The World of Sekiro: Temple Arts and Mushin Arts
Hi! In this post we'll cover both Temple Arts and Mushin Arts, completing our Skill Tree research. We've come a long way! If you missed any of the previous posts on Prosthetic Arts, Shinobi Arts or Ashina Arts, feel free to check them out!
The English text for SOME of the combat arts and skills is different depending on the menu you're in: Sculptor's Idol skill menu, skill equip menu or skill tab on the inventory screen. The Japanese is the exact same everywhere, however the localization can vary quite considerably between the three menus. In this post I will discuss the localization from the Skill tab of the Inventory screen, that's where all the screenshots are from. I found that those are more accurate in general and tend to have more of the original text localized so we'll go with those.
Disclaimer #0 — common sense is still everything. Please do not assume that I have access to some secret true knowledge; I'm just entertained by reading Sekiro in Japanese. My lore theories are just theories so treat them accordingly.
Disclaimer #1 —
trust me, I'm a professional if this fact is somehow important - I am a certified linguist. My major is English and Japanese as foreign languages, my minor is intercultural communication. Fun stuff!
Disclaimer #2 — I am not a professional translator, I have never worked in localization. Yes, I will say that something is translated poorly and something is not, and it will be my personal point of view. People have been complaining that I am picking on minor things or have weird opinions when it comes to "better translations". I want to emphasize that it's okay to have those :) Ultimately, my goal is to give you the information so you can see if the localization was good or not, whether something important was lost or not. My opinion is just that and I choose to share it, however odd it might seem.
Disclaimer #3 — I am not an expert on Buddhism or Shintoism, so if I get something wrong in the religious side of things, I'm sorry :D I will leave links to the religious terms that we will undoubtedly encounter so you can read more on your own, if you are interested.
Why do kanji (Japanese characters) have different readings?
This is a popular question in the comment section. In a nutshell, Japanese kanji usually have two types of readings: on-reading and kun-reading, there might be a number of them in each category. On-readings have carried over from Chinese since kanji were borrowed from there, and kun-readings are native to Japanese. When a kanji stands on its own and is used as a single word, it is read with its kun-reading. When a kanji is used as a part of a multi-kanji word, it is read with its on-reading. It is slightly more complicated, but in broad strokes I think it explains it.
As far as I know, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was localized into English by Mugen Creations.
Tiny Transcription Legend
[:] — colon after a vowel means that it's a long sound;
['] — apostrophe after a vowel or before a vowel (or between two [n]) means that these are two different syllables, not a single long one.
The transcriptions I give do not follow all academic rules, and I don't think it's necessary. They are just here to represent the pronunciation.
For this research I mostly used Sekiro Shadows Die Twice Official Artworks, English wiki and a number of dictionaries.
Senpou Esoteric Text
Temple Arts are different from all the arts we've seen before because it's not a "style", like Ashina Arts, it's not a set of "skills", like Shinobi Arts or Prosthetic Arts, it's 拳法 [kempo:] - a martial art. Kempō is a generic term for several Japanese martial arts, it is a Japanese translation of a Chinese word. This term was widely adopted by various different cultures so the definition is kind of blurry. For example, there is a karate style called "hakutsuru kenpo karate", and there is also a relatively modern martial art called Nippon Kempo that uses hand and feet striking techniques.
So, this item's original name is 仙峯寺拳法の伝書 [sempo:ji kempo: no densho] - a secret book of Senpou Temple Kempō or a secret book of Senpou Temple martial art. The localization calls it "Senpou Style", and then, where appropriate, "martial art".
Let's talk about "the pursuit of virtue" or "making merit", we've already seen it when we talked about Divine Abduction: the kids were lured to the Mountain on the promises of "making merit", and at the time it wasn't really clear what merit they were supposed to make and why. The Japanese phrase for it is 功徳を積む [kudoku wo tsumu] - "to make merit", "to accumulate merit" or "to accumulate reward for virtuous deeds". Merit is a fundamental concept in Buddhism, and merit-making is an important Buddhist practice: in simple terms, merit accumulates from doing good deeds and it influences - in a positive way - retribution and the quality of the next life, and also how close one is to enlightenment. There are many forms of merit-making described in Buddhist texts such as mental development, giving, certain rituals and daily and weekly practices and so on.
So, 功徳 [kudoku] is basically a divine reward for doing good things, and this is what Senpou Monks were driven by before they got corrupted. Martial Art mastery was also one of their practices for merit-making, as evidenced by the description of this Esoteric Text.
There is one line that the localization skipped, and it's something of a word play (or kanji play) that runs through the rest of the description. So, 拳法 [kempo:] is comprised of two kanji: 拳 [kobushi] - fist, and ** , but it's also [nori] - teachings of Buddha or Buddhist doctrine.
「法 [nori] とは、教えのことである」- "法 is a [Buddhist] teaching".
I feel like this line is mostly intended for switching the reader's attention to the fact that in this description this kanji 法 is used not in its "method" meaning but as "teachings of Buddha", which explains the next line:
「己の身一つで仏敵を打ち倒すためには、拳と法、どちらも欠けてはならぬ」- "to defeat Buddha's enemies with only your body, you must lack neither fists (拳) nor [knowledge of] Buddha's teachings (法)".
「拳と法」 together make 拳法 [kempo:] but here these kanji are separated to tell you that you should be mindful about both if you want to defeat the Buddha's enemies.
The last line continues this same kanji play by saying that
「法は失われ、その拳もまた歪んでいる」- "[they] lost the Buddhist teachings and their fists are also warped"
Sounds weird in English but it's perfect in Japanese: the verb 歪む [yugamu] means "to warp", "to contort", "to be perverted", generally describes something changed in a bad way.
Honestly, before reading this description I didn't even know that you could read 法 as [nori], it is a widespread kanji that is predominantly used in its "method" meaning and is read [ho:]. Even in 拳法 [kempo:] it totally suits this meaning, you know, 拳法 [kempo:] - "fist method", because that's what you use in this martial art, although not exclusively. I think, the localization did a good job not dragging this kanji play into the localized description. I think their explanation turned out great, it's graceful and the gist is there. Still, it was curious diving deep into the original because when I read it for the first time, I certainly felt like I was missing something. Moving on!
The original name of Praying Strikes is 拝み連拳 [ogami rengen], which can literally be translated as "successive praying strikes". 拝む [ogamu] means "to assume the posture of praying" or "to do reverence", like before a statue of the Buddha, so it fits the context perfectly. Here we can also see the verb 畳み掛ける [tatamikakeru], and I'm convinced now that it has to do with your attacks overwhelming your opponent, as the description suggests.
The last paragraph should be in the past tense since both the verb form and the word かつて [katsute] - formerly, once before - point at that. Before Senpou Temple fell victim to the pursuit of immortality, accumulating strength through praying and martial arts to defeat the enemies of Buddha was one of their practices of merit-making.
Praying Strikes: Exorcism
Praying Strikes: Exorcism is a more advanced form of Praying Strikes, its original name is 拝み連拳・破魔の型 [ogami rengen・hama no kata] - successive praying strikes・exorcism kata. 型 [kata] denotes a style of something, a type but it can also be kata - a set sequence of positions and movements in martial arts, which is the case here.
The first couple of lines in the second paragraph are actually the exact same ones from Praying Strikes, yet the localization translates them very differently. Luckily, it preserved "once" so the whole last paragraph is in the past tense as it should be.
「かつて仙峯時の者は、この背撃を打ち、併せて煩悩を払ったものだが。。。」 - "those from the Senpou Temple used to strike with their shoulder and exorcise worldly desires at the same time, but..."
Not sure where the last line from the localized description comes from, the original says nothing of "other foul passions", it just implies that they used this practice of exorcism to purge worldly desires but now they basically use it just to beat the crap out of people because they are all corrupted now. I think all descriptions of Temple Arts are meant to juxtapose the monk's past to their present and show you that they used to be rightful servants of Buddha, practicing martial arts and religious rituals but now all of it just serves their vile purposes.
The word 煩悩 [bon'no:], "worldly desires", is a religious term that denotes Kleshas, mental states that cloud the mind and are to be cleansed, such as anxiety, fear, jealousy and so on.
Senpou Leaping Kicks
Its original name is 仙峯脚 [sempo:gyaku] - Senpou Kick.
「この蹴りは、仙峯時の名を冠する」 - "this kick bears the name of the Senpou Temple"
「仙とは悟りである」 - "hermitry is satori"
The word 仙峯 [sempo:] consists of 仙 [sen] - hermit, and 峯 [mine] - peak, pointing on the reclusive nature of the Senpou Temple Monks. In some descriptions of the Temple Arts these two kanji are used separately, just like we saw with 拳法 [kempo:].
悟り [satori] is a Buddhist term for enlightenment and it is considered to be a first step towards nirvana.
「悟りの峯に、登らんとする者よ｜まずは蹴るが良い。修行はそこから始まる」 - "those, who try to climb the peak of satori! Start with a kick. The training will begin from there."
The word used for "training", 修行 [shugyo:] - can also mean "ascetic practices" and be a Buddhist term denoting - an ego-transcending spiritual practice aimed at detachment from worldly desires. The localized version of this description might not be as accurate as one would hope but Temple Arts are choke full of complicated Buddhist terms and words that have multiple meanings and all of them kinda fit, and also a bunch of kanji that are brought together to constitute a word and then brought apart to be two separate words while retaining their meaning. It's crazy :D
We've reached the 奥義 [o:gi] skill of this skill tree - High Monk! It's original name is 仙峯時菩薩脚 [sempo:ji bosatsugyaku] - Senpou Temple Bodhisattva Kick.
We have already encountered the word 菩薩 [bosatsu] - Bodhisattva, the one who achieved enlightenment (satori) and who offers guidance to all living beings while moving towards Buddhahood. Another meaning of 菩薩 [bosatsu] is indeed "High Monk" - a title bestowed by Imperial Court upon a high-ranking priest. I personally think that this art is "Bodhisattva Kick" because of all the satori talk we read earlier, but I understand why the localization chose "High Monk" instead of "Bodhisattva".
The line "the embodiment of Buddha" in the original is actually 「菩薩の貌」- "the embodiment (form) of a Bodhisattva".
The rest of the description is quite accurate. The localization skipped one line because they ran out of space:
「心の在りよう、拠り所とするものが現れる」 - "[this art] shows the foundation one relies upon when making judgement."
This line was kinda confusing to me so the translation might not be 100% accurate but it has to do with the attack being different for everyone and showing their personality in execution. The funniest thing is that the localization really doubts that you remember the name of Wolf's sword, so instead of "Kusabimaru", as in the original, it says "his master's gift".
Let's move on to the passive skills of this tree! Virtuous Deed is 功徳 [kudoku], we have already covered the meaning of this word so let's not repeat ourselves.
The localized description is accurate, "focus on deeds of virtue" is again 「功徳を積む」- "to accumulate merit" or "to accumulate reward for virtuous deeds". In the days long gone the practice of merit-making was the main focus of the Senpou Temple but unfortunately things changed.
Most Virtuous Deed
さらなる功徳 [saranaru kudoku] - literally "even more virtuous deed". The description is almost identical to that of the "Virtuous Deed" but has more emphasis. I really wish the localization translated ぐれぐれも [gureguremo] - sincerely, earnestly. "One should focus only on continued deeds of virtue and sincerely [completely] forego any thoughts of attaining wealth".
Devotion's original name is 信心 [shinjin] - faith, piety, devotion. When describing the effect, the original says that it prolongs the effects of 御霊降ろし [mitamaoroshi] - spiritfall, which includes both Spiritfalls that you get from the Headless and also Sugars. The localization says "Spiritfall candy's effects", which is kinda confusing.
「信心深ければ、御霊の加護はその身に長く宿る」 - "spirit's protection inhabits the bodies of the deeply devoted for longer".
It makes total sense why this skill would be in the Temple Arts - after all, Senpou Monks make all Sugars apart from Gokan Sugars, they buy those from Misen.
Mushin Esoteric Text
Finally, we are ready to discuss the ultimate skill tree - Mushin Arts! Its original name is 秘伝・葦名無心流の伝書 [hiden・ashina mushinryu: no densho] - quite a mouthful! Let's break it into parts.
秘伝 [hiden] means "secret arts", literally. This is the only text in the game that has 秘伝 [hiden] in its name.
葦名無心流 [ashina mushinryu:] - Ashina Mushin Style, much like 葦名流 [ashinaryu:] - Ashina Style. But what is Mushin?
The word 無心 [mushin] initially confused me, even though the word consists of the simplest kanji you can find: a negative prefix and "mind". I thought that maybe there are LAYERS of meanings beneath but then I read the description, and it seems to be much simpler than I thought:
「無心に、あらゆる流派を飲みこみ続ける」- "mindlessly, [Isshin] continued gobbling up every fighting style".
A Secret Book of Ashina Mindless Arts. This book is literally a disorganized mess of whatever Isshin managed to learn from whoever in his younger years. He learned from shinobi, from Senpou Monks, from an elite okami warrior, even from a former Shura. It's kind of scary when you think about it. Even after he became Kensei, he couldn't stop.
The localization describes Isshin's story quite accurately, for "lust for power" the original once again uses 貪欲 [don'yoku] - raga, a Buddhist term for greed and avarice that is considered to be one of the ultimate character afflictions. Another curious line tells us that his pursuit of strength ended in him "stealing the country".
"This drive", the drive to just learn fighting styles from whoever, the lust for strength, did not define "Isshin's achievements" but himself:
「その心持ちこそが、元来の一心である」- "that attitude defined Isshin by nature".
And as such, this text will never be completed because while Isshin lives, he will find more and more fighting styles to gobble up.
Shadowfall's original name is 大忍び落とし [daishinobi otoshi] - Great Shinobi's Fall. It's worth noting that all skills in Mushin Arts have 秘伝 [hiden] in their titles just before the name of the skill to indicate that it is a secret art.
Interestingly enough, the original name of this skill is reminiscent both of Shadowrush - 大忍び刺し [daishinobisashi] and the skill that both Owl and Wolf wield but we don't have a description of - 影落とし [kageotoshi], a special shinobi deathblow that Owl used to kill Wolf back in Hirata Estate and that Wolf uses when killing Owl in the Great Shinobi bossfight. We covered it in detail here, feel free to check it out.
Funny but "Shadowfall" would be a perfect translation for 影落とし [kageotoshi] :D
The localized description is accurate, I am somewhat disappointed that it consists largely of just enumerating all the jumping, piercing and flying, instead of a little bit of lore. Shadowfall requires both Shadowrush and High Monk, and you know what's even more interesting than Isshin potentially learning Shadowrush to develop Shadowfall? In the Father bossfight Owl actually uses Shadowfall against Wolf and not Shadowrush, so I was mistaken in the Shinobi Arts post. I always mikiried it and I never saw it finished so I just assumed it was Shadowrush - and it was quite irresponsible or me - but I went back to test, and it's Shadowfall. I just imagine this giant coworking space of dads - and lady Tomoe - learning random stuff from one another, slapping it on top of the skills they already wield and showing off. What a time it must have been.
Mortal Draw is not a part of Mushin Arts - it's not a part of any arts, really, but since it is required for Empowered Mortal Draw and we have no more Skill Trees to cover, we'll talk about it here.
Despite the fact that it is not a part of any skill tree, it is nonetheless an 奥義 [o:gi] skill, like an ultimate skill akin to Ashina Cross and Shadowrush. Its name is quite simple: 不死斬り [fushigiri] - Mortal Blade, just the name of this type of blades. We know two of them: the red one, Hairui, and the black one, Kaimon, they are both fushigiri swords capable of killing the undying.
I'd say the original description of the "noxious mist" is much creepier than its localized version:
「不死斬りから赤黒き瘴気が染み出し」- "dark red miasma seeps out from the Mortal Blade"
「抜けぬ刀を、抜いて斬る｜竜胤の御子の従者でなくば、扱えぬ技」 - "to draw a katana that can't be drawn, and slice. If there weren't the servants of the Divine Heirs of the Dragon's Heritage, this skill would be impossible to use."
Empowered Mortal Draw
Empowered Mortal Draw has the exact same name but another type: 秘伝・不死斬り [hiden・fushigiri] - Secret Art: Mortal Blade.
The last paragraph is incredibly interesting: the English localization just copied it from the Mortal Draw but it's actually not the same.
「抜けぬ刀を、抜いて斬る｜竜胤の御子の従者でなくば、極められぬ技」 - "to draw a katana that can't be drawn, and slice. If there weren't the servants of the Divine Heirs of the Dragon's Heritage, this skill would be impossible to perfect."
What doesn't really make sense to me lore-wise, is how this skill came to be and why Genichiro uses it in the final fight before Isshin Sword Saint. It seems like only Tomoe could perfect the Mortal Draw, and create Empowered Mortal Draw, but she didn't have access to a Mortal Blade, that was the whole point of her tragedy: they didn't have the Mortal Blade and that's why they couldn't return home, and Takeru died. On the other hand, the second Mortal Blade, Kaimon, doesn't seem to kill the one wielding it because Genichiro pulls out it from nowhere and is very much alive. So these skills can be used by someone who is not a servant of the Divine Heir. The characteristics of two swords always confused me: they both can spill Heir's blood and kill the undying, they have their unique perks like collecting Dragon's tears or opening the gates to the Underworld. I thought they both kill those who try to unsheath them but apparently the Black Mortal Blade does not.
Looks so cool though.
Spiral Cloud Passage
We have already covered Spiral Cloud Passage when we talked at length about Takeru and Tomoe, you can find this bit here. Every time I read:
「源の渦をのぞむ、己が主｜その小さな背中が、巴にとっては全てだった。」- "Her master gazed longingly at the Fountainhead Spiral. For Tomoe, his little figure meant everything".
... my heart just breaks a little bit more. And I also still can't believe that you can actually see the Spiral Cloud from a variety of places! You can see it from Takeru and Tomoe's graves where the Everblossom used to be. The most Fountenhead-like place in the castle.
We are done not only with Temple Arts and Mushin Arts but with all the arts in the game! What a milestone. I hope you learned some new things during this part of our bottomless research. I'm not sure what to do next: maybe I'll try to categorize consumables and whatever else is left item-wise, and then we'll move to the second part of the project which is travelling the locations specified in the artbook and translating names of random items, decorations, staring at flower patterns in the Fountainhead Palace and just in general exploring the environments.
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.