Note: This is an updated and wholly rewritten version of a blog post that I wrote a week or so ago, when the trailer for Gouki/Akuma’s inclusion into the cast of SF6 was published. The former blog post was riddled with mistakes, this has been ameliorated.

Within the trailer Gouki performs his signature move, the Shungokusatsu (“instant hell slaying”) and recites a short poem, with accompanying kanji that shows what he says.

(1) 一瞬千撃 (2) 抜山蓋世 (3) 鬼哭啾啾 (4)故豪鬼成

(1) Isshun sengeki, (2) batsuzan gaisei, (3) kikoku shuushuu, (4) yue ni Goku nari

On a surface level, you could translate it as,

(1) Delivering a thousand strikes in an instant,

(2) I uproot mountains and overshadow worlds,

(3) Making ghosts constantly cry and wail,

(4) Therefore I am Gouki

The official dub renders it as:

(1) Die a thousand deaths

(2) Usurp the heavens

(3) Embrace the sorrow

(4) Become the demon

Already now, I am sure that you’ll see that there are differences between the initial direct translation and the localisation by Capcom’s English team.

Therefore, treating each of these lines – verses of poetry, if you will – individually, to show how they are references to Classical Chinese literature as well as Gouki’s appearance in the official SF3 manga by Masahiko Nakahira.

Before moving in, it’s worth noting that each of the 4 lines are composed of 4 kanji and as such initially look great, but whereas the first three are purely read via the Chinese-inspired on-yomireading, the last is read in the Japanese-inspired kun-yomireading, and as such breaks the flow/rhythm/structure of the poem itself – the last one is more specifically kun-doku, i.e. translating Classical Chinese into Classical Japanese, as will be explained when we reach the fourth line.

I will include the literal translation for each line aside it in the title.

1. 一瞬千撃, lit. one-instant-thousand-strike(s)

“A thousand strikes in one instant” stems from the SF4 iteration of his Shungokusatsu, where said kanji appear as he strikes a niou pose signifying the literal nature of the attack hitting numerous times in a flash. This could in turn stem all the way back to the SF3 manga.

The Niou themselves being fierce guardian dieties, whose very appearance Gouki himself closely resembles right down to posing and physical features.

Translating it as “die a thousand deaths”, whilst dramatic and certainly fitting Gouki’s overall personality, feels like an exaggeration of the “thousand strike” that he will deliver.

2. 抜山蓋世, lit. pull-mountain(s)-cover-world(s)

This line derives from 史記・項羽本紀 (Shi Jie: Book of Xian Yu):


Xian Yu, a king of Western Chu, is trapped by Liu Bei’s forces and composes this song.

In Burton Watson’s translation:

My strength plucked up the hills,/My might shadowed the world;/But the times were against me,/And Dapple runs no more;/When Dapple runs no more,/What then can I do?/Ah, Yu, my Yu,/

What will your fate be? (Watson, v. 1, p. 45)

The pertinent passage being:


(Lit. strength-pull-mountain-EMPH, spirit-cover-world)

Whence the Japanese idiom 抜山蓋世 derives, in its modern meaning of “having herculean strength.”

The English’s dub, “usurp the heavens”, makes Gouki sound very Luciferian – thus them making a rather direct reference to the meaning of Akuma, his English name. Where the original line merely references Gouki highlighting his own superhuman strength and power.

3. 鬼哭啾啾, lit. ghost-wail-cries.

Note that “cries” are literally a reduplication of the character for “cry” to create a plural.

This refers to a line from the Tang-era poem “The Ballad of War Carts” by Du Fu, which refers to a peasant-conscript joining the imperial army and experiencing the battlefield first hand. The last two lines of the poem are:



“Where new ghosts are troubled by the cries of the old

The sky is gray, it rains, it’s wet, and all about, the sound of constant wailing”

(translation by Traditionshome, ll. 33 – 34)

Hence abbreviating the entire last phrase into “the constant wailing of crying ghosts.”

The Japanese idiom, 鬼哭啾啾 can therefore mean "something spine-chilling."

“Embrace the sorrows” sounds off point, where the original tactfully refers to the 鬼 (oni/ghost) part of his own name, lit. “mighty oni”.

4. 故豪鬼成, lit. therefore-Gouki-be.

The line, when spoken by Gouki himself, is: Yue ni Gouki nari, “therefore I am Gouki”, whilst this scans as archaic Japanese, this is in truth somewhat clumsy. It looks great, because it goes 4-4-4-4, but upon reading this out it looks inelegant. Four of the lines are read like Classical Chinese poetry ala on-doku (“sound reading”, i.e. reading as a Middle Chinese text), and the last line “yue ni Gouki nari” is kun-doku (“semantic reading”, i.e. in Japanese, as mentioned previosuly), hence, 故豪鬼成 ought to have been rendered as 故に豪鬼なり with okurigana (grammatical kana) – but is rendered in the former manner to fit in with the previously established pattern. Furthermore, nari (to be) is usually rendered in kanji as 也 rather than 成, which is typically reserved for the meaning “to become”, thus the meaning becomes akin to “therefore, I have become Gouki”, rather than “therefore, I am Gouki.”

The English version's instance on "become the demon" utterly skips Gouki's literal raison d'etre and makes it sound as if he wants Ryu or whoever he is fighting to recite this as some manner of oath.

The manga:

The manga itself is where the four lined poem originally, is, as mentioned, Masahiko Nakahira's brilliant Street Fighter III: Ryu Final, that along side charting the events of the third game also concludes Ryu's narrative with him facing off against the man who slew his master and also became somewhat a opponent-teacher figure for him.

When the two then eventually face off in the very last volume of the manga, Gouki recites the poem, with the kanji appearing alongside him albeit with no furigana (kana to denote the pronunciation of the characters), hence creating the impression of the last line also being read akin to Classical Chinese.

In conclusion:

Gouki as a character is pretty much the warrior-poet despite his spartan exterior and training regiment. Dictated by his own extremely tough code of honour. The four lines essentially refer to Classical Chinese poetry and thus delineate his own way of life - not some strange oath to be sworn by him or his opponent, mid-fight.

Capcom has otherwise done a superb job at conveying his personality, but have turned the four line poem into less of his personal credo and more a menacing oath for the opposing player to swear by.

Matching the voice with the mouth flap, and owing to the concise nature of Japanese versus that of English does present a reason why some of these lines are localised as they are, but overall this rendition misses the mark of some of them, whilst keeping his archaic diction intact.