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What Is a Kubaton?
First, the historical proper name for a kubaton is Kubotan. We will use kubaton here, see below for the reason why. They have been used as a non-lethal self-defense tool since the late 1960s. This mighty little weapon can help a person gain a potentially life-saving advantage over a much larger attacker.
Not only are kubatons small and lightweight enough to be a part of your everyday carry — EDC. The kubaton keychain as well as the kubaton style tactical pen, appear like common everyday supplies — right up until the moment you use them to jab an attacker’s neck, eyes, fingers, joints, or groin area. It is gripped to reinforce the strength of a fist punch, effectively inflicting more pain on vulnerable areas of the body.
Typically, kubatons are no longer than five and a half inches and measure approximately a half of an inch in diameter — making them just a little thicker than the average permanent marker.
In this article I’ll cover the following topics:
- 1. Where does kubaton come from?
- 2. Is there a difference between Kubotan and kubaton?
- 3. What is a kubaton used for?
- 4. Original vs new designs of kubaton and where to buy one?
- 5. How to use a kubaton for self-defense?
- 6. Can a kubaton break the glass of a car window?
- 7. Can I take a kubaton on a plane?
- 8. Is it legal to carry a kubaton in my state / country?
- 9. How to make a kubaton?
- 10. What are the pros and cons of carrying a kubaton?
- 11. What is a tactical pen?
- 12. Tactical pens vs kubaton: pros and cons
1. Where Does the Kubaton Come From?
The history of the kubaton keychain baton begins with one man and his incredible journey from an obscure little village in Japan and culminates in his training military and intelligence officer elites in the United States.
The kubaton was created by Soke Takayuki Kubota. He is a Japanese American karate master. Kubota is both the founder and the president of the International Karate Association. His title of Soke was granted in recognition of his creation of the Gosoku-ryu karate style.
During the 1950s, Soke Kubota worked as a Tokyo Police Department self-defense trainer, specializing in hand-to-hand and baton combat. He has spent decades teaching what is often dubbed as “practical karate” to not only law enforcement officers, but to the military and civilian population, as well.
Takayuki Kubota holds black belts in judo, iaido, aikido, and kendo as well as karate. The self-defense master had four brothers who also excelled in martial arts and athletics. One brother was a volleyball coach for the Japanese Olympic team, another was a kendo master, and one was a jiu-jitsu master.
He was only 17 years old when opening his very first martial arts dojo. Throughout the decade of the 1950s, Takayuki Kubota became a karate, kendo, judo, and giyokute-kitsu to the United States Marines Corps, Army, and Air force. During the early part of the next decade, he worked at the Haneda dojo teaching professional wrestling tactics.
In 1981, Takayuki Kubota published a book entitled: Official Kubotan Techniques. A tool he had created and was already using in his training. The book describes six basic techniques, vehicle extrication techniques, passive resistance and self-defense techniques. This book was originally intended for only police officers.
Soke Takayuki Kubota (Tak Kubota) DVD cover image.
It appears to me that Kubotan was heavily influenced by the Filipino martial art of Kali where components use similar control techniques.
2. Is There a Difference Between a Kubotan and a Kubaton?
Kubaton is a trademark from his inventor Soke Takayuki Kubota. It was first registered in 1978 and was then abandoned in 2021. The wording is simply based on the inventor and promotor's family name. In popular circles, a Kubotan is often called a kubaton because of its shape and the easy letter switch in the name. Essentially referring to the same object.
The use of the word kubaton has recently gained popularity in the USA as shown by this trends.google.com graph (red is kubotan and blue is kubaton). Worldwide, the use of kubotan remains more popular than kubaton.
3. What Is a Kubaton Used for?
A kubaton is a simplistic yet highly effective striking weapon. It intensifies the power of your punch dramatically. At its most basic level, the kubaton is used to strike boney, fleshy, and nerve-filled areas of the human body.
Due to the incredibly durable materials used in its construction, the kubaton can levy a crippling impact on the breastbone and even the skull — potentially breaking bone but not the weapon itself.
A wielder of a kubaton can poke and jab the weapon to cause injury and then use it to dig into any wound created or existing wound to inflict further disabling pain.
Basic Kubotan Grips
The most common and fundamental method of holding a kubotan involves positioning it in your hand so the tips of the weapon are projecting out at each end while grasped firmly in your fist. This also leaves your thumb in a position to potentially be able to pinch the attacker’s skin, grab onto clothing, or use more force when crushing the shaft of the Kubotan into the flesh of the attacker.
In this style of knife-like Kubotan grip, the protruding ends of the weapon will allow you to not just strike and jab but also use the ends to scrape the skin, as well.
In the reverse gripping method, a kubotan can be used for both holding style and snagging maneuvers — and to even flail your keys also on the ring to help disrupt the attacker.
When even a relatively untrained kubotan user thrusts the working end of the weapon into the groin or fleshy area of the pit of the attacker’s stomach, he or she is thrown off balance and recoils in pain from the strike — opening up their body for follow up blows and likely throwing them off balance momentarily.
Jamming the kubaton into the throat or the jaw of an attacker typically causes their head to snap either backward or to the side briefly, allowing you time to possibly get away or strike them again while they are still vulnerable.
Always follow through with your kubaton strike, do not curb the impact of your blow by simply making an impact with the attacker’s body. An enthused thrust that hits and pushes will cause more injury and confusion to the attacker — all of which will greatly play in your favor when in potentially deadly hand-to-hand combat.
During kubotan training, instructors will teach and staunchly encourage you to block blows levied against you with one hand and simultaneously strike the attacker with your keychain weapon in the other. You will also learn the eyes and every other part of the body is fair game when defending your life during combat.
4. Original vs New Designs of Kubaton and Where to Buy One?
The original shape of a kubaton is a stick with a blunt edge. Soke Kubota’s tool was mainly targeting wrist controls and close quarter altercations. The initial idea has evolved quite a bit leading to a great diversity of kubotan designs I found on the internet.
5. How to Fight with a Kubotan?
As mentioned above, there are multiple books written on the subject. Also multiple videos. At The Atomic Bear, we have online courses teaching how to fight with a tactical pen. Most of the same techniques can be used with a kubotan. Check it here.
Nick Drossos gives good advice in this video:
On the flip side, other opinion leaders and self-defense experts have a strong reaction when people ask them: "Should I carry a kubaton in my EDC?". Mike Pesesko from the channel Hard2Hurt presents a case against the use of kubaton.
6. Can a Kubaton Break the Glass of a Car Window?
The short answer is no. Unlike tactical pens like The Atomic Bear Tactical Pens, the tip of a kubaton is usually round or flat. In addition to that they are made out of aluminum or plastic. Effective glass breakers are made of tungsten carbide, a super hard material that can penetrate glass more easily. This video from @dutchintheusa shows what I mean by that…
Video to share:
@dutchintheusa 3rd times a charm? #safety #kubaton #selfdefense #safetytok #education ♬ original sound — Dutchintheusa
This is why our tactical pens have a proper glass breaking tungsten carbide punch tip. See how @dutchintheusa used the MTP-6 that we make to break the glass of a car window:
Pen + Flashlight + Glass Breaker + Bottle Opener♬ original sound - Jeff and team
7. Can I Take a Kubaton on a Plane?
A kubaton (aka Kubotan) is specifically listed as a forbidden item to bring with your carry-on bags on the plane but is allowed in your checked bags.
So the short answer is no.
But, I cannot imagine a keychain kubaton with a dull end being taken away. This would be ridiculous. So, I believe that the particular type of kubaton will be important. If it looks dangerous, it most likely will be taken away.
Ultimately, the final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint. Because the only reason to carry a kubaton is for self-defense, it is unlikely that a security agent will let it through.
Most kubatons are made of metal, so it is quite easy to spot through the x-ray machine as well. In contrast, other tools like the Rebel Pen are unassuming and are primarily writing devices. See our post about the subject here.
Again, a tactical pen is a very interesting alternative to kubaton if you plan to use it to write on the plan and possibly add a force multiplier in case of an emergency.
In a nutshell, a kubaton risks joining the TSA collection of confiscated items.
8. Is it legal to carry a Kubaton in my State / Country?
This is not legal advice by any means and any answer to that question is purely for your entertainment! Seek very local advice for this… as self-defense law changes drastically from state to state or city to city! Here are my 2 cents.
In a restrictive state like California, according to what I have read online, like here, the item itself is not prohibited. If you carry a version with a blunt edge, I cannot imagine how a small stick could be illegal anywhere on the planet… or metal straws, drummer sticks, etc., etc. would become illegal… you get what I mean.
It comes back to the shape of your kubaton. For instance, if there is a hidden knife, this could get you into trouble. There are online reports of a non-public trial though saying that because the hidden knife was not used for self-defense, it was not considered as an intended harmful tool. Given the lack of reference, I would take this with a grain of salt.
If you live in a State like New Jersey, in Canada, in Australia, in the UK, etc… carrying an object for the sole purpose of self-defense and with the idea of causing great harm by using it, can get you into legal trouble! Yes.
Carrying an object that does not have the primary purpose of defending yourself, like a strong umbrella, a tactical pen, a belt, etc. might give you a better chance of being perceived as a well intentioned citizen.
This being said, to severely injure someone with a kubaton or even a tactical pen will require a real intentional and powerful response… In other words, the damage you may cause might be a lot less than if you are carrying a more deadly alternative like a knife or a gun.
Here is the perspective of Tim Dees, an author and police officer who used to train colleagues with kubatons:
Tim is a police officer who carries not only a sidearm on his hip but also a kubaton on his keychain. During his time as an officer in Nevada during the 1980s, the Kubotan was the primary non-lethal weapon law enforcement candidates at Level II academies were taught how to use. A Level II officer is not assigned to engage in primary police officer duties but is assigned to work as a bailiffs, probation officer, fire marshal, parole officer, and the like.
Dees ultimately became a Level II officer trainer and taught such officers how to wield a kubaton as effectively and rapidly as possible.
“Basic self-defense skills with a Kubotan can be taught in an hour or so. The full course is only a day. The full (law enforcement) course includes takedowns, come-alongs, and other pain compliance tactics. That requires some moderate motor skills.” — Dees said.
According to this seasoned law enforcement officer and trainer, he most frequently has used a Kubotan to get out of a variety of “close-quarters situations.”
“They're great for extracting people from vehicles or from doorways or other areas where they grab onto a fixed object and hold on to resist arrest,” Dees continues. “In grasping a fixed object like a steering wheel or a door frame, the subject exposes their wrist, which is the primary point of attack with the Kubotan in an arrest situation. In a crowded environment like a bar, a Kubotan was much more useful than a traditional impact weapon like a baton or an aerosol spray.”
One of the most interesting and important tips Tim Dees has offered about the Kubotan comes when noting the differences between this weapon and other common types of both lethal and non-lethal tools of self-defense.
Unlike pepper spray, a firearm, or knife, a kubotan is far less likely to be used against you if it is taken from your control during a fight — basically because how to wield this weapon properly and effectively is not common knowledge.
In conclusion, the legality of kubatons as a self-defense everyday carry highly depends on your location, its shape and how you use it.
9. How to Make a Kubaton Yourself?
As I am not a great DIY guy, I found a few interesting videos for you on YouTube. Feel free to have fun making your personalized and unique kubaton!
This first video uses more sophisticated tooling and the final product is made of metal.
This second video uses a paracord and a screw. I am not totally convinced by the end result! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
10. What are the Pros and Cons of Carrying a Kubaton?
Pros of Carrying a Kubaton
- 1. It is small and lightweight, making it easy to carry and conceal.
- 2. It is made out of wood, metal, or molded plastic to make it hard and extremely durable. On a traditional Kubaton keychain weapon, there are no moving parts to break or resupply.
- 3. It is reusable time after time — there is nothing to reload or sharpen on a classic Kubaton keychain.
- 4. Some more modern versions of the Kubaton come complete with spikes, knobs, or even blades. This type of the Kubaton keychain survival tool is considered a deadly weapon and not a non-lethal type of self-defense device.
Cons of Carrying a Kubaton
- 1. A Kubaton keychain can only be used at close range. While it is a valuable tool when forced into a close combat scenario, ideally you would want to avoid becoming so close to a potential attacker.
- 2. Time must be devoted to learning how to use a Kubaton keychain weapon properly. Sure, you can hold the baton portion in between your fingers and punch or jab with it and cause some pain, but unless you have really learned how to use this viable survival tool, it may not only provide the intended impact — and perhaps even result in the Kubaton keychain being jerked right out of your very hand by the attacker.
- 3. Kubaton keychains are not a quick draw type of weapon. They will not be as easily or quickly available as a more covertly carried style of weapon, such as a tactical pen.
- 4. Kubatons are also readily known defense objects that would be removed from your possession by the TSA at an airport — unlike the tactical pen noted above. They are also typically deemed to be a weapon by our legal system and could land you in court over use, depending upon the provable circumstances behind the close-quarters combat scenario in which they were yielded.
- 5. On some kubatons, the finger indexing is not a great fit for your hand. Make sure to test that the grip works for your hand before purchasing one.
11. What Is a Tactical Pen?
A tactical pen is a writing instrument that is designed to serve multiple functions, including self-defense. The pen is typically made of durable materials such as aluminum or steel, and may have a pointed end that can be used as a glass breaker in emergency situations. The pointed end can also be used as a defensive weapon in close-quarters combat.
Just like with a Kubaton keychain, training to learn how to use this easily portable style of weapon is also highly recommended. The Atomic Bear tactical pens come complete with an online self-defense class to teach you how to actually use the pen both safely and effectively — which is a rarity among manufacturers.
Some tactical pens come equipped with a built-in flashlight end and/or an emergency glass breaking tip. Accessory kits made for specific models of tactical pens can include features such as an emergency whistle, a multi-function striker that is perfect for ferrocerium rod (which can also be an accessory option) and a mini-knife.
12. Kubaton Keychain VS Tactical Pens
There are more similarities between Kubaton keychains and tactical pens than differences, but the differences which do exist are substantial. The size and weight of each are quite comparable, as is the price — usually available for under $20. But, if you are seeking a self-defense tool that can be pulled for use more quickly and is far less likely to be detected as a weapon and have it removed from your person, a tactical pen will be a better fit to suit your needs.
This video from Mike Pesesko on his Hard2Hurt channel sums up the advantages of our latest tactical pen, the Stealth Pen Pro.
Before you start carrying a kubaton for self-defense, verify the legality of carrying one and of using one wherever you go.
I personally prefer carrying a tactical pen because, well… It is a pen! And I need a pen everyday. I am not a fan of carrying something that I may never use and that uses a good chunk of my pockets.
As already noted, training to use a kubaton is highly recommended if you intend to use it for self-defense. But, if you are forced to use the kubaton before such training is complete, remember this one simple rule: hit the attacker hard and quickly anywhere you are capable of landing a blow.
Never, ever, waste time worrying about the precision of your jab, just hit and move out of the attacker’s reach as much and as quickly as possible. Kubaton experts encourage novices to react as naturally as possible when in combat with an attacker.
Striking at an attacker’s arm to prevent them from harming or grabbing you closer is one common natural reaction that a kubaton can help you prevent. If you are attempting to strike at an elbow but have not yet been trained well enough to pull such a jab off (definitely not easy with a moving target) you will still likely hit the back of a hand, knuckles, or wrist — which will still at least temporarily loosen the grip of an attacker.
The kneecaps, shin, ankle, pelvic bone, hip bones, or collarbones are all great targets that can help disable an attacker. Once your striking skills have advanced, you can fine tune your landing skills as well as your body target selection prowess.
Your jabs and strikes with a kubotan can produce the desired effect from nearly any range — providing you know how to use this non-lethal weapon properly. As with a pair of brass knuckles, even your subpar strike with a kubaton can cause your would-be attacker to feel like they just took a hit to the head with a big, hard rock.