Having read a few manga/watched some anime, I have seen that many characters can use attacks where they gather their "ki" or, according to wikipedia, "Life force", and release it in a fireball like manner. The most widely known examples of these are the "Hadouken", and the "Kamehameha". Where does the idea for this kind of attack come from? Did one person think of it and everyone copy them, or is there like a old teaching or story about this?

Thanks in advance :)


5 Answers 5


I'm going to talk about the Kamehameha here if I talk about either one of them specifically, because I know more about Dragon Ball than I do about Street Fighter.

The Kamehameha is supposed to be the ultimate attack, in which the user gathers all of their Ki into one point and releases it at once.

Ki, also spelled Chi or Qi, is "life-force" as you mentioned. The idea of ki is one that is pervasive throughout East Asian mythology. It originates from tai-chi. Tai-chi is not just a martial art in the sense that someone brought up in the West like myself might think of it -- that is to say, it doesn't exist just so that you can learn to defend yourself from an assailant. It is a practice that was birthed from Taoism, also spelled as Daoism, which is a very spiritual set of beliefs.

Taoism, as you may know, has as one of its core principles the balance of internal and external force -- yin versus yang. Yin represents the internal force, and yang the external.

In tai-chi, one does learn self-defensive techniques and weapon drills, it's true. However, one also learns to cultivate the yin in one's body. This may be an oversimplification but I believe that defensive and weapons training is considered the cultivation of yang.

To cultivate yin, one learns completely passive techniques, such as breathing and meditation. These are designed to promote overall health and wellness of one's own body. To someone unfamiliar with tai-chi, the exercises might look like aerobics or even just stretching exercises. In mythology, it is believed that masters of such artistry can live for well over a hundred years, or even forever. (hint hint, Master Roshi, although it's explained in the show as him drinking from "The Fountain of Youth" -- that part is a parody of the "eternal martial artist" trope in Asian stories). The breathing and movement techniques are said to keep one's ki in balance, and cultivate untapped potential ki which has not begun to flow in the body yet.

In other words, although a show like Dragon Ball is fantasy, to explain it in real world mythology: Master Roshi became such a master of tai-chi that he can manipulate his ki into an external force directly.

The same principle applies to Ryu. He is supposed to be a master martial artist. To someone familiar with East Asian mythology and tropes, this means that he knows how to manipulate his life energy to make fireballs, to put it simply.

  • Most scholars believe the concept of chi/qi predates taichi/taiji. Few scholars choose to believe Taichi existed before the 12th century, and most agree that taichi as we know it today came about in the 19th century. Chi has recorded roots all the way back to the 5th century BCE (2500 years ago), and is believed to have pre-history roots before that. Also, note that the "Chi" in "Taichi" is actually a different character than Chi/qi -- it's a different word. Modern pinyin now spells it "taiji," which avoids the confusion.
    – Cort Ammon
    May 17, 2016 at 14:56

I propose it might be part of the general xianxia heritage

Dragon Ball is (at least somewhat) based on Journey to the West, which could be considered an ancestor of modern xianxia stories. Not to mention that DB shares multiple things with said genre.

Xianxia ("immortal heroes") are a genre of Chinese semi-mythological stories of masters of martial arts that transcend human limits (as a rough and limited primer on the subject).

Modern stories tend to start out at "fistfights with fancy fireworks" levels, then transition to flying people punching each other with lasers, and then going into destroying mountain ranges by punching in their general direction (, and then...). Scaling to continental, planetary, galactic, universal or multiversal levels.

Martial artists shooting lasers by punching, or waving their weapon (or tool) of choice is not an unknown concept and predates DB (see: ZU Warriors From The Magic Mountain movie from 1983, which is an adaptation of a novel. In the linked clip you can see characters blasting lightning from their hands as well as the white-clothed swordsman shooting lasers/sword projections/sword energy/sword light out of their sword. Considering this example from before the publication of Dragon Ball and variations of "sword qi" and the like being a staple of xianxia novels, kamehameha/hadouken seem a reasonable extrapolation of the idea.

I suppose master martial artists punching someone from across the room is the same expectation in the east like we have with old men in robes and pointy hats shooting lasers or exploding balls of fire from their walking sticks.


The "Hadouken" is translated as “WAVE MOTION FIST” and is inspired by the move “WAVE MOTION GUN” as seen in Space Battleship Yamato from the 70s. The creator also made 2 games predating Dragon Ball back in 1982 and 1 of them was Kung Fu Master.


The original Kamehameha wave was used by Master Roshi in Dragon Ball manga volume 2 originally released in Japan in 1986 while Street Fighter only came out a year later in 1987.

Since Capcom is a Japanese-based company, it's a safe bet that SF's Hadouken was a copy of the Kamehameha in Japan. Yet, Americans were first introduced to the Hadouken since mangas were not big back in the late 80's.

  • 1
    Welcome to Anime.SE! I feel like this is missing the point of the question slightly. The Hadouken came from the Kamehameha, but where did the Kamehameha come from? Was it an entirely original idea, or was Akira Torayama inspired by something else?
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 11, 2020 at 13:04

In karate, there's a breathing exercise that uses that hand form, and you can bet it's in kung fu as well since karate came from kung fu. Anyway, it's a martial arts breathing form typically.

  • 1
    This could use a little bit more detail, and reference to some nice sources. Also you might want to elaborate on why this is related to shooting beams/lasers out of your palms.
    – Dimitri mx
    Jun 30, 2015 at 0:16

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