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The Kubotan (sometimes erroneously spelled as Kubaton or Kobutan) self-defense keychain is a close-quarter self-defense weapon developed by Takayuki Kubota. It is essentially a derivation of the yawara (??) stick, usually 5.5 inches (14cm) long and 0.56 inch (1.5 cm) 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.

Aside from its size and shape, much of its usage is quite similar to the yawara stick. As with the yawara stick, the principal areas for attacks in self-defense include bony, fleshy and nerve targets such as knuckles, forearms, bridge of the nose, shins, stomach, solar plexus, spine, temple, ribs, groin, neck, eyes etc. The Kubotan is usually held in either an icepick (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 also 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 the 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. Its techniques are greatly linked to ’empty handed’ martial arts techniques, and almost all of its uses can complement the fighting style in which it is included. It is a weapon that can adapt to an art, rather than just dictate its own set of movements and uses.

The use of the Kubotan (and similar weapons like its predecessors the yawara stick and the Koppo stick) makes it a particularly interesting weapon because improvised versions can be readily found and can be equally effective. Since a Kubotan is just a rod of plastic, metal or wood, any restrictive regulation would most likely be ambiguous and undefined due to the ability for any rod-shaped item to essentially be used in kubotan-like fashion. This property makes it one of the few weapons that can be replaced by everyday items, whilst retaining all its combative properties. Typical improvised items can include rolled up paper or magazines, a roll of hard candy, hairbrushes, pens, magic markers and Sharpies, flashlights, twigs, Tootsie rolls, etc. Almost anything with roughly the same shape and size can be a viable replacement.

In the United States, there are no legal restrictions on them. Even in the UK where most tools for self-defense are banned, Kubotans are not targeted.

Kubotan is a registered trademark of Takayuki Kubota, who originally developed it as a tool for police officers to restrain suspects without permanent injury. Its popularity began in the mid-1970s when Kubota first brought the weapon to the attention of the LAPD and began schooling 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. The Kubotan gradually expanded toward all law enforcement and civilian self-defense applications and is now a widely recognized self-defense tool.

The Authentic Kubotan keychain (as designed and sold by Takayuki Kubota) is a hard high-impact plastic rod, usually made from Lexan, about 5.5 inches (14 cm) long and 9/16 0.56 inch (1.5 cm) in diameter. The body is lined with six round grooves for added grip and there is a screw eye with a split ring attached to one end for keys. The Authentic Kubotan keychain is also sold by Reliapon Police Products, along with a matching Kubotan training book.

There are many other forms and variations of the original design available, ranging from aluminum alloy to spiked, pointed, tapered ones to more offensive looking “ninja” models that have blades, spikes, hidden darts or tear gas. Although they may be marketed as Kubotans, they are not and are actually classified along the lines of generic Self-Defense Keychain Sticks or SDKS.

The umbrella term pocket stick is also used sometimes to classify rod-shaped hand weapons like the Kubotan.

Kubotan is coined word from “Kubota” and “baton”.

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