Posted by: B Gourley | September 25, 2011

Martial Arts for a Zombie Apocalypse or Robot Uprising

I’m just finishing a silly little book by Daniel H. Wilson (author of Robopocalypse) entitled How to Survive a Robot Uprising. While it’s written as a humor book, Wilson is in fact a robotics expert, and, therefore, the book does offer some factual insight into the nature of robotics and the strengths and weaknesses of robots. (If you believe there’s the slightest chance of such an event in your lifetime, I’d recommend the book.)

This started me thinking about what the martial arts of the future would look like if they evolved to contend with such threats. This may seem completely trivial and silly, but that’s just the way I roll.

Now a run of the mill Zombie may not present much of a challenge. You don goggles and a respirator to avoid a blood splatter infection, and carry a sharp sword or machete capable of lopping off a head. Then, if you can avoid putting yourself in a situation in which you are completely surrounded (e.g. don’t hide in a basement in Manhattan), you are golden. You will not so much need advanced martial arts skills as a good pair of walking shoes and an iota of common sense to stay safe.

However, if you’re dealing with the more vampiric I Am Legend kind of infected post-human, the situation is considerably different. You still need competence in avoiding being cornered, and this will require practice moving while engaging multiple attackers, but now you will have a strong, fast, and physically robust opponent. Furthermore, if it comes to grappling (i.e. actions within biting range), you’re just screwed. This speaks to the virtue of weapons that will keep the opponent at a distance (e.g. a naginata, glaives, halberds, etc.), but which is not cumbersome to utilize multi-directionally (i.e leave the 20 foot spear at home.)  Having lost the physical advantage, one will have to be able to take advantage of the fact that these creatures tend to be dumb as a post.

Robots provide an altogether different challenge. Being made of metal, the usual weapons, including small arms, may be completely ineffective against these foe. Furthermore, as Wilson points out, a strategy that seems sound such as, “poking its sensors out” may prove worthless if the robot is capable of being indirectly controlled (e.g. by satellite.)

Fortunately, we likely have a number of years before robots reach a threatening level of competence. Right now, I believe, robots are generally easier to tip than a cow, and are prone to being incapacitated by poor logic. (Throw out “2+2=5”, and watch heads explode.)

However, there is a steep increase in capabilities in progress. First the machines beat our best in chess; then they destroyed our best at Jeopardy. Is it not only a matter of time before they defeat us at the ultimate bloodsport?

The take-aways from this post are:

1.) practice multiple attacker scenarios

2.) don’t be too quick to take the fight into a clinch or to the ground (your opponent may be one bite away from turning you.)

3.) don’t be too attached to logic, being illogical could save your life



  1. Crescent wrench. Very important against robot hordes. Science may be able to build a bot with A.I, or satellite feed, but try and get the batteries to last over four hours. Thats when you sneak up, and take their wheels off. Bank it.

  2. An excellent strategy

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