Powering up is a process used to gather ki and increase one's power level so that a greater advantage in battle can be obtained. A definition given by Piccolo is that the Dragon Team are able to amplify their ki in bursts. Powering up comes in several different types; some require a full anatomical transformation (such as Zarbon, Frieza, and Saiyans transforming into Great Apes), others may power up with little to no change in their appearance (perhaps a little more muscle definition, such as the first two forms of Super Saiyan and the Kaio-ken, but nothing like Cell or other villains).
Despite how easy the technique is to learn to an adept martial artist, and how commonly it appears in Dragon Ball Z, it actually appears to be rare. This is evidenced by the fact that Frieza's army is routinely fooled by the Z Fighters or Namekians concealing their powers; the only one of Frieza's soldiers to actually realize what was going on is Captain Ginyu, and the only reason he knew about it is because, according to him, he also possesses the ability. Ginyu even calls Goku a "rare fighter" when he is describing the Power Up ability to Jeice. The Frieza Force had an empire that spanned countless planets, and had conquered countless races; it would stand to reason that, if the Power Up ability was at all common, the Frieza Force would have learned of it by the time they faced the Z Fighters.
Ki concentration is a basic power up which amplifies the power of ki attacks by focusing the ki into small areas or singular points. An example is shown Goku and Piccolo do this during their fight against Raditz when they use their Kamehameha and the Special Beam Cannon respectively; by focusing their ki into tight areas, they are able to increase the power of their attacks without increasing the ki in their bodies. Another example of this type of power-up is Tien Shinhan's Tri Beam: the ki is concentrated so tightly into one point that it actually carries the potential to be fatal to the user.
This form of powering up is an even further advanced technique and is the one of the least understood across the universe (the Dragon Team used this to surprise Frieza's soldiers, as well as Dr. Gero (Android 20) and his Androids). With this technique, people are able to amplify their power. This type of power-up can occur voluntarily if someone is trained in doing it, or involuntarily when someone becomes distressed, due to intense emotions, such as fear or rage (as shown by Gohan powering up and even transforming at the sight of Videl being mercilessly beaten by Spopovich). Powering up is perhaps most often seen just prior to a character taking flight. A few power-ups appear to work by focusing the energy through the body so that it can swell in the muscles, increasing strength and speed doing so. In most power-ups, the size of the user's aura usually increases and tends to change shape and form at times. One of the most advanced power increasing technique is the Kaio-ken (which Goku learns from King Kai), which multiplies the user's power by a certain number (times 2 up to times 20 in the series). Power increase can have negative effects, however, as seen with the Kaio-ken which weakens the user's body and the Super Saiyan Third Grade in which the ki amping increases the muscle mass to the point where it is an inhibitor to the user's speed. In some cases, ki increases can also result in the destruction of even living entities in the immediate vicinity. Such was demonstrated when Frieza powered up to fight Goku shortly after the latter's arrival during Frieza's revenge, which resulted in the surviving members of Frieza's forces, exempting Sorbet, being obliterated.
On the opposite end of amplification, there is ki suppression, which is a technique that actually decreases someone's ki from their regular base-line. Other than increasing the power, users suppress their power. This allows for the user to hide the full extent of their power, or simply to keep a relaxed amount of energy. Some characters even create special forms to keep their full power suppressed and under control (Frieza is a prime example of this, creating forms to keep his true power low).
Main article: Full Power Charge In the video games, Ki can be restored through the use of certain Ki charging techniques such as Energy Charge, Full Power Charge, and Maximum Charge which cause the user to power up to restore Ki or have the ability to charge ki by default as a game mechanic. However, in most games such as the Xenoverse series charging ki leaves the user wide open to attack by enemies. In the Xenoverse series, there is a stronger technique called Darkness Mixer used by Demigra and characters affected by Dark Magic. Unlike other ki charging techniques, it allows the user to charge both ki and stamina very fast and surrounds the user in a dark aura that damages enemies and knocks them back once the user is finished charging making it superior to all other ki charging techniques.
Additionally, in Xenoverse 2, Fused Zamasu's Divinity Unleashed power-up allows the user to charge ki and if the user has charged long enough they will receive a temporary boost in the amount of ki gained which increases the skill's ki charging speed and the ki gained from strikes and taking damage.
In the main series, Vegeta and Nappa are shown using a similar ability without actually increasing their power level when they invaded Earth.
Main article: Transformation
Transformations are physical changes in the body that results in a great amplification or (the rarer) suppression of ki. A transformation changes the person's body so that their baseline ki level changes as well. In regards to Super Saiyans, Goku informs Gohan that the transformation cannot be gained by simply powering up. Some transformations give the same type of ki, such as the Super Saiyan form; evidence to this is when Gohan mistakes Super Saiyan Future Trunks for his father Goku due to sensing the same type of ki. Those who use anatomical transformations can usually only increase their power level in set increments, such as Zarbon going from a power level of 24,000 to a power level of 30,000, but skipping over the other six thousand. However, Final Form Frieza and Super Saiyans can still increase their power while in the forms. Frieza's first 3 forms are actually used to make himself weaker while his Golden form increases his power. Cooler's 5th form also allows him to increase his power.
In Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission, most CAA Transform Special Abilities require the user to power up in order to transform. If the player achieves a Great! through the Card Action they will transform, however if they ace the Card Action they achieve a Amazing! which triggers both the transformation and certain additional effects. Certain CAA Transforms allow the user to achieve different transformations depending upon whether or not they Aced the Card Action (for example GT Goku's Super Saiyan Power CAA Special Ability allows him to turn Super Saiyan with a Great! while he will achieve Super Saiyan 2 with an Amazing!). If the player fails to perform the Transform Card Action to power up in order to transform, their attempt to transform will fail.
Transformation through body absorption
Main article: Absorption This is the ability to absorb people into their own being, allowing them to change shape and gain the user's powers. Transformation through bodily absorption is slightly more exclusive than simple transformation; the difference between the two is that the person must acquire some outside component in order to change form. For example, Cell needs to absorb both Android 17 and Android 18 into his body in order to transform into his Semi-Perfect and Perfect forms. Majin Buu can also use the technique, and he usually takes on a few traits of whomever he absorbs. Moro was able to absorb Seven-Three due to the copy of Moro's powers that the Android possessed.
Main article: Energy Absorption Another example of power-up is simply absorbing energy from another element or life form. Characters like Android 19, Android 20, and Cell are able to do this (since 19 and 20 do not have detectable ki, it can be assumed that they convert the ki that they absorb into some artificial force).
Moro can absorb life energy from people and planets to increase his power and lifespan. Seven-Three also possesses the same capabilities due to having copied Moro's powers.
- Dragon Ball Z 2: Super Battle, 1995
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse, 2015
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, 2016
- Dragon Ball Fusions, 2016
- Piccolo's description of the technique to Dr. Gero during the Androids Saga
- Zarbon: "What is this?! You said their battle powers were 1,000, didn’t you?" Dodoria: "What's happened?! All three have blown up to 3,000. - Dragon Ball chapter 253, "Showdown!"
- Raditz: "He can concentrate his battle power into a single point, raising it?…!!!" - Dragon Ball chapter 201, "Piccolo's Farewell to Arms!?"
- Raditz: "Battle power 1,330…!!!! He's gathered a-all of his battle power into his fingertips…!!!!" - Dragon Ball chapter 201, "Piccolo's Farewell to Arms!?"
- Goku: "I ain't got no choice but to raise the K… Kaiō-Ken up to twenty-fold… Though my bo… body might not be able to take it… B… but if he really is at 50 percent now, like he says he is, then there ain’t nothing at all I can do…" - Dragon Ball chapter 313, "Kaiō-ken times 20!!!"
- Shin: "Everyone suppress your chi!" - Vizbig DBZ vol. 8, pg. 17, panel 4
- Gohan: "I-It's Dad! That's the same chi that dad had that time!!" - Vizbig DBZ vol. 4, pg 454, panel 3