Kubotan — The Kubotan is a genericized trademark for a self-defense weapon developed by Takayuki Kubota in the 1960s. The principal targets in self-defense include bony, fleshy and sensitive parts such as knuckles, forearms, the wrist, shins, solar plexus, ribs, etc. Common uses include hardening the fist (fistload) for punching or attacking vulnerable parts of an assailant’s body and gaining leverage on an assailant’s wrist. (Ninja Nate website)
I first became acquainted with the Kubotan self-defense tool in 1980. I had just completed my first police academy class and was working for the Licking County Ohio Sheriff’s Office as an auxiliary deputy sheriff.
The Monadnock Company, which was famous for the PR-24 side-handle baton — as well as numerous straight batons — had pioneered the use of polycarbonate and aluminum in baton construction. These new materials were rapidly replacing traditional wood batons at the time.
The cylindrical Monadnock Persuader Kubotan, which is still available in its original polycarbonate form, measures 5.5 inches in length and approximately ½ inch in diameter. It features grooves in the center section for grasping. One end is left flat, while the other end features a swivel in the center for attaching keys.
The Monadnock Persuader Kubotan was promoted as a law enforcement control tool designed to gain compliance of resistive subjects by inflicting short-term, non-damaging pain when pressed against various nerve motor points. The flat end was to be used in applying nerve pressure while utilizing a one-handed technique. The center grooved section was to be used with a two-handed technique, applying rolling pressure against the edge of the wrist bone, with each hand holding it on either end. The Monadnock Kubotan was seen as a low-profile way of bringing persons under control without delivering the hard strikes that were being frowned upon by administrators (such as my sheriff) who were fearful of lawsuits as far back as 1979. The Kubotan seemed to be just the thing to allay those fears while still giving officers on the street a device to help them defend themselves and affect arrests.
It seemed like every law enforcement officer through the 1980s had one. Truth be told, Kubotans mostly ended up being used as keyrings rather than enforcement tools. They were just too small to be effective in serious “knockdown drag-out” fights.
I did have a chance to use my Monadnock Persuader once during an arrest — that’s once in over 37 years. I was working for the City of Reynoldsburg at the time (around 1986). I had been called to assist other officers with an intoxicated subject at the rear of a motel parking lot. We had placed the suspect under arrest and had gotten him handcuffed. However, he had started kicking and thrashing about as we were trying to get him into the backseat of a cruiser. I pulled out my Kubotan and slipped it across the edge of his wristbone, pulling down with both hands, and told him to stop resisting. The pain compliance was uncomfortable enough to cause him to stop fighting. My sergeant asked what I was doing to have brought the arrestee under control. I told him I was using my Kubotan. He said, “The Chief doesn’t want us to use those anymore.” I asked, “Oh, do you want me to stop?” The Sergeant said, “No!” Right after that, the suspect was placed in the backseat without injury, and his resistance was over for the evening.
While Monadnock Kubotans didn’t see much real law enforcement use (I’ve never witnessed anyone else using one to affect an arrest), they did (and do) have a following among civilian users. By holding one in the fist with the cylindrical end protruding, it can be used as a striking tool in ways that might cause issues for a law enforcement officer but would be fine for a civilian. Also, a wad of keys swinging on the keyring end makes an excellent flail across an attacker’s face — again, a tactic that is easily justified in civilian encounters rather than in law enforcement ones.
I haven’t carried a Kubotan in years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I have seen one in a law enforcement officer’s hand. I hadn’t even thought of them until I was recently perusing the Ninja Nate Woodworking website and saw his handcrafted custom wood Kubotans that feature several updated design features that caught my attention.
Ninja Nate Kubotans are attention-getting for three reasons: The first is his use of exotic hardwoods in their construction. The sample Nate sent me was made of finely finished Cocobolo with beautiful figuring — definitely an improvement in appearance over polycarbonate.
The second reason is that the Ninja Nate Kubotan is much larger than the older Monadnock Persuader; it measures 6¾ inches in length and .9 inches in diameter. When you wrap your fist around it, it feels like you are holding a roll of dimes without the weight. This is the “hardening of the fist” effect that the Ninja Nate Kubotan definition refers to. This hardening prevents the fist from collapsing even with hastily thrown punches.
The third reason is that one end of the Ninja Nate Kubotan is flat with a beveled edge while the other end is pointed in a shape reminiscent of the top of the Washington Monument. It is this pointed end that should be protruding from the bottom of a closed fist. For civilian users, this end is capable of inflicting some painful strikes delivered directly — straight down — or indirectly as a raking follow-up to a straight punch. This tip end is much more effective in delivering painful blows to nerve bundles than the flat end would be, particularly when you are applying it via direct pressure rather than strikes. For law enforcement use, Ninja Nate’s Kubotan promises greater effectiveness in wrist control than does the narrower-diameter Monadnock Persuader Kubotan.
I ordered my sample Ninja Nate Kubotan with a lanyard hole and lanyard so I could hook a handcuff key to it. I recommend this feature, even if you aren’t going to hook keys on it. Wrapping your thumb through the loop will help you retain the tool in a defensive situation.
I have been carrying my sample for the past three weeks on- and off-duty in my front pants pockets (with other items mixed in as well). The finish looks as good as new and should retain its appearance for many years. It is particularly comforting off-duty should I find myself in a defensive situation, and its light weight doesn’t drag the pants pocket down. When carried on-duty, it is a fine backup to my full-sized Ninja Nate baton.
If you are not familiar with Kubotans but are interested in them for low-profile self-defense, plenty of videos are available online demonstrating various techniques, and there are books and videos available on Amazon. Ninja Nate Kubotans are available in 10 different exotic woods to suit individual preference. Base price is $49.50, with four of the wood choices costing a bit more.
More info at: www.ninjanatewoodworking.com