The founder of Mugai Ryu, Tsuji Gettan Sukeshige was born in 1648 in what is now
Shiga Prefecture. When he was 13 he went to Kyoto to study Yamaguchi Ryu; at
the age of 26 he received menkyo kaiden (full transmission), and opened a
Yamaguchi Ryu school in Edo (present-day Tokyo). However, only a few students
came to learn at his school as no one wanted to study under an unknown fencing
teacher from the countryside. Gettan realized that he required more spiritual
education, and so he went to study Zen and Chinese philosophy under monk
Sekitan at Azabu Kyukoji Temple. He continued his Zen practice under the second
chief priest Shinshu, and at the age of 45 achieved enlightenment. He took the
name Gettan Sukeshige and in 1693 founded the Mugai Ryu fencing school.
As a sword master and Zen disciple, Gettan felt that the sword and Zen were
inseparable, as he explained in his seminal writing on the true meaning of Mugai
Ryu, and any who wanted to learn Mugai Ryu fencing had to first become
proficient students of Zen before Gettan would teach them the sword.
After 20 years of spiritual dedication, Gettan was known not just as a master of the
sword, but as an enlightened philosopher and scholar as well. At Kyukoji Temple
he was often in contact with many powerful lords of the time. Gettan was invited
to teach for two powerful lords’ houses, but being a restless spirit always seeking
more, Gettan sent his students instead: his blood relative and second master of
Mugai Ryu, Tsuji Uheida, to the Sakai house of the Umayabashi clan, and his
adopted disciple and third master of Mugai Ryu, Tsuji Kimata Sukehide, to the
Yamaguchi house of the Tosa clan.
When Gettan was 61 years old, at the discretion of Lord Sakai, he was to debut
in front of the fifth shogun Tsunakichi. Unfortunately, Shogun Tsunakichi passed
away before Gettan had an audience with him. However, for a masterless sword
instructor to be invited to have an audience with the shogun at that time was an
Gettan studied Jikyo Ryu iai from master Taga Jikyosai Morimasa, who did not
have a pupil to carry on after him, and so instead of letting Jikyo Ryu fade, he
brought his teachings into Mugai Ryu. Today’s Mugai Ryu iai is therefore a
combination of the original Mugai kenjutsu teachings and Jikyo Ryu iai,
which was later consolidated by Nakagawa-soke into Mugai Ryu Iaihyodo.