The protagonist of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga, Son Goku, has demonstrated the ability to do some amazing feats over the years. Most of them include different fighting styles and techniques, but some of these feats have been skills that don’t necessarily have a direct connection with fighting, which is Son Goku’s forte. One of such abilities is flying. So, when and how does Goku learn to fly?
The exact moment Goku learned to fly was never specified. We know that he has been through intensive training with several characters, but he has also been shown to be able to fly rather instinctively. In the manga, we see Goku fly in Chapter 193 (without his tail), although was seen flying with his tail during the first tournament arc, while fighting Jackie Chung. In the anime, we see him fly in episode 26 of Dragon Ball with his tail and in episode 148 of Dragon Ball without the tail.
The rest of this article is going to give you more details on Son Goku’s ability to fly. We’re going to describe the circumstances in more detail, but we are also going to tell you when these events happened and how Goku actually learned to fly.
When Did Goku Learn to Fly?
Flight is one of the most common techniques used in the Dragon Ball series. It allows its users to perform techniques that would normally be very impractical or downright impossible without it, since a lot of them include attacking from high altitudes and whatnot. The user manipulates their ki energy so that they can hover or fly.
In the first Dragon Ball anime series, we find out that the Sky Dance is a unique technique of the Crane School and that Master Shen is the one who invented it on Earth. Flight is first shown in Dragon Ball during Puar’s first appearance and was named during the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament when Tien Shinhan and Chiaotzu are seen flying (Master Roshi called this tecnique “overrated”). Very soon all other Z fighters (except Yajirobe and Master Roshi) learned the technique.
Flight has become one of the most prominent powers and abilities in the Dragon Ball series and Goku has, on several occasions, demonstrated the ability to fly. Initially, we saw Goku fly using the Flying Nimbus, the famous cloud given to him by Master Roshi; Master Roshi never learned how to fly so the Flying Nimbus was a practical tool to do it. But, at one point in both the manga and the anime, Goku is actually seen flying without the cloud.
The first such instance happened early in his life, while he was still a child, as Goku used his tail as a propeller to fly, shocking everyone present. This wasn’t a very sustainable method, really, as Goku could use this technique to fly for a limited time only. Now, later in the saga, he has been shown to fly without the help of his tail (he had lost it by that point), thereby showing that he was able to master the technique.
The only thing here is that Toriyama has not been overly consistent with the portrayal of Goku’s flight. Namely, the exact moment when he learned how to fly was never specified and there have been instances where he was shown to by flying, although only sporadically and for a brief time.
This is why some fans think that Goku learned how to fly instinctively, without any specific training, some think that he had undergone training to be able to do so, while another group thinks that as a Saiyan, he was biologically able to fly and he only needed to master it (which would make sense, seeing how many parallels there are between Goku and Superman).
Now, although the data on this is not consistent, we have done our best to find out the moments when Goku was first shown flying and we are going to tell you a bit about them in the following paragraphs.
What Episode Does Goku Learn to Fly in with His Tail?
As we have said, the precise moment when Goku learned how to fly was never revealed and we could only find the first times that he was actually seen flying. First, we are going to deal with Goku flying with his tail. In the manga, it was shown that he was able to use his tail for flight during the first tournament arc, whilst fighting Jackie Chun:
As you can see, Jackie Chun (Master Roshi in disguise) was quite surprised seeing Goku use this technique and since he was actually his master in disguise, we can assume that Goku had not used it before. The main issue with this technique is that Goku couldn’t really use it for a long period of time and could not fly over long(er) distances with it.
As far as the anime is concerned, this moment happened in Episode 26, “The Grand Finals”, when Goku was fighting Jackie Chun. You can see that moment for yourselves:
It is the exact same moment shown in the above panel from the manga, so the same thing we said above applies to this situation as well. Now, this is when Goku learned to fly with his tail. Now, we are going to see when he learned how to fly without his tail.
What Episode Does Goku Learn to Fly in Without His Tail?
As for Goku flying without the use of his tail, there are even more inconsistencies, as we simply cannot determine properly whether some of the moments shown are actual flight, levitation, or simply a continuity error. But, there have been several instances early in the story where Goku was shown to fly, although we cannot be sure that it was an actual flight.
For example, in Chapter 177, we see him do this:
And in Chapter 184, we see him do this:
A similar example happened in Chapter 193, when Tien even explicitly stated that Goku had learned how to fly:
Whether these moments constitute actual flight remains a question of debate, but since Tien personally confirmed it in Chapter 193, we can assume it actually happened then. As for the anime, that same moment happened in Episode 148, “The Victor”, of the original Dragon Ball anime, so we can assume that Goku learned how to fly in that episode. You can see it for yourselves:
As for Dragon Ball Z, Goku has been shown to be able to fly with much more consistency.
How Did Goku Learn to Fly?
The exact manner through which Son Goku learned how to fly was never revealed, neither in the manga, nor in the anime. There are several theories, with the most likely one being that Goku probably learned to fly either by watching Tien or by Kami during his long training in The Lookout, because he was not able to demonstrate his ability before he finished his fight in the World Martial Arts Tournament against Piccolo.
Flight is not an overly complex technique in the world of Dragon Ball and it is achieved by manipulating ki, so Goku certainly had the prerequisites to learn how to fly, since he had some great abilities. Now, the most likely theory is that he actually learned how to do it while training with Kami, who is a very powerful character and a great mentor. Kami would definitely have been able to teach Goku how to fly.
As for the theory that he simply learned it by watching Tien, this actually coincides with another theory, which states that Goku learned how to fly instinctively. He did not train for it, he did not practice it, he simply observed others and just started flying. There is nothing precisely for us to use as evidence to support this theory, but considering the general lack of evidence when Goku’s flight is concerned, this theory is as plausible as any other one.
Finally, the last theory suggests that Goku was inherently able to fly due to his heritage. Namely, it is assumed that all Saiyans are able to fly on Earth due to their alien physiology.
This is a theory that has not been officially confirmed, but Saiyans certainly are different than regular humans and they have more powers than regular humans, even without the different fighting techniques. Goku was thus able to fly from the very beginning, but he needed to unlock that power and adapt to the Earth’s atmosphere in order to use it fully.
This theory makes sense in that it draws on the fact that Son Goku was partially inspired by Superman and his story – he is an alien that lands on Earth as a child and becomes the planet’s protector. Flight is a skill that Superman learned on Earth, thanks to the planet’s atmosphere, so it would make sense that Saiyans can also fly on Earth, thanks to the planet’s different properties.