The Penchin ( is the Okinawan/Ryukyuan equivalent of the Japanese Samurai. In the Ryūkyū Kingdom (Okinawa), feudal warriors of the Pechin class would refer to themselves samurai. Therefore Penchin, Okinawa samurai, and Ryukyuan samurai are used interchangeably.

Okinawan Caste System Edit

The Pechin were part of a complex caste system that existed in Okinawa for centuries, they were the feudal warrior class that was charged with enforcing the law and providing military defense to the nation, Okinawan or Ryūkyū Kingdom. The specific rank of an Okinawan Samurai was noted by the color of their hat.

Okinawan Caste System:

  • Royalty - Sho family
  • Oji  :Prince
  • Aji or Anji  :descendant of Prince, cadet branch of Royal House
  • Uekata or Oyakata  :Lord
  • Pechin -  Okinawan Samurai
  • Pekumi  :upper Pechin
  • Satunushi Pechin  :middle Pechin
  • Chikudun Pechin  :lower Pechin
  • Satunushi  :upper page
  • Chikudun  :lower page
  • Heimin - commoners

The Pechin class was also responsible for the development of and training in the traditional fighting style, called Ti (Te), which developed into modern day karate. The Ryūkyū Samurai class (Pechin) kept their fighting techniques secret, usually passing down the most devastating fighting forms to only one member of the family per generation, usually the eldest son. This warrior class became part of the caste system in Okinawa. Placed in the upper class, the Pechin would often travel with a servant at their side.

The Unarmed Ryūkyū Samurai Edit

Any unarmed self-defense techniques were of great importance to them, given repeated weapons bans by the Ryūkyū King and Japanese Satsuma invaders. The first time that the Okinawan samurai's weapons were confiscated was during the reign of King Shoshin (1477 - 1526), who unified Okinawa into one Ryūkyū Kingdom. The second time that the Ryūkyū samurai were disarmed was after the Satsuma invasion of 1609, which prohibited the carrying of weapons by the Ryūkyū Samurai.

The Ryūkyū Samurai was not completely without weapons, historians in Okinawa have recovered documents that state that the Satsuma outlawed the ownership and sale of firearms in Okinawa. However the Okinawan samurai of the Pechin class and above were allowed to keep firearms that were already in their family's possession.