The Origin of the ryu-ha

The origin of the school can be traced back to Hakugen-ryu founded in 931 A.D. by Jigensai Kazutou Jiichibou (自源齋一任自一坊) during the second year of Jouhei (931 – 938). Hakugen-ryu derives from “Kashima no Tachi Shinmyoken” founded by “Kunima Masato” in the early 400s A.D. and regarded as the first sword school in Japan.

Hakugen-ryu was inherited by the Minamoto clan who embedded the secrets of the ryu into two scrolls called “Ryuko Nikan-no Hidensho” (龍虎ニ巻之秘伝書) and then inherited to Minamoto no Yoshiie (源義家, 1039 - 1106) who decoded the secrets and created a system based on them which he called “Ten Chi Jin In Yo Godan no Houkei” (天地人陰陽五段之形).

The scrolls and secrets were then passed down to the Oide clan, then the Urabe clan and finally to Yaobettoh Kaneyuki / Kenko (八尾別当顕幸), by Shunjobu Jugen (俊乗坊重源).

Yaobettoh wrote a scroll named “Jiken-ryu Ryuko no Kan” (自顕流龍虎之巻), and called the system he had created as “Jiken-ryu” (自顕流).

The Beginning of Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu

The founder of "Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu" was born in Satake under the name “Kose Gentaro”. The Kose family ruled Ota, Hitachi no kuni. Gentaro’s name was later on changed in the samurai tradition to “Toze Yozaemon’I Nagamune” (小瀬与左衛門尉長宗). He was a descendant of “Minamoto no Yoshimitsu” (源 義光, 1045 -1127). Nagamune’s name would change many times during his lifetime.

Nagamune had studied and received “Menkyo Kaiden” (免許皆伝, license of total transmission) in “Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu” (天眞正伝香取神道流) from "Iichino Morichika", and "Jiken-ryu" from "Yaobettoh Kaneyuki / Kenko".

Following his connection to the Minamoto family he requested lands in “Satsuma” (薩摩, present day Kagoshima), bringing along with him a unique sword style he called “Tenshinsho Jiken-ryu” (天眞正自顕流 ). “Tenshinsho” (天眞正), represents Kashima, Katori Myojin (鹿島香取明神), “Ji” (自), was taken from the name of the founder of Hakugen-ryu “Jiichibou” who is considered the origin of the school, and “Ken” (顕), from his previous master’s name Kenko.

Once in Satsuma he gains favor and is adopted into the Setoguchi family and so he changed his name once again to “Kaiso Setoguchi Bizen no Kami Masamoto” (瀬戸口備前守政基).

This was the birth of the Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu of Satsuma. 

Setoguchi wrote three scrolls that contain the secrets of his style: “Songyou” (尊行), “Sakken” (察見), and “Kikigaki” (聴書), together with “Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu Kihon Kyouten/ Ugenroku” (天眞正自源流兵法基本教典 / 无源録, The basic and ultimate book in Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu Hyouhou).

At the age of 77, Setoguchi decided to change the name of his style and it was then that the Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu School was founded in 1508 and established in the Satsuma Domain forever regarded as the secret weapon of the Shimazu clan (Lords of Satsuma).
Setoguchi’s sword style was taught to the elite samurai of the Shimazu clan and served as the base for other sword styles that sprung out of Satsuma.

Following the lineage to Jigensai and Minamoto, Setoguchi left a note explaining the reason why he changed the name his style. The note he left reads:

"The origin of my style traces back its roots to Jouko-ryu Kashima no Tachi Hakugen-ryu. The style has incorporated many other different styles by the past successors. "Gen" (源) means all those different styles and also refers to Jigensai's "Gen" (自源齋), the founder of Jouko-ryu Kashima no Tachi Hakugen-ryu. "Gen" (源) also contains several meanings like, the source of everything in the world, the war strategy (Hyouhou, 兵法) of the Minamoto clan, and the source of mind. I hereby name my style as Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu Hyouhou (天眞正自源流兵法) with absolute certainty and confidence.

Kaiso Setoguchi Bizen no Kami Masamoto, the founder of Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu Hyouhou passed away in September 23rd, 1518, during the fifteenth year of “Eisho” when the “Sengoku Jidai” or warring states period was beginning, but left behind a legacy that would influence and shape the spirit of the Satsuma warriors forever.

Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu was under the Setoguchi family for four generations, then three generations of the Yakumaru family, five generations of the Mizoguchi family and presently three generations of the Ueno family. For almost 400 years was only passed down to only a few handpicked disciples of each generation and royal guards of the Shimazu domain, and hidden from outsiders until his 13th generation headmaster Ueno Yasuyuki Genshin opened the doors of Shobukan Dojo to the public in 1964.

Today Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu is led by Sugimura Mitsuhiko Saikou Shihan and 16th Soke Takahashi Tamon.

Many styles derived from Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu and made a name for themselves especially during the invasion to “Okinawa” and the “Bakumatsu” period where the Satsuma samurais played a main roll.

Schools such as the famous Jigen-ryu (示現流) of Togo Chui, (Togo Shigekura /東郷重位, 1561 - 1643),

 “Yakumaru Jigen-ryu” (薬丸流), “Nodachi Jigen-ryu” (野太刀自源流), and “Ko Jigen-ryu” (古自源流) amongst others descended from the Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu of Setoguchi.