable damage.
Dragons are crucial to Kim's offense, since they greatly enhance how she is able to approach characters. Without them, both her offense and defense are riskier and more linear. Outside of instinct, it is also costly to build dragons; Kim must either risk a Dragon Counter, or finish a combo with an extremely low damage ender which always gives only one dragon, even for high-level enders, and also pushes Kim away from her opponent. Because of how precious the resource is, dragons are not a resource to be squandered when earned; save them to make reversals safe or to surprise an opponent with a quick approach.
Dragon Dance is Kim's go-to opener, and it has different properties depending on the button used. The light version causes Kim to flip towards the opponent and strike with her heel, and it hits overhead from a pretty decent distance. This version is slightly negative on block, so Kim's turn is over if you block it, but you will be able to catch unsuspecting players on occasion. If you are playing against Kim, you should default to standing block more often, since she has no low-hitting special moves and her low normals are very short range.
Medium Dragon Dance is a twice-hitting spin kick which leaves Kim at advantage; this is likely to be your most used special move, especially as a cancel off her strong mid-range pokes. Use this move to keep Kim's offense going, especially against players who don't have meter available to shadow counter. The heavy version looks similar to the medium version, but travels considerably farther and can be used in whiff punish situations. This version is disadvantaged, but not punishable, on block; use this in situations only where the medium kick version is too short range to connect. Shadow Dragon Dance is a 5-hit version of the overhead heel strike, and it is a far range, projectile-invincible move that tracks opponent's positions from almost full screen away.
Kim spins her nunchucks around her body during Firecracker. It is quite a bit shorter range than Dragon Dance, so while it is advantaged if blocked, you are likely better off using moves like medium Dragon Dance during her close range pressure. However, shadow Firecracker is her best close-range punish move. If you block a very unsafe move, cancel a heavy normal such as standing HP into shadow Firecracker for strong unbreakable damage to start a combo. Surprisingly, Firecracker is quite useful at long range as a projectile reflector. If a projectile strikes Kim's nunchuks while she is spinning them during Firecracker (press the button repeatedly to spin the nunchucks indefinitely), she will send back a zero-cost Dragon Cannon at one of three angles, depending on the button pressed. This makes Kim a difficult character to zone via traditional means, and forces zoning characters to play at an uncomfortable range where Kim typically shines.
Dragon Grasp is a unique move. It is a zero-damage command throw which keeps both characters on their feet and acts as an opener and linker (as per her combo trait). It feels a lot like a third regular throw, since it can be teched like a regular throw, but there are some important differences. Because it allows for a combo afterwards (including heavy manuals), Kim can convert grabs into Dragon Spirits by doing a short combo and finishing with Firecracker ender. Secondly, because it is technically a special move, it can be canceled after normals, including her Way of the Dragon target chain. This makes for extra sneaky tick throw setups and shadow counter baits (for more on this advanced technique, see this excellent tutorial video).
Dragon Cannon can only be fired manually during instinct, but on hit, it will cause a stagger which can be followed up with a combo of your choice. From close range you have a huge window to connect any normal or special move, but even from full screen away you can follow up with light Dragon Kick at a minimum, which can turn into even more damage if you are willing to Dragon Cancel. From nearly full screen away, use shadow Dragon Dance to keep the combo going on the ground, but this will not connect at the maximum possible distance. You can also mix in Dragon Cannons during your combos to cause unbreakable staggers, which can make Kim's combos difficult to break if she spends the resources. All Dragon Kicks, even the shadow version, can lead to juggle combos if a Dragon Cancel is used. If your Dragon Kick is blocked, a Dragon Cancel can be used to apply surprise pressure from the air.
As far as damage is concerned, Dragon Dance and Firecracker linkers are pretty much identical, which leaves the choice of linker mostly up to the player. Firecracker builds a bit less KV so it is nice for longer combos, but takes quite a bit longer to animate than Dragon Dance. Perhaps the best benefit of Firecracker linkers is that they look very similar to Kim's punch auto-doubles, making it easier to get lost in the combo and more difficult to break. Test if your opponent is able to identify elements of Kim's combos and, if not, use Firecracker linkers exclusively.
Kim's damage ender is one of the best in KI, always doing a solid chunk of damage regardless of the ender level. Shadow Dragon Kick is especially good, saving all of its damage for the final hit, so it often feels extra impactful even though it is doing damage comparable to some other shadow enders. Firecracker is definitely the ender you should use while comboing your opponent in between rounds, earning a free Dragon Spirit. Firecracker always gives only one dragon regardless of the combo's ender level, but higher ender levels will additionally grant Kim a small amount of extra resources: shadow meter at level 2, shadow meter and health at level 3, and shadow meter, health, and instinct meter at level 4. As a bonus, even performing Firecracker as an opener-ender sequence, normally combo breakable, grants the dragon, so you might consider converting some high KV combo starters (such as Dragon Grasp) immediately into Firecracker ender. Even if you get broken, you'll get the dragon and you will be at a similar screen position either way.
Kim begins generating Dragon Spirits immediately, at a rate of one every three seconds. If she had no dragons to start, she will immediately be able to use one, if the situation benefits her. The dragons continue to generate during all phases of the match, including when Kim is getting hit, so she will not be without her most valuable resource. Kim also gains the ability to fire Dragon Cannons by pressing HP+HK again; these can be great long-range tools and tricky combo extenders. Because the dragon gain rate is gradual, Kim is not immediately more powerful when she activates instinct, unlike many other characters in Killer Instinct; she will have to remain solid and use the dragons as they come. She can, however, use the screen freeze to her advantage and Dragon Counter any incoming attack, or shadow Dragon Kick through an opponent who has committed to something. Because she begins instinct with at least one dragon, she can also extend the combo after her reversal, if she chooses.
Kim is, unfortunately, without many good low attacks. Her crouching MK and crouching HK, typically strong pokes for footsies characters, are incredibly stubby and will only hit from nearly point blank range. Her best low attack is a forward-stepping low attack called Dragon Sweep, which is input with +HK, and this can be canceled off normals just like a special move. Dragon Sweep knocks down and does relatively low damage, though, which emphasizes the fact that blocking high should be the standard defense against Kim. However, if you manage to corner your opponent, you can force them to respect the high-low mixup when using light Dragon Dance as the overhead threat. Canceling a low attack into light Dragon Dance can be a fast low-overhead sequence which can catch opponents unaware. When pressuring your opponent from close range, close MK is fantastic. It's a medium attack that is positive on block, leaves you at close range, and at 6 frame startup is only one frame slower than a jab. Use it when you are trying to bait shadow counters while maintaining frame advantage.
Way of the Dragon is a very unique move. By pressing either MP or HP repeatedly, Kim will do a never-ending target combo moving either backwards or forwards. It looks very similar to Firecracker, but since it cannot reflect projectiles and can be canceled into special moves on whiff, it serves a very different purpose. In general, it is a difficult move to use due to its weakness to being shadow countered, but there are some very powerful meaty setups that can cause many reversals to whiff by taking advantage of the unique properties of this move. If you plan on maximizing Kim's potential, I would recommend looking at how these techiques can be used, but you should prioritize Kim's other moves while you are first learning her.
Dragon Counter is a catch-counter move that will catch any non-throw attack, including highs, lows, and projectiles. If successful, Kim does a small amount of damage to her opponent and earns one Dragon Spirit; aside from Firecracker enders and instinct regeneration, this is Kim's only other way to earn dragons. If you already had a dragon before performing a successful counter, you can Dragon Cancel the counter and continue the combo; the counter earns you the dragon back, and this ability greatly strengths Kim's defense. The attack portion after a successful Dragon Counter is a close-range hit, which means that countering long-range attacks will generate a dragon but not cause any damage to your opponent. In some situations, this may make Kim punishable, so be careful. This is especially true if Kim tries to use Dragon Counter on multi-hit projectiles, such as Arbiter's Carbine shots. Nonetheless, Dragon Counter is an essential part to Kim's defense. Not only does it earn her a precious resource and sometimes generate combo opportunities, but it forces her opponents to avoid predictable attacks and gives Kim guaranteed ways out of attacks even without shadow meter for a reversal.
Kim is not without her weaknesses, though, and you must be aware of these and play around them. A floaty jump means she tends to prefer grounded approaches, which is not always what the matchup calls for. If you are not on point with your anti-air Dragon Kicks and crouching HPs, Kim can struggle keeping opponents out of her air space. A relatively short-range shadow counter and a shadow Dragon Kick reversal that is more easily baited than other reversals forces her to make more difficult defensive decisions. And her Dragon Spirits resource requires active thought to maintain your supply; unlike other resources characters like Spinal, who get to refill their resource without much sacrifice to their offense, Kim must take a defensive risk with Dragon Counter or else sacrifice damage and positioning to use Firecracker to end a combo.
But a Kim loaded on dragons gets to do things other characters cannot, which become especially effective when coupled with Kim's inherent strengths on the ground. She can make reversals essentially safe by canceling a blocked shadow Dragon Kick into a Dragon Cancel while in the air or on the ground before the move even comes out, leading to a surprise mixup. She can use medium Dragon Kick to fly across the screen, and then Dragon Cancel and fall with jumping HP for offensive pressure. And she can make her offense harder to break and shadow counter by simply using Dragon Cancel at any time she pleases. Kim is best played as a patient, mid-range footsies character, while intelligent resource management and risk assessment will give her surprising moments of burst offense. If you enjoy technical, patient characters who can frustrate opponents into making mistakes that cost them large amounts of life, Kim Wu will give you lots to like.