Parry, reversal, and sabaki: What's the difference?

(Check out our glossary as you read this article for definitions of the jargon used)

Asuka Kazama performing her reversal against Lili De Rochefort

As part of their move list, several characters in Tekken have parries, reversals, and sabakis, which can be powerful defensive options when used correctly, and fatal when misused. However, a vast majority of the Tekken community often lumps all three together under one name, often calling them all parries. All three counter attacks from the opponent, so what's the difference between them?

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Parries

A parry is a move that counters the opponent's attack and does nothing more on its own. The reward for a successful parry varies between characters, for example:

  • Lei Wulong has parries that give him frame advantage
  • Master Raven has parries that allow her to create distance with the opponent
  • Jin Kazama has a parry that affords him a wide range of manual follow-ups, depending on the parried move's recovery

Reversals

A reversal is a move that counters the opponent's attack and returns another attack. The attack returned may depend on the nature of the reversed attack (i.e. punch or kick) and, like with parries, the reward for a successful reversal varies between characters, for example:

  • Nina Williams has a reversal that leads to a chain throw
  • Heihachi Mishima has a reversal that leads to a floor break, though he still takes damage
  • Asuka Kazama has a reversal that leads to a combo at the wall (punches only)

Sabakis

A sabaki is an attack that counters the opponent's attack at certain points of its animation. Unlike a reversal, a sabaki does not require a successful counter to connect with the opponent, though its properties change on a successful counter. Once again, the reward for a successful sabaki counter varies between characters, for example:

  • Leo Kliesen has a sabaki that knocks down the opponent for a guaranteed follow-up
  • Feng Wei has a sabaki that launches the opponent