Takeda Shingen was born Takeda Katsuchiyo, In 1551, his name was changed again to the well-known Takeda Shingen. Shin is the contemporary Chinese pronunciation of the character nobu, which means "believe"; gen means "black", the color of intelligence and truth in Buddhism.
Shingen is sometimes referred to as The Tiger of Kai for his martial prowess on the battlefield. His primary rival, Uesugi Kenshin, was often called The Dragon of Echigo or also The Tiger of Echigo. In Chinese mythology, the dragon and the tiger have always been bitter rivals who try to defeat one another, but they always fight to a draw.
Takeda Shingen was the first-born son of Takeda Nobutora, the daimyo of the Province of Kai. He assisted his father with the older relatives and vassals of the Takeda family, and became quite a valuable addition to the clan at a fairly young age. But at some point in his life after his "coming of age" ceremony, the young man decided to rebel against his father. He finally succeeded at the age of 21, successfully taking control of the clan. The end result for the father was a miserable retirement that was forced upon him by his son and his supporters: he was sent to Suruga Province to be kept in custody under the scrutiny of the Imagawa clan, headed by Imagawa Yoshimoto, the daimyo of Suruga. For their help in this bloodless coup, and the alliance was formed between the Imagawa and the Takeda clans.
After he had conquered Shinano, Shingen faced another rival - Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo. The feud between these two became almost legendary, and they faced each other on the battlefield a total of five times at Kawanakajima (years: 1554, 1555, 1557, 1561, 1564). These "battles" were generally confined to controlled skirmishes, neither daimyo willing to devote themselves entirely to a single all-out attempt. The one conflict between the two that had the fiercest fighting, and might have decided victory or defeat for one side or the other, was the fourth such battle. It was in this fourth contest that the famous tale was formed of Uesugi Kenshin's forces clearing a path through the Takeda troops and Kenshin engaging Shingen in single combat. The tale has Kenshin attacking Shingen with his sword while Shingen defends with his iron war fan or gunbai.
Around this time period, the Takeda clan suffered two setbacks within the group itself. Shingen uncovered two plots on his life, the first from his cousin Katanuma Nobumoto (whom he ordered to commit seppuku), and the second, a few years later, from his own son Takeda Yoshinobu. His son was confined to the Tokoji, where he died two years later. It is uncertain as to whether his death was natural or ordered by his father. This left Takeda Shingen, for the moment, without an heir. However, he later had more sons, and it was actually his fourth (Takeda Nobumori) who would take control of the Takeda clan after his death.
The future of all of Japan was now in the balance, as Takeda Shingen, at 49 years of age, was the one daimyo with the power, position, and skill necessary to stop Oda Nobunaga's headlong rush to ruling the land of Japan. He engaged Tokugawa forces in 1572 and captured Futamata, and then stepped forward once again in January at Mikata-ga-hara. At Mikata-ga-hara, Takeda Shingen easily defeated the combined armies of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu; but he could not defeat old age. After defeating Tokugawa Ieyasu, Shingen actually checked his forward momentum for a small time due to outside influences, and Ieyasu was given a brief reprieve. Surprisingly, as he started pressing forward once again in 1573, Takeda Shingen died.