And here we thought Mortal Kombat was the gory video game.
Street Fighter’s shoryuken, or dragon punch, is one of the most iconic special moves in fighting game history. A leaping, corkscrewing uppercut, in every installment of the Street Fighter franchise the shoryuken has top-tier hit priority and can be consistently attached to combos, making its mastery a critical technique for high-level players.
However, in the games the shoryuken isn’t a particularly damaging attack, and you have to wonder if the unconventional motion would really carry that much force. Here with an answer are the investigative minds of YouTube channel Vsauce3.
The presenters employ a mix of observed in-game phenomena and real-world physics to arrive at their conclusion. For their video game fact-gathering, Vsauce decided to examine Ken, the character most strongly associated with the dragon punch, and Zangief, the massive Russian wrestler who’s been a recurring combatant since Street Fighter II.
Vsauce points out that in the game, Ken crouches down before delivering the punch, which means he would travel up about two and a half feet (0.76 meters) before striking the chin of Zangief, who stands seven feet tall according to his official Street Fighter profile.
When it connects as a knock-down hit in the game, the shoryuken lifts Zangief, who’s listed as weighting 400 pounds (181 kilograms) into the air a distance equal to his own body length. Zangief reaches the zenith of his flight in roughly 0.1 seconds, giving him a launch velocity of 26.3 miles per hour (42.3 kilometers per hour).
Allowing for a standard sized human fist, Vsauce calculates that to produce such effects, Ken would be packing 66 pounds per square inch of force into the blow, with the entire dragon punch delivering 7,569.5 Newtons to Zangief’s jaw.
Even if you’re more versed in the “fig” variety of Newtons than the physics kind, you can probably guess that that’s a lot of energy slamming into Ken’s opponent. By comparison, 18th-century hanging methods, which employed a drop to snap the victim’s neck rather than letting him suffocate, only needed 5,600 Newtons to get the job done.
In other words, in real life Ken’s strike would be powerful enough to kill a man, and in dramatic fashion. To demonstrate, Vsauce built a shoryuken machine and strapped a punch test dummy into it.
▼ Diligent scientists that they are, they acknowledge the incompleteness of the simulation, as it doesn’t account for the fact that in Ken’s fierce shoryuken his fist is on fire.
And with all the preparations made, it’s time to let ‘er rip!
▼ Quite literally.
So it seems the shoryuken’s damage is actually nerfed to an extreme degree in Street Fighter. We honestly had no idea Ken was so strong, and now we can’t help wondering who would win in a fight between the blond martial artists and Studio Ghibli anime witch Kiki, who’s also rumored to be superhumanly powerful.