One of the first Japanese martial arts schools was Kashima no Tachi Shinmyoken, which was founded by Kunima Masato in 400 AD. From this style Jigensai Kazutou Jiichibou created a school called HAKUGEN RYU in 931AD.
Hakugen Ryu was passed to the Minamoto clan (Genji) which held its secrets in a set of two scrolls, “Ryuko Nikan no Hidensho (the two secret scrolls of Dragon and Tiger).
The art was passed to Minamoto no Yoshiie (1039 – 1106) who decoded the secrets and created a system which he called “Ten Chi Jin In Yo Godan no Houkei” (the form of the Five Techniques of Heaven, Earth, Human, Darkness and Light).
Yoshiie’s younger brother Minamoto Yoshimitsu (1045 – 1127) created a branch of the tradition later known as Daito Ryu, famed for its Aikijujutsu.
Minamoto Yoshiie passed Hakugen Ryu to Kiichi Hougan and he to Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159 – 1189) who was the brother of the shogun Minamoto Yoritomo.
Yoshitsune passed the art on to Shunjobu Jugen who taught it to Yaobettoh Kenko.
Yaobettoh passed the art to Tose Nagamune who also mastered Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō Ryu and called his teachings Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu. Nagamune moved to Satsuma and changed the name Jiken to ‘Jigen’ and changed his own name to Setoguchi Masamoto.
He explained: “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” also contains several meanings like; the source of everything in the world, the war strategy (Heiho) of the Minamoto (Genji) clan. I hereby name my style as Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu Hyoho with absolute certainty and confidence.”
Setoguchi died in 1519 but left behind hidden in Satsuma all the secrets of his art, that was passed down to only one disciple of each generation and royal guards of the Shimazu clan for about 500 years.
Within Satsuma the art of Jigen Ryu was further developed by Togo Chui (1561-1643) in Satsuma Province, now Kagoshima prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.
This branch of the art was passed through to Togo family and then a branch of it, called Kojigen Ryu was taught to Toshu Jutsu masters from Okinawan including Sokon Matsumura and Yoshitsune Azato.