Roy Goldberg, 7th Dan, Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu
Shugyo is a Japanese word that means hard, intense training meant to polish the spirit. It comes from the word Musha Shugyo, meaning training in warriorship, which refers to a samurai warrior's pilgrimage or quest wherein they would roam the land training with other schools, challenging other warriors, and learning about themselves. The samurai got the concept from Zen practitioners who would engage in similar ascetic wandering. Some of the best Zen poetry is by wandering ascetics.
In a 21st Century context, Shugyo is more about focus and dedication. It is about tightening the slack, toughening the body, breaking through the mind's weakness, burning our inherent conditioning. It is not necessary, nor even recommended, that we roam the land living on the streets, challenging strangers to duel. It is impractical for most of us to sit in a cave for nine years, forging our spirit. But we can still train hard and intelligently. For us, Shugyo is a state of mind, and intention to give 100% plus to our path. It is found by putting extra weight on the bar before you lift, by forcing yourself to get out of bed early on cold mornings to train even though your mind says no so very loudly. It is sitting for longer today than you did yesterday, not giving in to monkey mind, not getting up even though your body is screaming for release; it is finding a way to relax into the situation.
In Taijiquan it is said that after practicing 10,000 hours skill will naturally emerge. And while I don't think it is a good idea to be rigid and actually count your hours in anticipation of mastery suddenly appearing, I do believe that the key to success is putting in the hours. Of course we need instruction and guidance. We need to spend some time with teachers who know. But in the final analysis, the path is ours to walk and the only way to walk it is one foot in front of the other again and again.