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The Kubotan (sometimes erroneously spelled as Kubaton or Kobutan) is a genericized trademark for a self-defense keychain weapon developed by Takayuki Kubota in the 1960s. It is typically no more than 5.5 inches (14 centimetres) long and about half an inch (1.25 centimetres) in diameter, slightly thicker or the same size as a marker pen. The material is usually of a hard high-impact plastic (e.g. Lexan). The body of the Kubotan is lined with six round grooves with a screw eye and/or swivel and split ring attachment at one end for keys. The Kubotan may appear as an innocuous key fob to the untrained eye. In some cases however it may be recognized and considered an offensive weapon in some jurisdictions.


An official Kubotan keychain with keys attached

Applied as a weapon, some of its usage can be similar to that of the yawara stick or koppo 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 suspect's neck while simultaneously digging the end of the Kubotan into the small of his back. The officer may also reach around the suspect'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.

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.[1] Spiked Kubotans are now specifically listed as offensive weapons on the British government's crime prevention website.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]


'Kubotan' is a registered trademark of Takayuki Kubota, who developed the device as a tool for police officers to restrain suspects. 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'.

Self-Defence Keychain Stick (SDKS) with tapered end

Over time the registered name "Kubotan" has become genericized to mean all rod-like hand weapons. While some variations retain the design of the original, other imitations incorporate spikes and tapered ends. In addition more offensive-looking "ninja" models enhanced with blades, hidden darts and tear gas have also been known to be marketed and sold as "Kubotans". Another variant is the tactical pen. [5] Although these weapons may be marketed as "Kubotans", they are not and are more properly classified along lines of generic self-defence keychain sticks (SDKS for short) and/or generic self-defence pocket weapons. The umbrella term 'pocket stick' is also sometimes 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


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