Gouken (剛拳, Gōken?, "strong fist") is a character from the Street Fighter series. He is Ryu's adoptive father, Ryu and Ken's martial arts master, and Dan's former master as well as Akuma's older brother. Gouken plays an integral role in the series' backstory, and was first depicted as a picture in Akuma's ending in in Street Fighter Alpha. Gouken's first actual appearance as a playable character was in Street Fighter IV as a boss character. He is an unlockable character in the home console version of the game.
Gouken is most often depicted as an elderly man with a white beard and prayer beads around his neck. In his Street Fighter IV appearance, Gouken wears a single sleeved, navy blue-colored karate gi and sports a long, white braid of hair adorned with a single prayer bead.
Gouken does not brag about his abilities, and gives insightful advice to opponents; for example, he tells Dan that anger will not help him (fearing it would lead him to a dark path), and he informs Dee Jay that if he is silent, he would be surprised of what he learns. He detests Akuma for killing their master, Goutetsu.
While earlier Street Fighter games made references to Ryu and Ken's master, Gouken made his first illustrated appearance in Street Fighter II RYU, Masaomi Kanzaki's manga adaptation of Street Fighter II. Since then, Gouken has appeared in several Street Fighter movies and comics, including UDON's Street Fighter line of comics, and the Street Fighter Alpha: Generations movie. Before having a canonical illustration in Street Fighter Alpha, Gouken's appearance would differ vastly between media.
According to Capcom's official account of Akuma's backstory, the two brothers were once students of Goutetsu, a practitioner of a nameless martial art that was originally developed with the intention of killing an opponent, which origins are rooted back to Japan's feudal age. Goutetsu taught his skills to Gouken and Akuma. Eventually, the two brothers began to differ in the methods and usage of their fighting style. Akuma became bent on completely mastering the style, and embraced the killing and dark aspect of the art to the point of succumbing to the Satsui no Hado and wanted to embrace it to his fullest extent to become more powerful. Gouken, on the other hand, developed his own style of the art and wanted to embrace the peaceful and spiritual aspect of the art by removing the Satsui no Hado: turning fatal techniques such as the Hadouken and Shoryuken into tools for self-defense, removing their killing potential. After succumbing to the Satsui no Hado, Akuma fought and murdered Goutetsu for not embracing it to his fullest extent and left behind both his master's dojo and his brother in order to train by himself to grow even more powerful.
During this time period, Gouken founded his own dojo, and took Dan Hibiki as his first pupil. However, Gouken learned that the reason Dan wanted to learn martial arts was for revenge, and Gouken rejected him for his motives, fearing that his anger would lead him down a dark path. Later, Gouken found an abandoned orphan baby, Ryu, and took him under his wing. Ryu was joined by a second student, Ken Masters, who was sent from America by his father, a good friend of Gouken's, in order to learn humility and respect for a bright future. After Gouken began to train the two boys, Akuma made a sudden appearance at Gouken's dojo. There, Akuma challenged Gouken to a fight. Akuma was soundly defeated by his brother, but Gouken spared his life even after Akuma's insistence that Gouken should kill him. After Akuma's arrival and departure, Gouken continued to train the two boys. Eventually, Gouken found his two students adept enough to leave the dojo and travel the world to continue their studies to become better people.
Afterwards, Akuma reappeared at Gouken's dojo and challenged his brother to a rematch. This time, Akuma ended up as the victor, supposedly killing him with the Shun Goku Satsu. However, because Gouken used a technique similar to Gen's and emptied his soul of emotions, he was merely left in a deep coma. Because he was unconscious for an extended period of time, Ryu and Ken believed their master to be dead, and put his body in a graveyard.
After awakening two years later, Gouken leaves his dojo and tailed his students, pleased that they have come so far. However, he was not satisfied with just watching them and he decided to enter the new S.I.N. tournament in order to test their strength himself. Gouken successfully finds Ryu after Seth's defeat, and managed to seal the Satsui no Hado so he would never have to suffer with this power again.
Akuma appeared afterwards, furious at Gouken for completing this task; Akuma felt that he would no longer have a chance to kill Ryu in battle. Akuma realizes the power Gouken used to seal it was nothing ordinary, but the Power of Nothingness. The two brothers then face off in another rematch, with control of Ryu's fate as the prize, with Gen witnessing the beginning of the fight in awe. The exact outcome of this fight is unknown, though it is known that both survive and that Ryu does not go to Akuma. Afterwards, Ryu and Ken ask Gouken to stay with them a while, but Gouken tells them that they are both grown men and no longer need a master.
Post-Super Street Fighter IV
What exactly Gouken does after the events of Super Street Fighter IV is unknown, though it is highly possible that he taught Ryu the Denjin Hadoken and Shin Shoryuken seen in the Street Fighter III series, as well as Joudan Sokutou Geri, which Gouken's Focus Attack resembles.
In Street Fighter V, Gouken is seen in Training Mode with Ken Masters which he demonstrates using the Denjin Hadoken towards Ryu and gives him some advice. In Ryu's prologue, he is seen fighting Ryu in a sparring match while he trains him how to control his power within him.
Gouken's special techniques in Street Fighter IV include the Gō Hadōken (剛波動拳, "Strong Surge Fist", spelled with a different kanji from Akuma's version), a variation of the Hadōken projectile techniques which he performs with only one hand, in addition to being able to launch them at an angle and delay their release, similarly to Urien's Metallic Sphere technique in the Street Fighter III series (he can throw two at the same time as an EX Move as well); the Senkugoshoha (閃空剛衝波, "Warping Strong Pierce Wave"), a technique in which Gouken advances (while passing through attacks and fireballs) towards his opponent in a pose similar to Akuma's Ashura Senku pose in Street Fighter EX and attacks with a powerful palm; the Tatsumaki Go Rasen (竜巻剛螺旋?, "Strong Tornado Spiral"), a vertical version of the Tatsumaki Senpukyaku; and the Kuchu Tatsumaki Senpukyaku (空中竜巻旋風脚, "Aerial Tornado Whirlwind Kick"), Ryu and Ken's Aerial Hurricane Kick from Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting.
While Gouken doesn't use the Dragon Punch as a regular special technique, his Super Combo is the Kinjite Shōryūken (禁じ手・昇龍拳?, Forbidden Hand ・ Rising Dragon Fist), while his first Ultra Combo is the Shin Shoryūken (真・昇龍拳?, True Rising Dragon Fist); while the move has featured as Ryu's Super Combo in many games, this particular incarnation is based off one of Ryu's Super Arts from from the Street Fighter III series. On the same note, he also has Ryu's Denjin Hadouken Super Art as a second Ultra Combo in Super Street Fighter IV; much like the original, it can be charged for greater damage and stun, and even provides a wall bounce.
As a Boss
His boss counterpart in Super Street Fighter IV, nicknamed "Shin Gouken" in the same manner as Shin Akuma, has powered up special moves quite similar to that of playable Gouken's EX moves and sports a light blue-green gi. Gouken's EX Senkugoshoha travels further, faster, and has Super Armor. The Gohadouken projectiles are immediately and fully charged, which means they always land two hits. The Denjin Hadouken is also fully charged upon activation. Gouken's normal counter can react to both high and low hits, eliminating the need to guess.
- In Super Street Fighter IV, one of Gouken's win quotes is "You must defeat me to stand a chance". This can be seen as a reference to the infamous English mistranslation of Ryu's win quote from the early versions of the Street Fighter II series. In those games, he would say "You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance" which many speculated was referring to Ryu's master (it was intended to say "you must defeat my Shoryuken to stand a chance").
- Gouken himself was inspired by the Sheng Long mix-up (an April Fool's joke created by EGM), being added in response to fans demanding Sheng-Long. One of his titles states AKA Sheng Long.
- Gouken is one of the 19 characters in Street Fighter IV to not have second rivals in Super Street Fighter IV, despite having a ultra combo video to include his second rival (Ken).
- Gouken's downloadable alternate costume in Super Street Fighter IV greatly resembles Raiden from the Mortal Kombat fighting game series. Furthermore, Gouken's 2nd Ultra in the game, the Denjin Hadouken, is electricity-based, which is like Raiden's own ability to manipulate electricity.
- In Gouken's win quote against the boss form of Oni, he says "Goodbye, brother". This implies that his brother Akuma is gone since he truly became a demon.
- The kanji 無 (mu, "negative") on the back of Gouken's costume represents the Buddhist concept of emptiness, and is often associated with Gouken himself.
- His current Japanese voice actor, Toru Okawa previously voiced Ryu in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.