Goku's learned a myriad of powerful techniques throughout the Dragon Ball franchise. Some of these moves, like the Kamehameha and the Spirit Bomb, are very famous. Other attacks are more obscure and mysterious. The Kaio Ken, also commonly spelled Kaioken, is one of the first moves Goku mastered in Dragon Ball Z.
But Goku tends not to use this move very often, despite mastering it back in the 1990s. Because of this, a lot of Dragon Ball fans have questions about how Kaio Ken works. Today, we're going to discuss 10 things that fans should know about one of Goku's boldest and oldest moves.
First off, let's talk about what Kaio Ken even means. Different dubs for Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super use different names for this technique. To clarify, we'll be focusing on the traditional Japanese and English versions of the move.
Kaio Ken, spelled as Kaiōken in Japanese, roughly means "Fist of the World King" once translated. The root word 'Kai' has many meanings in Japanese - the word refers to the ocean, shells, and monarchs. This technique is also pronounced Kai-Oh-Ken, not Kay-Oh-Ken. Most American DBZ fans mispronounce this technique because they grew up listening to the Funimation dub of the series.
Before Goku could transform into his various Super Saiyan forms, Kaio Ken was his only means of amplifying his power. Early in Dragon Ball Z, Goku used this technique to quickly defeat Nappa. Goku also used this move in short burst against his first fight with Vegeta. For DBZ's first few story arcs, Goku relied on this move to win the day.
However, Akira Toriyama initially planned for Goku to stop using Kaio Ken after his fight with Frieza. By that point, Goku just discovered Super Saiyan - a bonafide super mode that didn't harm his body or rapidly drain his Ki.
Another difference between Super Saiyan and Kaio Ken is accessibility; only those with Saiyan DNA can transform into a super-powered, golden-haired state. Anyone can learn how to use Kaioken in theory. However, it's a very difficult move to control let alone master.
Despite training with King Kai for a long time, Yamcha, Piccolo, and Tien couldn't use Kaio Ken at all. Remember, these guys are some of the toughest fighters from Earth! So if they struggle with a technique, it shouldn't be taken lightly. Heck, King Kai also couldn't master this move himself. He had to teach Goku how to use it via word of mouth!
The Bio-Android Cell stands as one of the deadliest villains in Dragon Ball. His enhanced physiology already makes him tougher than the average human. He's also got the ability to devour others and drain their powers! Near the end of the 'Cell Games' Saga, the Bio-Android got a hold of Goku's DNA.
With that, he was able to perform all sorts of moves that mimicked Goku. Cell could now fire the Kamehameha and imitate Super Saiyan. Fans have theorized that Cell could also perform Kaio Ken. Cell more or less corroborated that claim in the show Dragon Ball Z Kai.
We've already talked about the out of universe reason why Goku stopped using the Kaioken technique. Incidentally, the in-universe reason still centers around Super Saiyan. According to Goku, mixing Super Saiyan and Kaio Ken can potentially be very lethal! This is because of a fundamental difference between SS and KK.
Kaio Ken requires users to have a calm mind and a strong body. Super Saiyan is fueled by emotions and heightens one's senses.Years later, Goku manages to mix Kaioken and Super Saiyan God Blue after years of training. Even then, he was sick for a very long time afterward.
That is to say that Goku's control over Kaio Ken gets better with age. You see, Goku is really the only person who bothers to use the move anymore. This is because he's the only person who's been able to master it. Goku's decades of training help, but it's his never-say-die demeanor that's allowed him to use KK so effectively.
Goku didn't always possess this gift; early on in Dragon Ball Z, Kaio Ken used to severely damage Goku and drain his stamina. But Goku didn't give up. Instead, he learned to use the move in short burst - temporarily enhancing his strikes and even his energy attacks.
Kaio Ken is such a dangerous move because it doesn't really have any limits; the move can theoretically enhance one's power as much as their body can withstand. Initially, Goku could only multiply his power twofold. As he grew stronger, however, he learned how to perform KK times 3, 5, 10 and more!
So far, Goku has only reached Kaio Ken times 20 on screen. However, Goku may be able to access Kaio Ken X 50, 100, or 1,000 with enough training! The toll that KK takes on its users is another reason most don't use it - you tend to be sore and tender after long periods of use.
Over the years, certain members of the Dragon Ball fanbase have taken to clowning characters for their shortcomings. Yamcha is infamous for not being very active these days and Krillin gets a lot of flak for his many deaths. Even Vegeta is immune to getting blasted by some DB fans.
Typically, people joke about the fact that Vegeta hasn't achieved Super Saiyan 3. Most of these jokes aren't meant to be taken seriously. Still, these jokers tend to overlook Vegeta's specific accomplishments. Case in point, Vegeta achieved Super Saiyan God SS Evolved - which is on par with Goku's Super Saiyan Blue Kaio-ken form!
We're going to get metatextual again for this entry. One of the reasons that Akira Toriyama even created Kaio Ken was to give Goku a new signature move. In Toriyama's mind, the Kamehameha was supposed to be Goku's signature finisher in Dragon Ball. While writing Dragon Ball Z, Toriyama wanted to give Goku a new move to help set the shows apart.
This desire even carries over into the Dragon Ball Z movies. Most of the animated Dragon Ball Z films feature Goku using Kaio Ken to finish off an opponent. This is true in World's Strongest, Tree of Might, Lord Slug, and both Cooler films.
We've spent most of this list talking about Goku's mastery over Kaio Ken. However, did you know that Chi-Chi can you KK as well? Okay, she can't actually use Kaioken but she does possess a move that's similar to it.
When Chi-Chi gets very angry, she can use a move called Red Blazing Aura. This technique aesthetically resembles Kaio Ken, replete with a red aura. Red Blazing Aura isn't just for show either - when Chi-Chi uses this move, she becomes incredibly resistant to damage! When fired up, this woman can shrug off some seriously heavy hits as if someone tried to tickle her.