Isshin, The Sword Saint

Sekiro Isshin, The Sword Saint Boss Guide
Location Ashina Reservoir

Shinobi Firecracker
Loaded Umbrella (First & Second Phase)

Mist Raven (Final Phase)


Sakura Dance (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. This Complete Isshin, The Sword Saint Boss Guide gives you strategies on how to beat Isshin easily, as well as tips, tricks and lore notes. Bosses like The Sword Saint are special, dangerous 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

Where to find Isshin, The Sword Saint in Sekiro?



Isshin, The Sword Saint Rewards

What do you get from defeating Isshin, The Sword Saint in Sekiro?





Isshin, The Sword Saint Boss Guide Strategies

Isshin, The Sword Saint Video Strategies



Isshin, The Sword Saint 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.


Isshin, The Sword Saint 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. It can be interrupted by a full charged strike of praying strikes exorcism.
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. The attack can be sidestepped, by doging to one side of Isshin.
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. Alternatively, you can instead sprint and then jump toward him, then jump again on his head. This will allow you to get 2-4 free hits on him as you descend from the jump and after landing, and his slash will not hit you since you're in the air. Alternatively if you are close, it can be interrupted by a full charged praying strikes exorcism.
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.
Glock O'Clock When at distance Isshin will pull out a Glock 19 (really a revolver) 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, or jump attack if it's a sweep.
 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, mist raven, or Sakura Dance 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

[images go here]



Corrupted Monk  ♦  Demon of Hatred  ♦  Divine Dragon  ♦  Emma, the Gentle Blade  ♦  Folding Screen Monkeys  ♦  Genichiro Ashina  ♦  Genichiro, Way of Tomoe  ♦  Great Colored Carp  ♦  Great Serpent  ♦  Great Shinobi Owl  ♦  Guardian Ape  ♦  Gyoubu Oniwa  ♦  Headless Ape  ♦  Inner Father  ♦  Inner Genichiro  ♦  Inner Isshin  ♦  Isshin Ashina (Boss)  ♦  Lady Butterfly  ♦  Owl (Father)


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    • Anonymous

      12 Jul 2021 19:34  

      You should be able to absolutely annihilate Genichiro by now, although if you're having trouble with his Mortal Blade attacks just run behind him. You'll never be hit.

      That or turn into a turtle...

      • Anonymous

        12 Jul 2021 08:37  

        I finished sekiro for the first time now. I was hating the fact that I had to fight Genichiro every time I died to the old man, but I ended up enjoying it, give you a moment to breathe and think as you beat this miserable sexy man.

        • Anonymous

          09 Jul 2021 16:08  

          It took me 18 tries to beat Isshin and I just want to thank the Mist-Noble for forcing me to git-gud and learn how to play the game.

          • Anonymous

            02 Jul 2021 19:37  

            This fight is made way more frustrating than it could have been by Genichiro. Having to skip two cutscenes and kill Genichiro while making no mistakes (otherwise you start the rest of the fight at a disadvantage) gets very old very quickly.

            • Anonymous

              22 Jun 2021 19:40  

              High Monk is recommended against him. On P1, you can do the whole combo after a sweep or the wide 360 slash, even the slow kick. On P2, stop after the 2 sword attacks and isshin's response to your offense shrinks down to only 1 attack, that if deflected can follow up with the one that he charges for a little bit then runs to your left. From there, you have time to pop a sugar or heal. From far away, he can either jump attack, which can be deflected, do a sword-spear-thrust combo, and in P3 he can do the dragonflashes

              If the response attack is not deflected, it's followed up with a spear attack

              • Anonymous

                22 Jun 2021 00:28  

                Things I hate about this fight:

                - Genichiro
                - Idol too far from the boss arena
                - Loading screen too long if you die
                - Cutscene EVERY TIME
                - Genichiro

                • Anonymous

                  18 May 2021 11:33  

                  Remember he's your enemy now. "Hesitation is defeat" is how you die by recklessly running into everything.

                  • Anonymous

                    16 Mar 2021 04:38  

                    Healing tips: In phase 1, you can heal any time you want by backing off - Isshin is happy to keep strolling. In phase 2 and 3, he will follow you relentlessly and occasionally shoot at you, but it's still possible to heal safely. 1 - always run at an angle so that his bullets miss, and 2 - block his attacks with terrain. If he's following close, drag him through one of the rocks. He'll usually attack the rock in frustration, letting you add distance and/or heal. If he's far away, you can even hide on the other side of the hill in the middle of the arena. Once you learn how to shake him, you can apply healing/sugars/confetti whenever you want without issue. Just don't run off a cliff.

                    Hunting for help on the internet, I found two decent tips if you plan to fight him up close. 1 - Hit twice, parry thrice. Aggressively attacking him establishes the rhythm, and you can almost always attack twice safely (with the exception of when he jumps away, swinging his spear in an arc, during phase 2/3). He usually counters in sets of three, often using a delayed third attack that is nasty if you're not waiting for it. After parrying thrice, you can usually resume attacking. 2 - If he charges up his windy bits, pull out the loaded umbrella and follow with projected force. He does this infrequently enough that you can use the umbrella every time without running out of emblems, and it is a very safe response.

                    Lastly, one tip of my own: if you are fighting him up close, but have to run away to heal, it can be hard to find an opening to get back in there. The best one I've seen is to bait his jump attack and try to dodge under it. You can then hit him in the back and resume pressuring him. If you miss the dodge, though, he follows up the jump attack with a sweep that has decent range... so I usually keep running and try again later. A better ninja could probably parry it or jump attack, but dashing sweeps are tough (for me).

                    • Anonymous

                      12 Mar 2021 10:42  

                      Strangely enough, this guy isn't even FromSoft's first "old guy final boss who flies all over the place screeching and shooting a bad-ass gun at you" in their library. In fact, he's the third

                      • Anonymous

                        10 Mar 2021 04:22  

                        Isshin in phase 1, like a lot of guys with swords in this game, can have his attacks severely limited if you stick to a pattern of attacking until he blocks. In his case, after blocking your attack he almost always retaliates with an easily parryable swing. Attack right after parrying, until he blocks again and the cycle can continue until his posture is gone.

                        If he does retaliate, right away, pause for a brief moment, and then try attacking again, but the key is to stay on him, never letting him gain the distance he needs to launch a more deadly attack.

                        • Anonymous

                          01 Mar 2021 03:04  

                          I like how even though Isshin warns him against giving in to emotion, the start of this fight where he practically growls at Genichiro is the most emotional we see Sekiro throughout the whole game—fear, sorrow, and anger for Kuro all at once.

                          • Anonymous

                            27 Feb 2021 19:35  

                            Phase 1: aggressive play
                            Phase 2: hit once and parry all to keep the posture building
                            Phase 3: sakura/mist raven for lightning reversal
                            This is is my no damage strat with bell demon and no Kuro's charm. Also interrupt the mortal draw with fire crackers. Donnot use ichimonji double in phase 2 & 3 as he will jump away.

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