The Dragon Ball franchise is known for its episodes-long battles, deaths that never last very long, and a slew of villains, each more powerful than the next. These bad guys function as both entertainment — who doesn’t love Frieza? — and as important modes of development for franchise protagonist, Goku, throughout his life. Many of the conflicts that occur through the franchise are over the titular Dragon Balls — a set of seven orbs that, when brought together, release the dragon Shenron, who will grant one wish. A nightmare if the balls get into the wrong hands.
Essentially a timeline of Goku’s growth throughout the series, this article explores the milestone encounters with villains that have shaped his development (and, by extension, his sons Gohan and Goten) as fighter and Saiyan. It looks at the original manga canon, and encompasses villains from the original manga, covering Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball Super. Ready? Let’s go!
Age 749 – 756
The first Dragon Ball series begins with Bulma’s discovery of both Goku and the Dragon Balls. During this part of the franchise, Goku meets Krillin and begins his combat training with Master Roshi.
Emperor Pilaf and the Path to Great Ape
Arguably the most significant event in the entire franchise in terms of Goku’s arc — it’s what sparks all of the ensuing action and leads to Goku’s transition from young innocent to super-powerful Super Saiyan and beyond — is when Kid Goku realises the power of the Dragon Balls for the first time. Bulma, a girl on a mission to gather all of the Dragon Balls, finds him in possession of one of the orbs, and discovers he has inherited it from his deceased adoptive grandfather. She recruits him as her ally in her continuing search for the complete set.
After Goku emerges from the woods with Bulma, at the beginning of his own journey to collect the magic balls, the first opponents he faces are the Pilaf Gang — a goofy group led by the imp Emperor Pilaf. Pilaf and his henchmen, Shu and Mai, are searching for the Dragon Balls so that Pilaf can take over the world.
While Pilaf succeeds in obtaining all seven, unleashing Shenron, his plan is foiled by Oolong the shape-shifting pig, who intercepts, and wishes for a pair of panties. Well, why wouldn’t you?
It’s at this point that Goku, looking up at the full moon, transforms into a Great Ape for the first time, destroying Pilaf’s base. When Goku’s friends cut off his tail (it does grow back), we discover it’s the source of his Great Ape power, and this incident marks the first hint that Goku is perhaps not fully human.
The Red Ribbon Army: New Knowledge and the Next Chapter
Barely a year later, the Red Ribbon Army, led by Commander Red, sets off on its own quest to find the Dragon Balls. But rather than wanting to take over the world, Commander Red wants to wish himself taller — though he keeps those intentions a secret.
He rounds up a group of deadly assassins, including General Blue and Mercenary Tao, to collect the Dragon Balls and prevent Goku from getting in the way. However, Goku eventually infiltrates their headquarters and defeats their commanders, causing the rest of the army to scatter.
While he doesn’t pick up any new powers or skills during this skirmish, Goku does learn of the Dragon Balls’ power to resurrect the dead (though only within a year of their passing).
His defeat of the Red Ribbon Army starts a new chapter for Goku, where the ability to wish to reverse a death becomes an important tactical strategy with stronger enemies. No one ever stays dead for long in the Dragon Ball franchise.
Tien Shinhan: Making Friends of Enemies
The defeat of the Red Ribbon Army — and Mercenary Tao’s death specifically — has a knock-on effect, and leads to a new rival for Goku: the student of Tao’s brother, and all-round great fighter, Tien Shinhan. Unlucky for Goku, the two meet in the final round of the 22nd World Martial Arts tournament, where Tien sprouts two extra arms during their fight.
Their battle is an early instance of Goku using a Kamehameha energy blast (after having learned it in seconds) in a real fight, as he employs it in order to throw himself into Tien. Having learned how to harness it from his teacher, Master Roshi, the Kamehameha will become his signature strike, increasing in power as Goku grows up.
However, at this point, he has not yet learned to control it and it proves too powerful, pushing him out of the ring a split second before Tien. Resulting in a win for Tien. It pays dividends, of course, because despite their early rivalry, Goku befriends Tien and he joins their group. Goku has ultimately earned an ally.
Matching King Piccolo
Immediately after the end of the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament, King Piccolo arrives on Earth from Planet Namek. It’s in facing Piccolo that Goku’s powers develop further, and we learn of his tenacity and stamina, and just how resourceful he can be.
Piccolo — surprise, surprise — is also searching for the Dragon Balls, and wants to restore his youthful energy so he can defeat Earth. He also wants to kill all of the martial arts tournament winners so they can’t learn the Evil Containment Wave technique, a special move necessary to trap him inside an object (the anime version of the ghost traps from Ghostbusters).
King Piccolo throws up multiple eggs, each containing one of his sons: Drum, Cymbal, Tambourine, and Piano (bear with us — this detail becomes significant!). Goku has two showdowns with King Piccolo. In the first battle, Goku is gravely injured. While he does not need to be resurrected by the Dragon Balls at this point in time, he does need to heal.
After Goku recovers, he realizes he needs something to enhance his powers. So, he heads off on a quest to find the fabled Ultra Divine Water, a special liquid that, when imbibed, either reveals the drinker’s hidden power or kills them. Goku takes the risk and drinks, becoming the fourteenth person to try it — and the only one to survive.
With this water, Goku becomes powerful enough to keep up with King Piccolo. But despite his newfound power, Piccolo is still able to break both of Goku’s legs and one of his arms. Here, we learn that even when he is almost completely broken, Goku won’t give in, and he uses his remaining hand to fire off a Kamehameha, propelling himself forward to punch a hole right through King Piccolo, much to King Piccolo’s amazement. Goku is clearly not to be underestimated by any of his enemies.
Levelling Up for Piccolo, Jr
Right before his death, King Piccolo projectile vomits an egg that contains Dragon Ball’s resident grump, Piccolo Jr. The Namekian spends his early years training for the World Martial Arts Tournament, where he wants to fight Goku and avenge his father.
The two meet at the tournament’s final, and this becomes important because it’s where Goku unleashes the Super Kamehameha, a second and slightly more powerful form of the original Kamehameha, for the first time. This marks a key growth in power for Goku.
The strike doesn’t end the fight, however, and Piccolo is able to take out Goku’s arms and legs. But, in the first instance of Goku actually flying in the series, he performs a flying headbutt and knocks Piccolo out of the ring. Goku can’t be kept down by broken bones, and it becomes apparent that his physical form is not his only tool.
His ability to harness the energy around him helps him remain a contender even in the most aggressive and damaging of fights. Goku cements his status as a resourceful and persistent fighter — and as one who grows more powerful with every bout.
Age 761 – 774
Dragon Ball Z flashes forward 5 years after the death of King Piccolo. Goku has married Chi-Chi and they have a son, Gohan.
Raditz Triggers Family Drama, Teamwork and Sacrifice
Goku, Chi-Chi, and Gohan are living a peaceful life. Goku is a farmer and Chi-Chi is encouraging Gohan to be a scholar; she doesn’t want Gohan to follow in the footsteps of his father. Piccolo Jr, meanwhile, is still alive and lurking on the periphery of society, plotting his defeat of Goku. However, their tranquility, and Piccolo’s plans for vengeance, are disrupted by the arrival of the first villain of Dragon Ball Z: Raditz, who comes bearing information about Goku’s past.
Raditz comes to Earth actively looking for Goku to join him in his efforts to conquer planets. First, he reveals Goku’s true name — Kararot — and imparts that they are brothers. We learn here that Goku is actually a member of an alien species known as the Saiyans, and that Goku is a Saiyan warrior.
When Goku refuses to join Raditz, a battle ensues and Piccolo joins forces with Goku for the first time. While Goku and Piccolo were enemies at the end of Dragon Ball, they both prove able to put their differences aside, understanding that to defeat Raditz, and the threat he poses, they must unite their powers. Raditz is powerful, and together, they are stronger.
During the fight, we catch our first glimpse of Goku’s son Gohan’s own Saiyan powers as he launches an enraged attack on Raditz. Gohan was suspected to be a normal kid, and hadn’t completed any training per his mother’s orders. However, the rising anger triggered by the appearance of his newly discovered uncle, who arrives to threaten his family, reveals his inherent powers.
With strength in numbers, and Gohan’s help in weakening his evil Saiyan brother, Goku is able to grab Raditz while Piccolo fires a powerful energy attack, which bores a hole through them both. Goku sacrifices himself to defeat Raditz and save the Earth. This is the first of many deaths for the franchise hero: Goku will soon be resurrected with the Dragon Balls.
Training in the Other World and the Importance of Teamwork
With his final breath, Raditz announces that two powerful Saiyans, Vegeta and Nappa, will arrive on Earth in a year to retrieve the Dragon Balls. Raditz’s visit may have been shortlived, but his impact on Goku — and, indeed Gohan, his flesh and blood — is far-reaching.
Discovering that there are more Saiyans in the universe who want to destroy Earth and wish for ultimate power leads Goku to decide to remain in the Dragon Ball afterlife, Other World. So, while he can be resurrected, Goku instead chooses at this point to undertake more training to prepare to face his foretold foes.
In death, under the tutelage of King Kai, the ultimate king of the universe, Goku works to become more powerful than ever in order to protect the world. But he is not the only one working on his powers. While Goku is in Other World, on Earth, Piccolo starts to train Gohan ahead of the Saiyans’ arrival.
Raditz’s impact doesn’t stop there. His arrival also marks the first team-up of the Z Fighters — Goku, Gohan, Piccolo, Krillin, Yamcha, Tien, Chiaotzu, and Yajirobe — as they all come together out of necessity to defeat the impending Saiyan attacks. As Goku’s power set develops, he also grows to fully understand the advantage teaming up lends as he gains more experience fighting alongside others through the franchise.
For the rest of the franchise, the Z Fighters band together to fight each subsequent villain in order to save the Earth and protect each other.
Vegeta and Nappa: Don’t Make Him Angry
The arrival of Vegeta and Nappa precipitates an extraordinary evolution in Goku. After a year of training, Goku is resurrected just one day before the nefarious Saiyan duo arrives on Earth in search of the Dragon Balls. However, Goku needs to travel back to Earth which King Kai estimates will take two days.
While Goku works to get back home, Goku’s team tries to fight Vegeta and Nappa without him. However, they all perish — except for Krillin and Gohan.
This sends Goku into a rage, the likes of which he’s never felt before. Boosted by his latest bout of training, his power skyrockets and he uses the Kaio-ken finish for the first time to defeat Nappa, breaking his back.
Vegeta, meanwhile, turns Giant Ape and crushes Goku’s arms and legs. Despite not being able to use his limbs, Goku is able to employ the Spirit Bomb — a skill learned from King Kai — for the first time since being resurrected. Since he can’t use his limbs to properly launch the attack, he recruits Krillin to help aim the attack towards Vegeta.
The attack doesn’t kill Vegeta, but it does gravely injure him, and he travels off Earth to heal. Vegeta will eventually become a tentative ally to Goku and his team, though he constantly wants to one-up Goku when it comes to power levels. This means that whenever Goku masters a new technique, Vegeta must follow suit, and vice versa. This rivalry, while not exactly healthy, does push Goku to develop his powers faster, and more broadly, than he might otherwise have.
Frieza and the Ginyu Force: New Balls Please
While Vegeta was on Earth, our next villain, Frieza, had been spying on him, and through his surveillance, learned about the alternate set of Dragon Balls on Planet Namek (Piccolo’s home planet). These, unlike those on planet Earth, can resurrect people beyond one year dead. This means that Goku can ostensibly save entire planets destroyed by the Saiyans (should he happen to get his hands on them).
Frieza is described as the most powerful being in the Universe, with the ability to blow up entire planets with ease. But that doesn’t stop Goku and team from trying to put a stop to Frieza’s ongoing search for power, and in his efforts to do so, he once again increases his skillset.
Frieza initially arrives on Planet Namek with the Frieza Force (Zarbon, Dodoria, Cui, and Appule). However, the entire Frieza Force is completely defeated by Vegeta, which leads Frieza to summon the Ginyu Force. It’s clearly good to have Vegeta onside, despite the fact he offed a bunch of Goku’s mates.
So, enter the Ginyu Force. Led by Captain Ginyu, the Ginyu Force is a group of mercenaries, made up of Guldo, Recoome, Burter, and Jeice. Strength and teamwork are core to their success — not unlike Goku and his allies.
The Ginyu Force use their powers on Planet Namek to collect the Dragon Balls. However, Goku arrives just in time (yay) to help fight the group alongside Vegeta, Gohan, and Krillin.
Goku has been training on a spaceship with a high-gravity machine in order to increase his strength ahead of this confrontation, and arriving on Namek, he’s able to unleash his freshly increased power to defeat the Ginyu Force (all except Captain Ginyu, that is, who accidentally switches bodies with a frog, as you do). Proving also that Goku and his allies have teamwork nailed — they’re even more formidable than a trained group of mercenaries for whom teamwork is everything.
Frieza Face-Off Sends Goku Super Saiyan
Like many Dragon Ball villains, Frieza has multiple forms, each stronger than the next. And Frieza proves more problematic than her hired mob. He kills many of the Z Fighters, starting with Vegeta. Goku attempts to defeat Frieza with a Large Spirit Bomb, but it has little effect.
But, when Frieza kills Krillin and gravely injures Piccolo, Goku unleashes his rage and goes Super Saiyan for the first time, a powerful form marked by blonde hair. Frieza is floored; he thought no Super Saiyans were left in the Universe.
A long agonizing battle ensues as each uses more and more power. In desperation, Frieza fires a Death Ball into the core of Namek, which begins the planet’s destruction. However, Goku ultimately comes out on top, seemingly defeating the villain with a Super Kamehameha before the planet explodes.
Everyone is able to escape, before Goku uses the Ginyu Force’s escape pod to flee to planet Yardrat. While his friends try to wish him back, Goku decides he needs to up his game, and chooses to remain on Yardrat in order to train and learn new techniques — including a method of teleportation known as Instant Transmission. Be good to have that in his arsenal, right?
Dr. Gero and Cell: (More) Knowledge Is (More) Power
Goku arrives back on Earth two years later, only to be confronted by a figure from the future: Trunks, the son of Vegeta and Bulma. He warns Goku of the arrival, in three years, of powerful androids on Earth — which sparks another bout of training. Goku, Gohan, and Piccolo continue to hone their fight skills, until Android 19, and Android 20 — or Dr. Gero (previously a member of the Red Ribbon Army) — arrive.
Vegeta (who was brought back to life) defeats Android 19, but Dr. Gero escapes to activate Androids 17 and 18. They then activate Android 16, programmed to assassinate Goku. However, these androids soon pale into insignificance — and indeed cease to pose a threat, individually at least — when Goku and co. learn about Cell.
Cell, a genetically-modified creature made by Dr. Gero, contains the DNA of Piccolo, Vegeta, Goku, and Frieza. He has four forms (Imperfect, Semi-Perfect, Perfect, and Super Perfect) and has the ability to absorb the energy of others, allowing him to ingest Androids 17 and 18. Convenient. This results in him evolving into a more powerful being.
On turning into Perfect Cell, he declares a competition: the Cell Games. His plan is to fight Goku and other citizens of Earth to show off his power. Goku and Gohan know they must train harder than ever to have a chance against Cell. So, they set to work, training in a special hyperbolic time chamber, complete with high gravity and unpredictable temperatures. Here, Goku achieves Super Saiyan Full Power. Meanwhile, Gohan also achieves a breakthrough, hitting Super Saiyan 2.
Not only does Goku gain power as a result of the threat Cell poses, but he also realises that his son could now defeat Cell without him. Goku is no longer the world’s only hope — and that’s big news.
Gohan — and Goku — Combine Powers and Hit New Heights
Goku is right, and Gohan soon reaches Super Saiyan 2 — a form nobody thought possible — as his rage kicks in after Cell kills Android 16. Gohan’s new form makes light work of finishing off the villain, and he punches Cell so hard that he regurgitates those he absorbed, which leads to him gradually losing power.
However, the beaten Cell instigates self-destruct, a procedure so powerful it would take out the entire planet should it complete. Here’s where a recently learned skill of Goku’s comes into play for the first time: transporting Cell to King Kai’s planet via Instant Transmission, he is able to save the world.
Despite Cell’s explosion, which kills Goku, the genetically engineered hybrid is able to rebuild himself, and he becomes the more powerful Super Perfect Cell, before heading back to Earth.
Exhausted, but determined, Gohan finally defeats the creature once and for all with a Father-Son Kamehameha, a move that Goku’s spirit is able to help with from the afterlife. Thanks to King Kai, Goku is granted the ability to speak to mortals from afar.
While Goku and Gohan have trained together through Dragon Ball Z, this is the first time they have truly combined their powers — a significant step in the evolution of both characters. Goku truly believes in Gohan’s abilities and knows he can eliminate Cell despite his fears. Goku’s help ends up assuaging Gohan’s fear, which makes them stronger, and more effective.
With Cell dead and Earth safe (for now), Goku decides to remain in Other World, insisting he causes too much trouble for Earth, and look on as Gohan protects the planet. This ultimately means Goku can continue to train and grow even stronger.
In Other World, Goku is able to reach Super Saiyan 2, like Gohan, and then Super Saiyan 3, a new and even stronger form of Saiyan that requires an exorbitant amount of energy. Goku becomes the first person to discover that this form is even possible, let alone actually inhabit it.
Babidi and Majin Buu: the Power of Fusion
Seven years later, Goku is granted permission to pause his training with King Kai and return to Earth to compete in the 25th World Martial Arts Tournament. Upon his arrival, he meets his youngest son, Goten, born after the Cell Saga.
While taking part in the tournament, Goku and the Z Fighters learn about an evil wizard named Babidi who wishes to harness enough power to release an ancient monster named Majin Buu — a giant, bubblegum pink, genie-like being. Dropping out of the competition, they try to defeat the wizard before he can unleash the monster, but Vegeta lets Babidi possess him to reawaken his evil side so he can finally defeat Goku and prove he is the stronger Saiyan.
So, first off, Goku has to fight Vegeta again. This has the effect of awakening Majin Buu — the energy emitted by the two powerful Saiyans fighting is immense.
Throughout the Buu Saga, Goku, Gohan, and Goten reach several Saiyan milestones. Goku teaches the ‘Fusion Dance‘ to Goten and his best friend, Trunks, which allows the two participants fuse into one powerful being (named Gotenks).
When Goku transforms into the Super Saiyan 3 form, he finds it saps his energy reserves, forcing him to return to Other World. He leaves the fight in the hands of Gotenks and Gohan, believing that their combined powers can defeat the pink menace.
But just when he thinks they don’t need him, Gotenks and Gohan are absorbed by Buu, and Buu gains their powers. So Goku returns to Earth again, and teaches Vegeta the fusion ability. They become one — to form Vegito — in an attempt to defeat Buu.
After a series of battles, including one that occurs inside of Buu’s body, Goku finally uses a Super Spirit Bomb, which calls on the energy of Earth and all of its inhabitants. This is the final nail in Buu’s coffin, ending his reign of terror. After this Saga, Goku decides he has stayed away from Earth long enough and announces he is coming back to life.
Age 778 – 780
Dragon Ball Super — The series begins four years after the defeat of Majin Buu. The dragon Shenron has erased the memory of Buu from the human race and Goku is back working as a farmer, taking care of Chi-Chi and Goten. Gohan has married his girlfriend, Videl.
Beerus and the Super Saiyan God
While Goku is living a quiet life as a farmer, word of his power gets to Beerus, God of Destruction, the first enemy of Dragon Ball Super. Beerus thought he’d had all the Saiyans wiped out, but hears from his attendant, Whis, that Frieza was destroyed by one of these powerful warriors. Frieza once reported to Beerus, fearing him and his destructive abilities, which tells you something about Beerus’s power levels ahead of any upcoming showdown with Goku. And that showdown is coming…
It seems that Goku isn’t suited to the quiet life, because once he comes into some money, he heads off to King Kai’s planet for more training — and to discover if he is the so-called Super Saiyan God. It’s a fortuitous turn of events, because Beerus and Whis are on his tail.
Despite King Kai’s efforts to hide Goku from the God of Destruction, the two meet and begin to spar. Their fight is telling. While Goku uses Super Saiyan 3 during the fight, Beerus easily counters each attack, and finally forces Goku back to his human form by pushing a pressure point. But rather than this being a setback for Goku, his defeat is once again an opportunity for growth.
After Beerus heads to Earth (to find out more about the Super Saiyan God), it’s at this point that Goku too learns more. He uses the Dragon Balls to summon Shenron who tells Goku how to create the form through a special ritual using the energy of five Saiyans.
After multiple attempts, Goku’s hair turns pink and he finally transforms into the Super Saiyan God — useful if he’s going to have another go at defeating the God of Destruction, which he does. Now, he and Beerus are evenly matched. As their battle rages, and even moves into space, Goku loses the Super Saiyan God form, and we learn that it has a time limit. He retains the SSG power, however, in regular Super Saiyan form.
At the end of the fight, Goku fires a Kamehameha, and Beerus fires an atomic bomb-like power. The two attacks collide to form a Sphere of Destruction. Thankfully, Goku is powerful enough to counteract the God of Destruction’s power with his own punch. Goku is able to keep the Sphere from destroying Earth, but Beerus is intent on obliterating the planet.
Before Beerus can finish the job, however, he falls asleep. There are some disadvantages to possessing the characteristics of a cat, it seems. He does briefly return to Earth to tell Goku that he was the second strongest fighter he has ever faced… teeing up the next villain much?
Golden Frieza and Super Saiyan Blue
Despite his attempts to destroy the Earth, Beerus invites Goku and Vegeta to train with Whis on his planet. Training together, Goku and Vegeta manage to equal each other’s powers and continue to push each other to improve, both achieving Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan powers — or Super Saiyan Blue for short.
Meanwhile, Frieza has been resurrected from Hell by the Dragon Balls and is now Golden Frieza, a form even more powerful than before. Goku and Frieza fight in a spectacle of blue and gold, as they showcase their new moves. However, each becomes weaker the more they show off, which almost leads to the death of Goku. He is saved by Vegeta in time for him to quickly heal (thanks to a Sensu Bean).
Frieza goes on to destroy most of Earth. Thankfully, though, Whis can turn back time (who knew?) and sends the newly-healed Goku back three minutes so he can take on his Super Saiyan Blue form, blast Frieza with a Dash Kamehameha, and send the villain back to Hell.
We, and the characters, learn several things here — that Goku still has an ego (and that that is potentially his downfall), and that teamwork is still crucial to success. We also discover that time turning is possible, which puts a new spin on events from here on in.
Jiren Unlocks Ultra Instinct
After the defeat of Golden Frieza, Goku and the Z Fighters learn there are multiple universes: a knock-on effect of time travel. The Dragon Ball franchise as we’ve known it up to now takes place in Universe 7, of 12. It’s Beerus’s twin brother, Champa, the God of Destruction in Universe 6, who breaks the news.
Months later, Future Trunks returns to Goku’s present from his timeline to warn them about Goku Black, Goku’s evil doppelganger. He has destroyed most of humanity and using a Time Ring, a tool of the Gods, has followed Future Trunks to the current timeline. Goku Black and Goku battle, with Goku Black eventually escaping back to the future.
Through this attack, Goku learns about new, evil techniques — such as the Black Kamehameha — and the lengths enemies from other universes will go to harness his power. No longer just a single universe, Goku is faced with wider, potentially infinite threats.
Beerus, Whis, and Goku travel to Universe 10 to visit the god Gowasu, who supposedly has the Time Ring. While there, they realize that Gowasu’s apprentice, Zamasu, has identical energy to Goku Black. Zamasu hates mortals and will stop at nothing to eliminate them, including creating a Saiyan-like alter ego.
As Goku and his squad traverse time, creating new timelines as they go, multiple versions of Zamasu are also created, and wreak havoc across the Universe.
Future Zamasu and Goku Black fuse to create Fused Zamasu, in an effort to stop all attempts on their life. However, we see Vegeta and Goku fuse once again into Vegito and a long battle ensues.
When time runs out on the Vegito fusion, Future Trunks takes over the fight (there’s that teamwork message again) and Zamasu is eventually completely eliminated, losing his physical form and becoming absorbed into the cosmos.
After an epic battle across universes and timelines, an inter-universe tournament called the Tournament of Power is announced. Fighters from all 12 universes are summoned to the Null Realm to fight and prove their worth. This will see Goku reach hitherto untapped heights.
But there’s a big price that losers must pay: losing universes will be completely eradicated by Zeno, the supreme ruler of all. Goku recruits Gohan, Vegeta, Master Roshi, Piccolo, Androids 18 and 19, Krillin, Tien, and, of all people, Frieza to compete for Universe 7.
It’s during this tournament that they encounter Jiren from Universe 11, a mortal who is said to have the power of a God of Destruction. Goku fights him once and falls, but then faces off with him again when Jiren is the only warrior left.
Ultimately, Goku’s battle with Jiren allows Goku to master his godly powers, and for the first time, we witness him enter into Ultra Instinct form, which lets him dodge attacks without even needing to think.
After the battle, Goku reveals to Vegeta that he has lost his Ultra Instinct ability. But he’s lost powers and suffered setbacks before, only for him counter it by training harder, learning how to push his limits, and discovering new abilities. Onwards and upwards, Goku. Onwards and upwards.