Mastodon

14 min read


Context

Gouken (剛拳) is one of the classic characters from the best-established series of brawling video games, Street Fighter.

He has been talked about since the very first game. He apparently was both the great grandfather type and the wise old man on the mountaintop type. But like with most thought-to-be-dead characters most details about him were always shrouded in mystery. Gamers didn’t even really know what he looked like until he made his surprise debut in SF4.

He’s the aged master of prominent characters within the SF universe. As such, Gouken could likely fulfill the requirements for a martial arts mentor in other settings.

Advertisement

Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed.
  • Other Aliases: Fatherly Master Like a Rock, Shen Long (a poor translation of Dragon Punch, but never the less the Western media jumped on it).
  • Known Relatives: Gouki a.k.a. Akuma (brother), Ryu (adopted son).
  • Note: He previously had an unnamed deceased wife – and an unnamed daughter who was herself a martial artist, but that was never followed up on. They eventually got retconned out as their story never went anywhere.
  • Group Affiliation: Formerly Goutetsu’s student, former teacher of Ken, Ryu and Dan.
  • Base Of Operations: Somewhere in Japan.
  • Height: 6’1” (1.85m). Weight: 199 lbs. (90 Kg.).
  • Eyes: Brown. Hair: Gray.

Powers and Abilities

Gouken was once one of the world’s greatest martial artists. At least until he was seemingly killed by his fellow student Gouki.

Having finally resurfaced after all these years, he’s still a powerful fighter. But he seems a bit diminished in his old age.

Technique

His original style has always been a very toned-down form of the Assassin’s Fist. Unintuitively, it focuses on nonlethal ways to end a fight.

In his advanced old age, he reached a peace of mind allowing for a very precise focus of his physical and mental energies. He can throw energy projectiles with one hand, and his “waste not want not” attitude leads to precise, economical movement in fights.

It’s also hinted that he’s mastered several martial arts — which given his age and status why wouldn’t he have — but he refuses to use them. Gouken feels duty bound to maintain a pure form of what his master passed down to him.

Ryu and his like are generally considered to have a low to moderate difficulty level to be used effectively. In this frame of reference, Gouken would be their advanced, hard to master version.

Gouken got a bunch of moves for controlling space, tempo, and flow in the match. Well-used these allow for a strategic approach that can turn the tide of battle given the right circumstances. Played by an expert, he can be one of the mightiest playable characters in the game.

Gouken in Street Fighter V video game

History

Gouken was once a student of the legendary Goutetsu. He studied assassination techniques alongside Gouki.

After completing his training and leaving the dojo, Gouken decided that he would only teach his style for defensive purposes, and never as a tool for killing.

Genesis of Street Fighter

But Gouki was tempted by the dark side. Goutetsu objected to this, and in unclear circumstances this led to a fight.

The pupil slew the master and then disappeared. From then on, he would be known as Akuma – the devil. Gouken’s whereabouts during this fight were never revealed, and he was unable to find his brother afterwards.

Gouken lived a simple life as a solitary monk and trained constantly. But he also seems to have gone out to study other styles. For instance he trained and sparred for a while with a boxing champion – Ken Masters’ father.

Gouken was eventually tracked down by one Dan Hibiki, who wanted to learn his fighting style. Dan’s objective was to avenge his father, who had been killed by Muay Thai champion Sagat.

Gouken was hesitant at first, but eventually decided to pass down his knowledge. Yet over time it became clear that Dan only lusted for revenge and would likely kill Sagat given the chance.

Not wanting a repeat of what had happened with his brother, Gouken expelled his student and resumed his eremiticThe ascetic and solitary life of an hermit ways.

Gouken from Street Fighter video games

Street Fighter 1 (deprecated)

(The events in this section have been retconnedMaking changes to a character or story after the fact out. But I’ve decided to keep a summary, as they were a huge part of Street Fighter lore for two decades).

Gouken later took Ken and Ryu under his wing. When the two students reached adulthood, they decided to go out into the world at large and test their skills with worthy opponents.

  1. Ryu went to Thailand to fight in the first ever Street Fighter Tournament.
  2. Ken headed to America to participate in the US Karate Tournament.

Ryu advanced to the finals and faced off against the world Muay Thai champion, Sagat. He would’ve lost the battle, but the sportsmanlike Sagat offered him a hand up after knocking him down. Suddenly Ryu was consumed by the Satsui no Hado (the murderous intent, the bloodlust) and threw an incredible Dragon Punch. It horribly scarred Sagat’s chest, and earned Ryu both the prize and a deadly enemy.

Ryu was both confused and ashamed by what had happened. He went on to wander the world, to continue training and seeking answers.

On his end, Ken won the tournament without a hitch. He then hurried back to Japan, excited to share the news with both his master and best friend.

At the dojo, Ken was shocked to see his master and a stranger locked in mortal combat. (Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist). This opponent finished Gouken off with a powerful unknown technique – which Ken could feel relied on the Satsui no Hado. Ken attempted to avenge Gouken, but was trivially swatted aside – and told to try again when he would be far stronger.

Street Fighter: The Assassin’s Fist (Origins)

(Hardcore fans later made a series that explored the early years of Ken and Ryu. The film had high production values and was well received – fans had always to see this story told).

(Instead of slapping them with a lawsuit, Capcom praised the series and declared it canon. They even paid for a follow up film with the same cast and crew to promote SF5. There are rumors that more is in the works and that it too will be canon, but so far nothing substantial).

Much like the original telling, Gouken and Gouki were training under Goutetsu in a nonlethal form of the Assassin’s Fist. The two brothers were best friends, but also extremely competitive rivals. Beyond martial arts and physical prowess, they even turned romance into a contest.

Both of them were smitten with Goutetsu’s daughter Sayaka, and it was Gouken who eventually won her over. This only served to enrage the already unstable Gouki.

The killing intent

While in a forbidden part of the temple, Gouki stumbled upon ancient scrolls detailing the lethal techniques that their master had refused to teach them. He also learned of the Satsui no Hado, the murderous intent, and now understood the rage that had been bubbling deep down in his soul.

While sparring, Gouki unleashed the Satsui no Hado and nearly killed Gouken. This revealed to him the full strength of this dark power. He and his brother had always fought on equal footing, but with this newfound and barely understood boost he soundly thrashed Gouken.

Goutetsu was horrified. He ordered Sayaka to nurse Gouken back to health while he took Gouki to the mountains for further training. There, Gouki admitted what he had done. They debated the Satsui no Hado, and Goutetsu issued an ultimatum. Gouki would forget about this power forever, or be cast out.

Gouki became an hermit, spending his days in training.

Gouken and Sayaka broke off, as they felt that their relationship had pushed Gouki into all of this. Sayaka also left the temple, and her storyline was essentially dropped there.

Chase the devil

A recovered Gouken and a disturbed Goutetsu delved deep into their archives to discover just how dangerous the Satsui no Hado actually was. With horror they realized that Gouki could potentially become a threat to the entire world. Furthermore, this dark power had the potential to spread.

The two set out to stop Gouki, but they were unable to locate him. After that they went back to the dojo and renewed their training. Since this demon from their past could very well come back to haunt them.

Years later Gouki did come back. After a brutal battle he unleashed the ultimate power move of the Satsui no Hado, the Raging Demon. This attack was not physical but obliterated an opponent’s soul. Goutetsu was slain.

Gouken tried to avenge his master, but he was again badly beaten by his brother. Gouki boasted that Gouken would have to grow far stronger to succeed.

Gouken - Street Fighter 4 key art - meditating - crosshatch

Street Fighter: The Assassin’s Fist (Beginning Anew)

Through unknown circumstances Gouken adopted a baby named Ryu. As the boy grew older, Gouken began to train him in the martial arts. And wouldn’t you know it – he was a natural. Ryu would surely one day be a worthy master of a nearly extinct martial art.

When Ryu was a teenager Gouken was contacted by a former boxer and training partner of his, Mr. Masters. Now a wealthy hotel tycoon, Masters had a huge problem – his son. Ken Masters was an insufferable spoiled brat, and had been kicked out of several private schools. Mr. Masters had to try something drastic to redirect the boy’s bad behavior.

Mr. Masters implored Gouken to train his son in the martial arts and teach him the error of his ways. When Ryu tried to introduce himself, Ken predictably mouthed off and arrogantly challenged Ryu to a fight. But Masters was easily knocked down.

Ken was dumb founded, but Ryu graciously offered to teach him provided he apologized and asked him nicely. From then on Ken would be sculpted into a fine young man as well as a highly skilled martial artist.

Street Fighter: The Assassin’s Fist (Will history repeat itself?)

Ken and Ryu became both best friends and rivals. Both mastered their style to such a degree that they began competing to unlock the advanced techniques. Such as the Dragon Punch and the Hadoken.

Ryu showed early promise, but after a rocky start Ken started to surpass him. He was the first to produce the Dragon Fist whilst sparring. Ken also was the first to manage a Hadoken, but only while practicing calmly on his own.

This drove Ryu to be the first to cast a fireball while sparring. Which he did – but only after feeling a dark surge of energy. Despite Ryu’s restraint, this Hadoken badly injured Ken – and Gouken realised that this was the Satsui no Hado.

Ryu admitted that he had been having nightmares of a dark figure approaching him and offering him even more power. But he had brushed them off. Gouken refused to answer any of their questions as to what it could be, and the pair grew suspicious of his true motivation.

(Reportedly, Gouken was also approached by dictator M. Bison who wanted to recruit his pupils. Gouken refused and that apparently was the end of it. There are no further details, and this part might have been retconned out since).

Gouken - Street Fighter- stroking beard

Devil in the shadows

Gouki — now called Akuma — had also approached Gouken as a dark figure. He wanted to train Ryu, and when Gouken refused Akuma said that he would return and take the boy by force.

Gouken fought Akuma, seeing no other way to protect Ryu and eventually Ken. He prevailed. His brother begged him to kill him to spare him the disgrace, but Gouken of course refused.

Meanwhile, the investigating Ryu and Ken found the hidden scrolls, and some information about Gouken’s engagement to Sayaka. But Gouken still refused to answer. He then sent them to train on their own in the mountains.

As Gouken feared, Akuma returned for another fight to the death. This time Akuma used the Raging Demon, seemingly killing Gouken like he had slain Goutetsu.

But by this point, both Ken and Ryu had left to travel the world.

Street Fighter IV

Gouken actually survived. He continued to follow both his pupils from afar but never became involved as both of them had become mighty warriors in their own right.

(This “explanation” is difficult to accept. Especially when considering crises such as Bison’s bid for world domination or Ryu nearly being tempted to join the dark side with Akuma. Way better excuses could have been used, such as being held captive by Bison or recovering from a long coma).

Gouken’s decision to enter the SF4 tournament was thus a surprise. And it seems that he didn’t do well – there’s no documentation of him fighting, and he only reached Ryu after Seth had been defeated. Ryu was still struggling with containing the Satsui no Hado, so Gouken did him a solid and sealed it permanently.

(Again, why didn’t he do that before?)

Shortly after this they were accosted by Akuma who demanded that Ryu be handed over to him, so he could presumably break the seal and unleash Ryu’s Satsui no Hado. Gouken refused and, since Ryu didn’t end up with Akuma, we can surmise that Gouken bested his brother.

Ken and Ryu are later seen with their former master, asking him to stay and train with them for a while. But he refuses, as they are grown men and no longer in need of a master. He then wanders off.

Street Fighter V

Gouken essentially went back to semi-retirement and isn’t a playable character. But he was seen briefly in Ryu’s story mode.

The two can been seen sparring when Rashid barges in and challenges Ryu to a fight. Gouken gave Ryu some advice before the fight – not that he needed it as he pretty much smoked the newcomer right out of the gate.

After the fight Gouken advised Ryu to check in on his buddy Ken as he had grown concerned over his other student’s wellbeing.

Where is he now?

Hard to say. It’s entirely possible that he’s still training and just chilling in some remote area in Japan. Or perhaps he finally died of old age.

It’s kind of hard to say as Street Fighter III essentially winds up being the epilog to the series. And by then Ryu has moved on to train under Oro who himself is already over 100.

Regardless the granddaddy that started it all never receives another mention.

Gouken - Street Fighter - concept art research

Description

Gouken is an elderly, but impossibly muscular Japanese man. He is mostly bald and wears the rest of his hair in a ponytail, balanced by a long flowing wizard’s beard.

He typically wears loose fitting tattered dark clothes. These look like they used to be training gi, and they are often bound by ropes or bandages. He often wears Buddhist prayer beads.

Our Background block uses his official measurements, but they seem incorrect. Gouken is absolutely massive even by SF standards where most of the men look like they’ve been on steroids since birth. His limbs are like tree trunks and he towers over quite a few characters who should be much closer to his height.

Gouken vs. Akuma Street Fighter

Personality

Your stereotypical wise old man on the mountaintop who only trains worthy disciples.

His philosophy and demeanor are heavily tied to Zen Buddhism. He is calm and seems to be at peace with himself. He has most certainly seen his share of loss as he lost his master, best friend and brother, and the love of his life all in one fell swoop. But he’s had quite a few decades to work through that.

As far as facing down Akuma and some of the other villains that he’s encountered he bears them no ill and doesn’t hold a grudge against them. But he also recognizes them as destructive forces that must be stopped lest their darkness spread.

One way that he does differ from other old master archetypes is that he absolutely loves all forms of athletic competition, particularly martial arts. Gouken can get very excited when watching a match.

Advertisement

Quotes

“Ah, you shall make an interesting opponent.”

“The time will soon come when you must raise your fists in the call of justice.”

“Do not get lost in your cause. Show allegiance in yourself over your country.”

Ryu: “The power of nothingness… Master !”
Gouken: “So, you’ve sensed the Satsui No Hado. Eh, brother ?”

“A true warrior lets his opponent live to fight another day.”

“You must unite your mind and body if you hope to unlock your true potential !”

DC Universe Adaptation

(This section proposes ways of using this character in DC Universe stories).

He really could be dropped in as is as a former master of any prominent martial arts character.

DC Heroes RPG

Gouken

Dex: 07 Str: 05 Bod: 05
Int: 07 Wil: 07 Min: 07
Inf: 07 Aur: 07 Spi: 08
Init: 023 HP: 090

Powers:

Adrenaline Surge: 04, Awareness (ML): 07, Energy Blast: 04, Gliding: 03, Jumping: 07

Bonuses and Limitations:

Adrenaline Surge only works on Jumping and Energy Blast.

Skills:

Acrobatics: 04, Martial Artist: 12, Medicine (First aid): 04, Occultist: 03

Advantages:

Expertise (Rod fishing), Iron Nerves, Lightning Reflexes, Languages (Japanese), Sharp Eye.

Connections:

Ken and Ryu (High).

Drawbacks:

Age (Old), Enemy (Akuma).

Motivation:

Seeking Justice?

Occupation:

Martial arts instructor.

Wealth:

001

Writeups.org writer avatar Tom Eilers

By Tom Eilers.

Source of Character: Street Fighter.