It is easy for us, as karateka, to spend much of our time thinking about how we would handle particular situations—such as a mugging, or a bar fight—particular kinds of attacker—such as someone much larger than us, or a drunk—or particular kinds of typical attack—such as a haymaker punch, or a roundhouse kick. But occasionally fighters learn to their cost that not all situations are typical, and nor are all assailants. Though it chills the blood to even think it, what if your opponent can’t feel pain? Or doesn’t care about it? What if your opponent has excellent night vision and you are forced to fight him in the dark? What if he has an infectious disease that, if contracted, will result in your slow death over the next 24 hours? What if his main weapon is his teeth? What if there are many opponents, none of whom have fine motor control? What is the best strategy then? In short, how do we handle the living dead?
Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide addresses just this topic. The book provides both a wealth of theoretical information about the effects of the solanum virus, debunks many of the myths surrounding its reanimated victims and provides practical advice about how to prepare for, and respond to, four different levels of outbreak, from class 1, an outbreak of 1-20 zombies, usually in a rural area or third world country, to class 4, where the battle for the planet is essentially lost, and you and your fellow karateka are “living in an undead world.”
The section describing solanum victims brings both good and bad news. Zombies don’t communicate with each other, and they do not organise, they simply wonder around, looking for people to eat. When they find them, the arms come out, the head goes back and the familiar moan is sounded, striking chill into human hearts but warning us that we have been detected. The zombie will then move towards its target as fast as it can, until it can grasp the target with its hands and arms, and begin feasting. But the zombie’s single mindedness is also its weakness. Zombies cannot plan sensible routes towards their victims, and will simply move in their direction, regardless of hazards that may be in the way, and regardless of the fate of other zombies who tried the same strategy before them. Brooks writes:
Zombies have repeatedly failed laboratory intelligence tests set at the level of rodents. One field case showed a human standing at one end of a collapsed bridge with several dozen zombies on the other side. One by one, the walking dead tumbled over the edge in a futile attempt to reach him. At no time did any of them realise what was happening and change their tactics in any way.” (pp. 14-15)
But if that makes zombies seem unworthy as opponents, consider this: zombies never stop. They do not need to eat to remain animated and they do not need to sleep. They will not be killed or deterred by normal means. They can tell a zombie from human pretending to be a zombie, and they can hunt perfectly well in the dark. Once they have locked onto a target, they keep going until they’re eating it. Sure, you can outrun a zombie, but can you outrun him forever?
There’s a lot of discussion of pre-outbreak preparation for an attack in The Zombie Survival Guide and of subsequent strategies for dealing with outbreaks of solanum infection. But suppose you haven’t prepared. Suppose it happens NOW. What should you do? Here are a selection of recommendations:
- shave your head and wear tight clothing (long hair and baggy clothes are more easily grasped. This is, of course, the best explanation of what happened to Shaun Ryder and is the missing plot line from 24 Hour Party People.) A bic razor and a shark suit will do fine.
- collect some weapons, perhaps a crossbow (accurate and silent), a katana (useful for removing heads) and a crowbar for close-range bludgeoning
- start sleeping in your shoes (for quick escape)
- run upstairs and fill the bath (water supplies may become disrupted)
- move everything onto the second floor of your building (first floor for the Brits) and destroy the stairs (zombies are not agile and cannot climb)
- find quiet things to DO to stave off the inevitable psychological trauma of a prolonged zombie siege
- Also, you’ll need twenty gallons of gasoline and a telescopic sight.
There is also some good advice for keeping an eye out for a outbreaks which are not being reported as such in the news. Watch for:
- homicides in which the victims were executed by headshots, or beheading
- Missing persons in wilderness areas. Pay particular interest if the seach party seems to be carrying more than one rifle.
- Cases of “violent insanity” in which friends or family members were attacked.
- Rioting with no obvious cause.
Sensitivity to the above is crucial for zombie-appropriate zanshin.
And don’t forget that in a large scale outbreak your fellow man will be as dangerous as the zombies. You can expect panic on the streets, vigilantism, looting, and an army of the undead radiating out from hospitals, police stations, churches and other places that people went in large numbers to be “safe”.
Good luck. And you might want to run over those grip-breaking waza one more time…