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The Kubotan (sometimes erroneously spelled as Kubaton or Kobutan) self-defence keychain is a close-quarter self-defense weapon developed by Takayuki Kubota. It is typically no more than 6 inches (15 centimetres) long and about half an inch (1.25 centimetres) in diameter, slightly thicker or the same size as a marker pen. Attached with a keyring for convenience and concealment, the Kubotan appears as an innocuous key fob to the untrained eye. However, it may be considered an offensive weapon in some jurisdictions.
Applied as a weapon, much of its usage is similar to that of the yawara stick. The principal targets in self-defence include bony, fleshy and sensitive parts such as knuckles, forearms, the bridge of the nose, shins, stomach, solar plexus, spine, temple, ribs, groin, neck and eyes. The Kubotan is usually held in either an icepick grip (for hammerfist strikes) or forward grip (for stabbing and pressure point attacks). Common uses include hardening the fist (fistload) for punching, attacking vulnerable parts of an assailant's body, and gaining leverage on an assailant's wrist, fingers and joints. With keys attached, it can function as a flailing weapon. As a pressure point and pain compliance weapon it can attack any point a finger can, but with greater penetration because of the smaller surface area at the ends. For example, a law enforcement officer may wrap his arm around a citizen's neck while simultaneously digging the end of the Kubotan into the small of his back. The officer may also reach around his victim's neck and underarm from behind and cause pain by digging the end of the Kubotan into the top of his pectoral muscle. One typical pain compliance technique is a wrist "gasket" lock in which the attacker's wrist is captured and sealed around with both hands and the body of the Kubotan laid across the radial bone. Downward squeezing pressure is then applied to the bone to take down the opponent. Such techniques reflect the influence of 'empty hand' martial arts.
Improvised versions of the Kubotan can be readily found and put to use. Since a Kubotan is just a rod of a hard material, any restrictive regulation would most likely be ambiguous and undefined due to the ability for any rod-shaped item to be used in kubotan-like fashion. In this respect the Kubotan can be replaced by everyday items, for example hairbrushes, pens, markers, flashlights, small wooden dowels and even electronic cigarettes. Metal pens (called 'tactical pens') are marketed as substitutes for the Kubotan.
In the United States there are few legal restrictions on Kubotans, with the notable exception that they are prohibited as carry-on items for air travellers. Spiked Kubotans are now specifically listed as offensive weapons on the British government's crime prevention website. Whether a non-spiked kubotan (i.e. a rod) is classed as an offensive weapon in the UK depends upon the circumstances of the case and can be for a jury to decide. In April 2010 actor and entertainer Darren Day was found guilty of possessing an offensive weapon, namely a Kubotan-style keyring, by a court in Edinburgh.
'Kubotan' (a portmanteau of Kubota and baton) is a registered trademark of Takayuki Kubota, who developed the device as a tool for police officers to restrain suspects without causing permanent injury. Its popularity grew in the mid-1970s when Kubota brought the weapon to the attention of the LAPD and began training female officers in its application. It is often touted as extremely effective in breaking the will of unruly suspects with painful locks and pressure point strikes. Because of that the Kubotan is also sometimes dubbed the 'instrument of attitude adjustment'. In some law enforcement and security circles it is known as 'The Persuader'.
The Kubotan keychain, as marketed by Kubota, is a rod made of a hard high-impact plastic such as Lexan, about 5.5 inches (14 centimetres) long and 9/16ths (0.56) of an inch (1.5 centimetres) in diameter. The body is lined with six round grooves for enhanced grip and there is a screw eye with a split ring at one end for attaching keys.
There are many forms and variations of the original design available, including spiked, pointed, tapered ones and more offensive-looking "ninja" models enhanced with blades, spikes, hidden darts and tear gas. Another variant is the tactical pen. Although these weapons may be marketed as Kubotans, they are properly classified along lines of generic self-defence keychain sticks (SDKS for short). The umbrella term 'pocket stick' is also used to classify rod-shaped hand weapons.
- Takayuki Kubota & John G. Peters, Jr.: "Official Kubotan Techniques", Reliapon Police Products, 1981, ISBN 0-923401-01-6
- Takayuki Kubota: Kubotan Keychain: Instrument of Attitude Adjustment, Dragon Books, 1985, ISBN 0-946062-09-9
- Takayuki Kubota: Kubotan Keychain, ISBN 0-86568-068-X
- Takayuki Kubota: Action Kubotan Keychain: An Aid in Self Defense: Key Chain – An Aid in Self Defense , Unique Publications, 1997, ISBN 0-86568-101-5
- Bill and Becky Valentine: "Self Defense for Life", Self-Defense Publications, 1991, ISBN 0-9629866-0-7
- Peter Weckauf and Irmengard Hanzal: S.D.S.-CONCEPT Das Buch (inkl. Kubotan), 2009, in German
- Kubotan: The official Kubotan, Rising Sun Video Productions, ASIN B00011HJAW
- Georges Sylvain: The Persuader Kubotan & Yawara, Rising Sun Video Productions, ASIN B00065AXWE
- Peter Weckauf: SDS-Concept, BUDO International
- "Prohibited Items For Travelers". Transportation Security Administration. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
- "Knife crime". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
- "Actor Darren Day guilty of offensive weapon charge". BBC News. 7 April 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
- "Tactical Pens Ultimate Guide".