Isshin, The Sword Saint

Location Ashina Reservoir

Shinobi Firecracker
Loaded Umbrella (First & Second Phase)

Mist Raven (Final Phase)



Memory: Saint Isshin
Dragon Flash
20,000 Exp (NG)

25,000 Exp (NG+)



Isshin, The Sword Saint (剣聖、葦名一心; Kensei Ashina Isshin; Sword Saint, Isshin Ashina) is a Boss in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Bosses are special Enemies that feature a special display on-screen when defeated, such as "Immortality Severed" or "Shinobi Execution". You will need to perform multiple Deathblows on them in order to defeat them, and filling their Posture Gauge is the only way to accomplish this. However, decreasing their health will make it so their Posture Gauge depletes more slowly, assisting you in accomplishing this feat.

See Isshin Ashina for the NPC version. This page contains endgame spoilers.


Isshin, The Sword Saint Location



Isshin, The Sword Saint Rewards





Isshin, The Sword Saint Strategies

Video Strategies


Strategy Writeup

Phase 1: He will start as Genichiro, Way of Tomoe. The fight will be pretty standard as the 3rd phase near Kuro’s room on the rooftops. Aside from the big, black Mortal blade swings he starts with. You can dodge behind him during the first swing and get easy hits in, staggering his second set of swings. He will lunge, and with enough distance, Mikiri counter makes this fight simple. He only has one Vitality bar, and once you deathblow him, a cutscene will play as Isshin steps out of him.

Isshin Phase 1: He will start a decent distance away from you. His main attacks will be a rather quick. One of his main ones being a double slash with considerable distance. He will sheath his sword and it will flash white, then he will dash and double slash. Deflecting both attacks is an option however, you can run backwards and sprint to the side. Once he slashes he is open for a quick two hits. His main slashes are a three to four hit combo, delaying between each hit. A thrust for an easy Mikiri counter, which will be telegraphed as he will end up in the thrust position before committing. Along with these attacks, he will do a long range wind attack, which can be dodge by running sideways as you can get a couple free hits on him this way as well. And a close range, full screen sweep, giving you just enough time to sprint backwards before it goes off. Once you get the deathblow in phase 1, he may continue to attack for a second before stomping the ground to begin phase 2.

Isshin Phase 2: Phase 2 is a massive difficulty increase from phase 1.Once he stomps the ground, he will do knockback damage, but not Vitality damage. Pulling a spear and swiping it in a tight circle around himself. If timed correctly, you maybe be able to get a hit or two in before he begins his assault. Along with the spear, he will have a short sword with him, along with a rapid fire gun. During this phase, he will keep the wind sweep attack, using it randomly throughout the fight. He will be consistently more aggressive, moving towards you if you make too large of a gap, firing the pistol if the gap gets too large. Making a large gap, you may be able to bait him into using a thrust that can easily be Mikiri countered. He will do large, heavy hitting overheads, usually one after another that can be deflected at the cost of heavy posture damage. Dodging sideways as he descends from the overhead, you can easily dodge the hit and get a few hits in yourself. After Isshin deflects one of your blows, sometimes he will jump backwards and make a sweep at you with his spear. Right as he does this, dodging into the attack (towards him) will allow you to get several hits on him as well. Be careful doing this, as he may do another overhead directly after. Dodging can keep distance, as much as he may spam the gun, is the easiest way to bait him into thrusting, easy overhead dodges, and breaking his posture overall. NOTE: Using the Loaded Umbrella will save you from taking ANY vitality or posture damage if you are struggling to dodge/deflect some of the perilous attacks (unless he is using lightning, which doesn't come until phase 3) AND Isshin will take considerable posture damage if you are using the umbrella to deflect!! You can use the umbrella to help cheese your way through if other means are not working for you. Deathblow on this phase will move him into phase 3.

Isshin Phase 3: Almost the same as phase 2, except he has three new attacks. One being a large swing, in which he covers his spear in lightening and swings it at you. You will want to get close when he does this and jump, as to deflect it directly back at him for big Vitality and posture damage, along with a flurry of free hits. His second attack will be similar to his phase 1 long range wind attack, the main difference is instead of it being vertical, it will be more of a distance slash attack. Third new attack will be adding lightning damage to his large overhead attacks. You can deflect the lightning, although the timing can be difficult. Strategy will be the same as his phase 2 fight. Bait out the Mikiri counter along with his lightning attack, and this phase should go smoother than phase 2. Upon giving him the final deathblow, do not miss the Mortal Blade deathblow, or you will have to go at his third phase again.

If you defeat the boss you will see the writing "IMMORTALITY SEVERED" upon the screen.


Attacks & Counters

Attack Indicator Counter
Phase 1
Charged Attack, Vertical Force Wave Isshin puts his sword back into the sheath and readies a stance. A glint will show on the hilt. After a delay he will strike downward with his sword, launching a wave of force infront of him. After another short delay a second wave of force will be launched forward following the same path. Deflect, then dodge second force wave.  Waves can be deflected fully but will leak damage if blocked.
Ashina Cross Isshin puts his sword into its sheath and after a short delay steps forward towards the player and makes two very quick slashes with his sword. Press deflect twice without pause as soon as you see a flash of light at his hand. If trying to avoid this attack entirely, be sure to run as far as possible.
Ashina Cross Cancel If the player is very close to Isshin when he is readying "Ashina Cross" he will cancel the attack by quickly smacking the player with his sword, then following up with a perilous sweeping attack. He will also do this after the player repeatedly deflects his attacks.  Deflect the initial hit then jump and stomp. Block or attack when coming down as he will counterattack immediately unless forced to defend.
Ichimonji Double Isshin will raise his blade in a ready stance and perform an Ichimonni double. If the player deflects the first hit Isshin will stagger, then immediately transition into "Charged Attack, Vertical Force Wave". Since "Charged Attack,  Vertical Force Wave" is far more difficult to deal with, it is best to simply dodge or block this attack.
Distance Slash If the player is far away from Isshin and/or uses an item Isshin quickly dash at the player and slash them. Make sure that you are far enough away that you have time to react or that it simply cannot reach you.
Phase 2
Charged Attack, Horizontal Force Wave Isshin will sheath his sword and charge an attack. After a short delay he will quickly swing his sword in a spinning motion causing a large force wave in a circle around him. Wait for a moment, then deflect as soon as Isshin begins to move his arm.
Charge Attack, Double Projected Force. Isshin will sheath his sword and charge an attack, After a short delay he will make two slashes in the player direction launching discs of force with each slash. The discs will deal damage through your block in not deflected properly. The attack is easy to dodge and it is recommended you do so as deflecting the discs will not affect Isshin's posture.
Leaping Slam When far away from Isshin and/or using an item Isshin will leap into the air and slam down with his spear. He will then follow up this attack with either a sword strike or he will pull out his gun and shoot at you. Deflect the slam then counter attack. Regardless of what he does after the slam he will either get hit or block your attack.
Retreating Sweep Isshin will leap backwards into the air and sweep in front of him with his spear. He usually does this after blocking/deflecting several of the player's attacks. This attack comes out very quickly and is difficult to deflect. Deflect, or quickly dodge forward for a free hit.
Rapid Fire When at distance Isshin will pull out a gun and shoot at the player several times, he will often then follow up with a large thrust from his spear. If simply blocked, the bullets can damage your posture very heavily. It is recommended that you learn how to deflect them. Mikiri counter the following thrust.
 Phase 3

All attacks from phase 2

Same description

Same counter

Lightning Slash

He will jump into the air and lightning will converge on him. He will then launch the lighting at the player with a sword swing.

Jump into the air and use lighting reversal to redirect the attack at Isshin, this will stun him.



Isshin, The Sword Saint Lore

  • The reason why this younger version of Isshin appears is due to Genichiro using the Black Mortal Blade on himself, as a sacrifice, to bring his grandfather back from the underworld. As described by the Black Scroll key item, the Black Mortal Blade: "is said to hold the power to open a gate to the underworld. It is through this power that it creates life."

  • Why this younger version of Isshin chooses to fight you, rather than let you go, can be surmised in the dialogue right before the fight: Genichiro has used the blade to bind Isshin to his final wish, which is to bring glory to the Ashina Clan and win the war (by getting the blood of the Heir) where he could not.


Isshin, The Sword Saint Notes & Trivia

  • Voice Actor: Andre Sogliuzzo (English), Tetsuo Kanao (Japanese)
  • The Japanese honorary title of Kensei (剣聖) is only given to a warrior of legendary skill in swordsmanship. The literal translation of kensei is "sword saint", which implies a higher degree of perfection and moral dimension than the more commonly used "sword master" (剣豪, kengo). The title is not to be confused with the term "swordsman" (剣士, kenshi).



Isshin, The Sword Saint Image Gallery

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    • Anonymous

      08 Aug 2020 04:03  

      Devil bro also does a shotgun type blast from his gun when at close range, followed up by a sweeping perilous attack. I know this and yet still can not avoid it.

      • Anonymous

        29 Jul 2020 19:40  

        Im still struggling with phase 1, i love soulsborne but i hate the amount of different reactions to attacks you gotta do, block, deflect, dodge mimikri counter, jump, its so tiresome. I like a challenge but i just don't know if I have what this takes

        • Anonymous

          19 Jul 2020 19:25  

          i just did fight this guy for the first time I took him down on my first try without knowing any of he's attacks patterns!

          • Anonymous

            12 Jul 2020 20:15  

            I kinda hate how they have given him the glock attack, most of the fights are anime-like fantasy stuff but keep some sort of cohesion. And here we have a guy in sengoku period pull a literal semi automatic gun, at least they could have bothered to have him shoot with two hands just picking new matchlock pistols from his sleeve or under his clothes.
            But overall, the fight is really awesome, the finisher is quite cool but it would be better if we would see him actually beheaded or just had a camera move so that we wouldn't see the beheading take place if that would be too difficult to animate.

            • Anonymous

              05 Jul 2020 08:31  

              Love this bossfight, my only issue with it is the tediousness of getting there:
              Run down hallway
              Load cutscene
              Skip cutscene
              Kill Genichiro as warmup
              Load cutscene
              Skip cutscene
              Beat first phase fairly easily
              Die in 2 hits in second phase within a couple seconds
              Start over

              • Anonymous

                02 Jul 2020 20:13  

                I hate to say it but over 100 hours on my first run through unlocked everyskill I can but I just cant beat this guy, never played a game that has defeated me let alone this many times

                • Anonymous

                  18 Jun 2020 19:55  

                  There is one huge problem with this fight: it's way too easy to cheese. Just run around and wait for some attack windows and get a hit or two in. Yes, it's going to take a while, but for the easily frustrated and those who just want to beat the game - it works.

                  • Anonymous

                    30 May 2020 04:10  

                    I know I'm gonna get hate for this but I just killed him first time. Yeah I watched the whole video strategy but I am in honest disbelief. Bare in mind it took me the whole of an evening to kill Demon of Hatred

                    • Anonymous

                      21 May 2020 05:01  

                      Putting the boss in a field of waist-high grass with various hills is a very artistic choice. It's also inexcusable ineptitude on the part of the game designers, given their various *****ups with the camera. Being hit by an attack that was obscured from view is artifical difficulty. Bad boss. Almost as inexcusably awful as the demon of hatred, or the guardian ape's first stage. Someone needs to find out who made the choice and punch them repeatedly.

                      • Anonymous

                        18 May 2020 13:21  

                        im today years old when i learnt that with a mortal blade you can bring someone from the dead. i didnt even tried to understand the story before

                        • Anonymous

                          12 May 2020 02:17  

                          Just happened to me. If you can successfully give him no space to pull his spear through all of his phases, he will then get a 4th phase where he will start out the round by pulling his spear.

                          • Anonymous

                            21 Apr 2020 15:14  

                            As much as I loved this fight, I wish he had another form to make it harder. I'm definitely not an expert, but I beat him on like my 4th try, same with hatred demon. I expected it to take days for me to beat honestly. I wish he had another form if you did one of the endings or something. Good game overall though. Difficulty just kinda died down at the end.

                            • Anonymous

                              28 Mar 2020 08:35  

                              If you never played this game for a week or month just to take a break from playing Sekiro, Genichiro is going to end up as your wam up so you can prepared to fight isshin.

                              • Anonymous

                                08 Mar 2020 12:42  

                                This fight is very well done. The fight against Genichiro is meant to serve as a warm-up for the battle against Isshin. Many of Isshin's indicators can be found in the Genichiro fight (e.g. when Genichiro starts running circles around you prepare for a kanji attack, when Isshin runs a tight circle around you prepare for Mikiri counter). The secret to all 3 phases and Genichiro is staying really close to the enemy. Only create distance to heal yourself and then go back and deflect everything. Almost all his non lethal attacks can be deflected, including Ashina Cross. A successful Ashina cross deflect will always be followed by a lethal attack that requires you to jump. If you evade both successfully you can use Ishimonji Double to punish Isshin for this. In phase 2 observe Isshin's position in regards to his spear, his spear needs to be in a certain position for him to be able to execute his thrust attacks. When his spear is behind his back, he is ready to perform this thrust attack, which gives you time to prepare a Mikiri. IMPORTANT Save spirit emblems for phase 3. You can use the Raven Feather when he performs his lightning attacks to avoid damage, Sekiro will automatically jump in the air and all you need to do is press attack to deflect the lightning. Even though Isshin's posture recovers quickly when he's not engaged, it is not required to lower his vitality to fill up his gauge. If you stay close to him and don't give him time to breathe you will fill up his posture gauge over time. You can always use Ishimonji Double to punish him after a successfully evaded jump attack, but be mindful of your timing. The secret of the fight lies in the quick battle with Genichiro. Master the Genichiro fight to a point where you take no damage and are familiar with all his combinations so you can deflect him perfectly, and Isshin becomes very manageable.

                                • Anonymous

                                  02 Mar 2020 04:59  

                                  I’m not exactly terrible at the game, I’m not the best but I’m capable. I can deal with most enemies and bosses without too much stress. The exception being this boyo. My muscle memory is down. I just keep making silly mistakes. It usually goes like this. Beat Genny senseless. Smash phase one, get smashed phase two because I make silly mistakes. Lather, rinse repeat. Eventually it gets to the point where I start messing up on Genny and wondering why I try. Then it happens. I get close. So close and fumble that last light deflect. I tried again. Smashed Genny. Tanked phase one. Went ham phase two and stayed in his face. Phase three was the same just remember to watch which kanji was flashing for what. I’m on ng+7 and you’d think I’d be better by now. But I kinda like the fact that it’s still a struggle. It means when I eventually overcome him Fromsofts patented heart palpating on enduring euphoria hits again and reminds me why I love these games.

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