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‘Dragonball Z’s Goku: Universe 7’s Strongest Warrior

6 Minute Read
Mar 18 2024

Who is this warrior from the stars? And who (if anyone) can take him in a fight? These answers to questions about Goku may surprise you.

Greetings, Saiyan warriors, martial arts masters, and horrible monsters from space! When it comes to cartoon protagonists, few are as iconic as Son Goku, the primary lead of Dragonball, Dragonball Z, Dragonball GT, and Dragonball Super. While he isn’t always in the spotlight, his presence is always felt, and he’s usually the focus of the antagonists.

If you’re like me, you grew up with the Saiyan warrior’s adventures through the world, protecting Earth from the likes of ancient demons, ruthless aliens, and vengeful gods. I still remember how hyped I was to see Goku achieve Super Saiyan on Namek (even though Gohan was always my favorite), and I’ve been following the series ever since.

But do you know where the idea for this mighty warrior comes from? Hopefully, after this guide, you will. I’ll also give you some stats about the mighty champion and answer the age-old question: Who can beat Goku in a fight?

Son Goku: Not Monkeying Around

So we all know the story of Son Goku, the boy with the tail that fell from the sky. His adoptive grandfather Gohan raised him until he sought out Turtle Sage Roshi and began his martial arts adventure. While these origins closely mirror a different “Super” hero, Goku’s origins go back even further to the ancient Chinese epic Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en.

Just a naughty monkey god; nothing to see here…

Son Goku & the Legend of the Monkey King

In the story, the monkey Sun Wukong is born from a stone atop the mystical Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. Because of the peak’s proximity to the heavenly realm, the stone was able to absorb the powers of both Heaven and Earth and gained the ability to produce life. When the stone cracked, a stone monkey appeared, gifted with various magical powers by the strong energy the stone had absorbed. This is similar to the round Saiyan pod Kakarot arrives on Earth in, which resembles stone in color and texture. In addition, the Japanese translation of Sun Wukong is Son Goku.

As Wukong’s life went on, he excelled at almost every challenge presented to him. He joined a troupe of monkeys and quickly became their leader by climbing a giant waterfall. He stole the sacred weapon Ruyi Jingu Bang from the Dragon King Ao Guang. This weapon was a red staff with gold bands, able to change size, lengthen, and even fly, and was said to weigh well over 7000 kilograms. This is again similar to Goku’s magic staff, which could also shift in size. Wukong would later go on to impress the diving Jade Emperor, who gifted him with immortality and several other divine gifts, like flying cloud sandals. These sandals are likely the inspiration for nimbus, Goku’s flying cloud. The depiction of Sun Wukong often includes him riding a cloud, providing another point of reference.

(Artist) Kubo Shunman

Journey to the West and the Punishment of Budda

The Monkey King, however, wasn’t always good. Buddha eventually cursed him. To redeem himself, he had to assist the monk Tang Sanzang in returning the sacred sutras of Buddhism to Japan. I would suggest reading the epic to learn more about the Monkey King’s exploits and see how his fellow disciples inspired other Dragonball characters. Prime examples are Zhu Bajie, who became Oolong the Pig, and Niu Mowang, the Ox King. Even the Ozaru form the Saiyans transform into under the full moon resembles the demonic form of Wukong.

From Turtle Student to Ultra Instinct: How Strong is Goku?

This is a tough question, and it really depends on where in his journey we catch him. Even as a child, Goku had superhuman stamina. Someone dropped him from a cliff as a baby, but he survived with only memory loss. Early in his life, Goku was considered relatively weak compared to other Saiyans. When Raditz, his older brother, came to Earth hunting for him, he remarked that Goku was one of the weakest living Saiyans at the time. However, by human standards, he was incredibly strong, and able to drag large rocks even as an infant. Goku’s true strength, however, was his adaptability. He was able to master techniques after only seeing them a few times, as evidenced by how quickly he mastered Roshi’s Kamehameha wave.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Goku hasn’t been defeated several times in his career. Even before the rapid power scaling of Z, Goku was defeated by Jackie Chun, King Piccolo, and even Tien. Once Z hit, however, his losses started to decline. After his mutual defeat against Raditz, he trained with King Kai, unlocking his first “voluntary” transformation, the Kaioken, and learning the Spirit Bomb. From there, all his defeats were relatively short-lived, thanks to the Zenkai boost Saiyans receive when they recover from near-fatal damage.


However, it wasn’t until his fight with Frieza that his true potential began to shine. With the senseless death of Krillin, Goku’s rage unlocked his Super Saiyan form. This made him the first Saiyan to achieve it in the series. From there, he perfected it up to Super Saiyan 3 (or 4 in the non-canon GT). Then God, Super Saiyan God, and finally Ultra Instinct. This final form allowed him to access the powers of the angels, like Whis, if only temporarily.

Is Goku the Strongest Character in Dragonball?

People have debated this question for many years. The answer depends on the timeline, what counts as canon, and in some cases, personal opinion. At the end of the Tournament of Power arc, he was able to fight Jiren to a standstill. However, his lack of training in Ultra Instinct meant he likely would have lost the fight had it continued. However, God of Destruction Beerus called him the strongest warrior in Universe 7. At the time, that may have been true.

In the Superhero arc, Vegeta stated that there were several warriors that were equal to Goku. Gohan, Goku’s first son, also has the potential to surpass him. However since he stopped training for so long, that time may have passed. Superhero showed a new transformation for the young half-Saiyan in Ultra Beast. But whether or not he will surpass his father remains to be seen.

So… Who Can Beat Goku?

This is a dangerous question, and it’s caused no small amount of fights. In canon, several characters already have, and he’s died at least three times in battle. The most common theoretical opponent is Superman. Both are the “strongest” characters of their respective universe, and their origins are very similar. However, most people argue that they would never fight at full strength since both have a strong sense of justice. Goku or Superman would always hold back, and there wouldn’t be a reason for them to fight with lethal intent.

Of course, EVERY Shonen protagonist has been pitted against Goku at some point. Fox Cloak Naruto and Gear Five Luffy are commonly pitted against him, and who wins that fight depends on the rules. In Luffy’s universe, he probably wins the fight. In the Dragonball world, however, Goku would have the advantage of Ki.


What everyone seems to forget, though, is that Goku has lost several fights in his own series. Though his strength and skill cannot be ignored, he isn’t the unstoppable force most fans depict him as. He would give most anime protagonists a run for their money, for sure. However, he’s still defined by the rules of the universe, and even in his own canon, he isn’t undefeated.

Author: Clint Lienau
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