What is Shugyo?
Musha shugyō (武者修行) is a samurai warrior’s quest or pilgrimage. The concept is similar to the Chinese Youxia, or Knight Errantry in feudal Europe. A warrior, called a shugyōsha, would wander the land practicing and honing his skills without the protection of his family or school. Possible activities include training with other schools, dueling, performing bodyguard or mercenary work, and searching for a daimyo to serve.
Musha shugyō, or “training in warriorship”, was inspired by Zen monks, who would engage in similar ascetic wanderings (which they called angya, “travelling on foot”) before attaining enlightenment. Kamiizumi Ise-no-Kami Nobutsuna, who founded the Shinkage-ryū school of swordsmanship in the mid-sixteenth century, was a shugyōsha.