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So today we’re going to off-road a bit with a fun mental exercise (Well, WE think it’s fun). We'll be discussing the best martial art to use in a hypothetical zombie apocalypse. This may seem like a strange and even comical topic, but it's actually a useful exercise for analyzing different scenarios and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of various martial arts. All arts have their benefits and respective specialties, but when it comes to fighting the undead, what would change versus facing a live combatant?
First, let's set some ground rules. We know that scientifically speaking that zombies can't actually exist (at least the way they are portrayed in most media) but for the sake of this game, we'll use the typical zombie rules.
They are slow and will stumble and meander.
If they bite you or get their blood/fluids into your bloodstream that you will also become infected.
They can only be killed by destroying the brain.
We'll also consider different challenges such as facing single or multiple zombies, and dealing with the fact that they don't feel pain, they'll keep coming, they age (rot), and fall apart.
Now let's look at some of the popular martial arts and their potential usefulness against zombies.
Specifically Shotokan and other hard style Karate systems. They are known for strong blows and solid stances, but the power may not work well against multiple zombies and it's not effective if you get taken to the ground. Also, one step combinations would likely be ineffective since body damage would not impact them the same way as a live attacker. Land a few grounded punches or kicks to the head and the trauma may end them, but it may be a lot of work for less payout.
This knockdown style has good power and damaging strikes and those leg kicks will chop you down. Zombies will be more brittle, so breaking those legs may be a quick advantage. Kyokushin practitioners are also well adept as rapid close range strikes, which may be useful in driving back any walkers that get too close to your personal space. High kicks may be affective, but we advise against any of the fancy spinning head kicks because if you miss and land…that could be the last time you hit the ground.
Kenpo is known for its close range, rapid striking. Blowing out knees, cranking necks, shattering ribs, and hyperextending elbows are all part of a Kenpoists diet. However, in this scenario all that joint destruction and vital target striking may not be very deterring to the biting buggers. They won’t feel the pain and unless you can blow out a knee to the point of preventing mobility, that’s a lot of energy spent.
Boxing is good in just about any fight situation. You’ll find fewer disciplines that promote as great of footwork, hand speed, and reading your opponent as well as boxing does. You’ll develop brain rattling bombs which is good for head trauma, however…bare knuckles and infected teeth may not be such a winning combination. It would be a shame to K.O. a walker only to fall to them noshing on your knuckles.
You could wear boxing gloves…but in a survival/post-apocalyptic setting you may find them a hindrance to other tasks or not have the time to put them off and remove them.
Muay Thai offers a lot of the same benefits as boxing and Kyokushin. It has the powerful hand action boxing offers, combined with the same chopping kicks as Kyokushin. Without the spinning techniques, Muay Thai may be a better option for chopping down some of the stumblers. With teeps and timing, it also offers options for gaining distance from your opponent.
The draw backs would be a potential lack of training for multiple opponents (or a swarm), and we’d recommend wearing more than just shorts.
This art also offers powerful kicks that may do head damage and hold zombies at a more calculated distance, but headshots are risky and in general Taekwondo may lack in close range fighting in comparison to some of the other options. Taekwondoin are very athletic and fast, though this art can be an energy train if you find yourself fighting a herd.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/Wrestling
Controversial enough in the context of real world self-defense application, however in a world with zombies, these have little benefit. These grappling styles may be useful to escape if you find yourself on the ground, however…that ground is the absolute last place you will want to find yourself again the hungry dead. Go ahead and try that kimura or rear naked choke. See how effective it is against something that doesn’t breathe or has ravenous friends surrounding you.
Leave this art to the world of the living.
Kung Fu (generally speaking) has similar pros and cons to Karate. Powerful and fluid, but a lot of body damage would be wasted. Perhaps styles that offer wider swooping techniques (with weapons?) may be useful in clearing out a crowd or gaining some space.
Unless we’re talking about movie Kung Fu, with the wire techniques that let you run in the air and fly. That would probably be pretty darn effective.
Wing Chun has a flurry of head strikes that may drive a single zombie back effectively. It also promotes great balance and staying on the feet, but it may not be suitable for multiple attackers. It also suffers the same risk as boxing…knuckles to teeth.
Best saved for actual drinking once you have escaped and are in a secure location.
Stand up grappling is great for getting zombies off you, using throws and takedowns to escape. Possibly effective in throwing one rotter into another. Keep the fighting on your feet though, unlike Judo, there are no points for takedowns here. Zombies are known for grabbing so escapes and stand up grappling may have a benefit.
The lack of striking may be a disadvantage, and throwing multiple people (even dead ones) will get tiring pretty quickly. We’ll put this on the list of definitely having it in the repertoire, but possibly mixed with other arts and not a primary focus.
So I’ve poo-pooed many potential arts here, so what would I recommend? Honestly, a mixture of these disciplines would serve well, but I would place heavy focus on weapon arts. Particularly bladed weapons. Disciplines that teach distance strikes and slashing such as Kenjutsu would work, as well as the close range weapon flow of Escrima.
Although not a martial art, Parkour would likely be awfully handing for escape and evasion, especially in urban settings.
Imagine if your hamburger sprinted up a wall when you tried to eat it. Do that. Be like that burger.
This mental exercise may not be a realistic scenario, but it's still a fun and useful practice for analyzing different situations and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of various martial arts. W
hat do you think of this breakdown? Do you have different combinations that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments!