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How To Beat Isshin, the Sword Saint in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

How To Beat Isshin, the Sword Saint in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro is finally at his journey’s end, back to the field where it all began. The only thing standing in your way to release Kuro of his damned curse is Genichiro, again. But wait, that’s not all! He calls upon the dark forces of the underworld and summons Isshin the Sword Saint who is the true final boss of Sekiro Shadows Die Twice.


Isshin, the Sword Saint is a cut above the rest of the bosses in Sekiro. He will give you a run for your money; hence, you should be at the top of your game to make a difference in this fight. There are no sleazy tricks and cheese that can help you here. Channel your true Shinobi for a fight worth remembering.

Fighting Isshin the Sword Saint in Sekiro

Fighting Isshin, the Sword Saint in Sekiro

Before you get to face the grandpa from hell, you will have to go through Genichiro, Way of Tomoe. This battered version of a once worthwhile opponent still has some new tricks up his sleeve. He has his version of Mortal Draw and a few new perilous attacks.

With enough practice, you will have his attacks down to a T, allowing you to breeze through this every time you have to face him, and believe me, you’ll be facing him a lot whether you like it or not. Why!? Because the boss after this, Isshin, the Sword Saint will cut you into a million pieces repeatedly before you become a threat to him.

Do not mistake him for his relatively feeble Isshin Ashina variant, which you might have faced for the Shura Ending. This Isshin is in his prime, though he looks old, he lives up to his Sword Saint moniker. He is literally the “saint” (a level above master) when it comes to wielding a blade.

To boot it, this boss has the most attacks out of any other in Sekiro. He is aggressive, he has long combos that leave no window to counter, and utilizes a ton of anime-esque combat arts that will end you in spectacular fashion.

Not to mention, he is not just a Sword Saint (first phase), he is also a Speer Saint (second phase), a Pistol Saint (second phase), and a Lightning Saint (third phase) as you progress through his mind-boggling three phases. This fight has a total of 4 phases including the initial Genichiro one.

This encounter is a battle of attrition, where to make any sort of dent, you have to bring your deflection A-game and punish the very small windows in between his attacks. Go hard, or go home with your tail between your legs!

Tips and Tricks Against the Bosses

Here are some tips and tricks that can aid you in this battle:

  • Bring at least 3 Ako’s Sugar for each Isshin, the Sword Saint’s phases. Posture kill is way more efficient than a health kill so we will need Ako’s Sugar to deal better posture damage. Pop one right after every phase begins.
  • Loaded Umbrella (or any of its variants) helps nullify all his charged combat art attacks.
  • Other than the maximum number of Healing Gourds, you should stock up on all the healing items you can get your hands on. Pellets, Rice, Divine Grass, and Sticky Rice Balls are of tremendous value since this fight is a long undertaking.
  • If you have been hoarding Jizo Statues till this point, this is the right time to use it. Use it if you are certain you have a shot at beating the boss.
  • The High Monk Combat Art is pretty useful at escaping sweeping perilous attacks and punishing these kinds of attacks.
  • Ichimonji: Double is a safer Combat Art when exploiting openings between attacks. However, two strikes of this combat art might leave you vulnerable so adjust your usage as and when needed.
  • You must have mastered the Lightning Reversal technique down by this point. It is the single most important trick to end the last phase quickly.
  • It can be harder to read the boss’s attacks through the tall grass in the arena. To counter this, lure the fight to the broken bridge area to the left side where there is a small clearer section.
  • The giant rock in the arena can be used to provide valuable cover when you want to heal up or even stop the bosses’ attacks.
  • Practice the fight against Genichiro, Way of Tomoe to the point where you can defeat him swiftly without going through any items or healing consumables. Keep this stuff for the real fight with Isshin.

Genichiro, Way of Tomoe Strategy

Genichiro, Way of Tomoe Strategy

As you enter the final arena, you’ll meet a mad Genichiro taking up a last stand against you. This version of the boss acts the same as before. However, he has some new tricks, which can be seen in the section below.

The boss is very weak and is simply a gateway boss to the final battle against Isshin, the Sword Saint. With quick deflection and some well-placed hits, Genichiro, Way of Tomoe’s posture bar will fill up very fast.

His flurry of attack, when perfectly deflected, leads to filling up his posture bar in a jiffy. Additionally, his predictable perilous attacks can be countered easily.

Within a few attempts, you’ll understand his whole repertoire and it won’t take you long to dispatch him. Practice this phase to the point where you perfectly counter his every move and end it without a scratch without relying on your items of any kind.

If you fail to kill him flawlessly then take that run as a learning run and do not use any important items like Ako’s Sugar and Jizo Statues. Keep all your crucial items for the actual boss fight ahead.


Genichiro has the same attack patterns as the Genichiro Ashina fight. This time, minus the lightning attacks, he has new attacks which we will list below:

  1. Black Mortal Draw: Charges up his sword and unleashes a far-reaching slash similar to your Mortal Draw combat art. He can use it again if not staggered.
    • Reaction: As he charges up his sword, walk behind him and bonk him on his head with Ichimonji: Double or regular attacks if you prefer that. You can cancel it with High Monk before he fully charges up the attack.
  2. Perilous Sweep: A standard grounded sweeping attack.
    • Reaction: Jump as the kanji appears and bounce off him to deal posture damage. Alternatively, use High Monk to jump over the attack and continue the combat art combo.
  3. Leaping Thrust: When you are farther, he leaps towards you while performing a perilous thrust attack.
    • Reaction: Dodge into the thrust to Mikiri Counter it.
  4. Short Thrust: At the end of his combo, he quickly performs a close-quarter perilous thrust attack.
    • Reaction: Dodge into the thrust to Mikiri Counter it.
  5. Jumping Slam to Slash then Thrust: Jumps in the air to land a sword slam, followed by a slash ending with a perilous sword thrust.
    • Reaction: Deflect as he lands after the jump, keep tapping the block button to deflect the slash then dodge into the thrust to Mikiri Counter it.
  6. Charged Bow Shot: This usually comes while you are healing. If you are at a distance and try to heal, he will shoot a charged arrow at you.
    • Reaction: Move to either side as you are healing. You have a split-second window or else you will take a lot of damage.
  7. Floating Passage: A flurry of multiple attacks with the sword, all of which come in quick succession. Ends with a perilous sword thrust.
    • Reaction: Deflect all of them for high posture damage. Tap that block button like a fool. Dodge into the thrust to Mikiri Counter it.
  8. Jumping Slam to Thrust: Leaps in the air to deliver an overhead slam and follow it up with a perilous sword thrust.
    • Reaction: Block as he lands then dodge into the thrust to Mikiri Counter it.

Phase 1 – Isshin the Sword Saint

Phase 1 - Isshin, the Sword Saint

In a last-ditch attempt, Genichiro splits himself in half, and Isshin, the Sword Saint bursts out of him like a morbid butterfly coming out of a cocoon. Thus the true final encounter begins. Ako’s Sugar is your best friend to speed up this fight, but it uses only one per phase.

The first phase of Isshin, the Sword Saint is relatively simple. He only uses his sword to attack and is generally passive, forcing you to rush him and fight. Do not be fooled by his mild demeanor, this old dude is a freak with his sword.

He uses a ton of combat arts, perilous attacks, and combos that will cut you down a peg. But the only way to confront him is to apply pressure. Your main goal here is to stay near him and react to his attacks precisely.

This fight demands you to be a deflection master. It is not a worthwhile fight if you are going for an HP kill, posture kill is the right approach.

By staying near him, you’ll bait him into performing many of his perilous attacks which can be countered to deal a good amount of posture damage.

The only way forward is to learn his every move and react properly. There are no two ways about it.


Here are all of Isshin, the Sword Saint’s attacks you need to watch out for and how you should react to them in phase 1:

  1. Short Thrust: A close-quarter perilous sword thrust attack. He uses this attack at the end of a combo or after walking sideways.
    • Reaction: As soon as the kanji appears, dodge into the thrust to Mikiri Counter it.
  2. Knockback Thrust: Pushes you back with his palm and follows it up with a perilous thrust attack.
    • Reaction: Deflect or Block the palm strike then wait for the kanji to disappear then dodge into the thrust to Mikiri counter it.
  3. Short Uppercut to Sweep: Sheathes his sword then performs an uppercut with the sword quickly following it up with a perilous sweep attack.
    • Reaction: Deflect the uppercut then jump over the sweep and bounce off him to deal posture damage. Or when you see him sheath his sword, start walking around and behind him. Both the attack will completely miss you and you can hit him from behind with any attack or Ichimonji: Double. The best reaction would be to use the High Monk combat art as soon as the perilous kanji appears over you. This attack will automatically jump over the incoming sweep and continue to kick him good.
  4. Ichimonji: Holds his sword over his head for a second then deals a devastating overhead strike in front. Same as the combat art. He can do it twice in a row like Ichimonji: Double.
    • Reaction: Walk behind him as he charges the attack and attack him from behind.
  5. Vertical Ranged Slashes: Holds his sword in hand and takes a stance. The sword will charge up and he then performs an overhead slash that sends out a vertical wave. Another wave will follow after a bit of delay. The waves travel to medium distance.
    • Reaction: Best time to turtle up behind the Loaded Umbrella. Wait for both slashes to fire then move out. You can deflect these waves with perfect timing or you can simply dodge to the side and they will miss you.
  6. Horizontal Ranged Slash: Sheathes his sword and takes a stance. The sword will charge up to unleash a 360-degree extended wave slash.
    • Reaction: Defend using the Loaded Umbrella. Or you can jump and bounce off him to ignore the attack.
  7. Ashina Cross: Sheathes his sword and charges it up then steps towards you to unleash a dual slash in a cross pattern. Performs this attack when you are at a distance. He can cancel this attack if you are near and goes on to perform a quick slash followed by a perilous swipe.
    • Reaction: Use the Loaded Umbrella to withstand the Ashina Cross. As for the cancel, deflect the initial strike then jump and bounce off him when the sweeping attack kanji appears.
  8. Charge Slash: When farther away, he runs up to you followed by a quick slash. Usually performed if you are attempting to use an item at a distance.
    • Reaction: Get ready to block as he charges towards you.

Phase 2 – (Spear)

Phase 2 - (Spear)

When the second phase begins, keep engaging Isshin, the Sword Saint and this might delay him from transitioning. But once he punches the ground, run away as he will pull out a spear swinging from the ground. Pop an Ako’s Sugar before this phase.

Now the fight goes into high gear. Isshin gets way too aggressive during this phase providing no window for you to rest. With a sword in one hand and a spear in another, his moveset will exponentially grow both in terms of variation in attacks and reach requiring you to be much more vigilant.

During this phase, defense is the best offense. Now Isshin, the Sword Saint will rarely stay back. He will constantly rush you, use long chaining combos (no set chains, too; he can mix things as he pleases), and even pull out a pistol if you stay away from him. You need to learn his moves like a song. You should not miss any beat or else you are done for.

Spacing is key; you don’t want to be all up in his face, and you don’t want to stay too far away. The middle is the Goldilocks zone. This way, you will bait him into performing many of his perilous moves, which, when defended appropriately, will help build up posture. There are no tricks here just pure skill vs skill.

Loaded Umbrella will cancel most of his combat art attacks so use that wisely. For all his sweeping attacks, the right use of High Monk will not only throw you above the attack but the follow-up kicks will deal a ton of posture damage. You’ll be surprised by the amount of posture you build up with a full barrage of High Monk.

The medium range is where he often runs up towards you and performs a leaping thrust which can be Mikiri Countered. He also tends to do a jumping slam which you can easily dodge behind him and punish.

You have to match his aggression coupled with clever play to stand a chance. This phase is the most difficult and where I died the most, so hone your skills between each death, and soon you’ll become the perfect dance partner to this boss. In essence, Sekiro is a rhythm game and this fight is the final song.


Isshin, the Sword Saint’s second phase comes with a whole new set of attacks. He can still use the same sword and combat arts as before so keep those in mind too. Below are all of them with their appropriate reactions:

  1. Spear Thrust: He can work this attack into many of his other attacks and combos. Rears his spear and goes for a far-reaching thrust attack.
    • Reaction: When you see the spear coming towards you, dodge into the attack to Mikiri Counter it. The attack is a bit delayed so keep an eye on that spear.
  2. Circle Sweep: A 360-degree perilous sweeping attack. Usually after a sword strike.
    • Reaction: Stay back once the kanji appears, jump over the actual sweep, and try to bounce off him.
  3. Jumping Overhead Slam: Jumps in the air and delivers a whopping spear ground slam. He tends to use it if you are farther away. He runs up to you and then performs this attack. He can still use it while close.
    • Reaction: Dodge under the jump or walk behind if you are close and attack as soon as he lands.
  4. Retreating Spear Slash: Jumps backward while swinging his spear in a wide arc mid-air.
    • Reaction: When he jumps backward, dash forward so that the swing misses you and move in to attack him as he lands.
  5. Diagonal Cross-Ranged Slashes: Sends out two ranged cross waves at you while slicing the air with his sword.
    • Reaction: Use the Loaded Umbrella to tank the slices.
  6. Quad Pistol Shots: Whips out a pistol and fires at you four times. The last shot is a bit delayed. He often follows this attack with a perilous thrust attack. He can also use it mid-combo.
    • Reaction: Either you can learn the firing rate of the bullets and deflect them accordingly or tap the block button like crazy and deflect most of the bullets with ease. Make sure to dodge into the follow-up thrust to Mikiri Counter it.
  7. Sword/Spear Uppercuts: Swings his sword upwards and quickly follows it up with a huge spear uppercut.
    • Reaction: Deflect both attacks.
  8. 7-Hit Sword to Spear Combo: While moving sideways, he performs two quick sword slashes and then follows it up with four slow spear strikes ending with a spear thrust.
    • Reaction: Mesh that block button up to the very end of the combo then dodge into the thrust to Mikiri Counter it.

Phase 3 – (Lightning)

Phase 3

Isshin the Sword Saint’s third phase is just like his second phase with the addition of lightning attacks. This addition makes this phase incredibly easier if you know how to react to lightning attacks. However, he still has his regular moveset so don’t take him for granted.

Now he tries to use lightning attacks every chance he gets. As soon as the lightning hits his spear, just jump in the air and start spamming the attack button. The lightning reversal will stun him for a few seconds, giving you ample time to punish him.

As for the rest of the fight, get ready to react to the same level of threat as before. Although, the lightning reversal will eat up his entire health or posture bar, ending the fight is just a few successful reversals. You can even distance yourself from him and force him to use lightning attacks only.

Killing this boss is one of the most satisfying thing in all of gaming and might be the best boss fight period. Funnily enough, once I beat the boss, the next two times I ended the game, the rest of the bosses and even this boss felt insanely easy. The fight is so well designed that it naturally elevates your skills and makes a perfect Wolf out of you. Love this fight. Earn this victory!


The third phase of Isshin the Sword Saint is similar to the second phase with a couple of new lightning attacks added into the mix. Here are all the new ones and their proper counters:

  1. Lighting Retreating Spear Slash: Same as the retreating spear slash from the previous phase; however, he stays in the air for some time, followed by firing lightning at you using his spear.
    • Reaction: Jump as the lightning is thrown at you and start spamming the attack button to perform the lightning reversal technique. He will get stunned if you reverse it right so lay it all into him during this point.
  2. Jumping Lightning Overhead Slam: A short leap in the air and empowering his spear with lighting then slams it into the ground in front while sending lighting at you.
    • Reaction: Jump as soon as the spear comes hurtling down and start spamming the attack button to execute lightning reversal. Use the stunned period to punish him.

Rewards for Defeating Isshin, the Sword Saint

Rewards for Defeating Isshin

You’ll receive the following goodies for beating Isshin the Sword Saint in Sekiro Shadows Die Twice:

  • Memory: Saint Isshin
  • Dragon Flash Combat Art
  • 20,000 XP