Why Using a Sword in a Zombie Apocalypse is a Bad Idea

and the Stick as a Solution by Cedric Nye

Introduction

Television and movies have a way of making bad ideas seem good. They have wonderfully safe and controlled environments from whence come magical action sequences that are very pretty to watch, yet bear little resemblance to actual combat. It would take several lifetimes to address all of the fallacies in movie and television as far as fighting and survival are concerned, so this essay will focus on blades, and how they are used in zombie-themed movies. Furthermore, this essay will offer a solution to the fallacy of the blade as a main weapon against the legions of slavering undead that are bound to show up any day now. This paper will show that blades are a poor choice as a main weapon against zombies because of the difficulties surrounding decapitation, the toughness of bones and skulls, and zombies’ lack of any type of pain response.

Jack Ketch Shits the Bed Executing the Duke of Monmouth

For the purpose of this essay, the term, “shits the bed” will refer to the monumentally poor job that the executioner Jack Ketch did of beheading the Duke of Monmouth. Ketch had attended many beheadings, and knew what a man’s neck is made of. His axe was sharp, yet, when he took that first stroke upon the Duke’s neck, the Duke struggled to his feet, and reproached Ketch for the poorly struck blow. After being forced back upon the chopping block, poor Monmouth’s executioner whacked and hacked at his neck for quite some time. The Duke struggled all the way through, moaning in pain (Macaulay, 1850). This story is used to illustrate how difficult it actually is to sever a human neck so thoroughly that death is the result.

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Above, you can see Judith trying to behead Holofernes. She caught him asleep and naked, and she is still having trouble getting through that neck. Beheading is a difficult task.

A Bone of Contention

Aside from the issue of decapitation, there is the general toughness of bone to consider. A sword is swung, and then energy is lost the moment it begins to cleave flesh. By the time you hit those big old neck bones, there isn’t much impetus left in your Vorpal blade, and the blade gets stuck in bone.

Next; the use of knives against zombies is absolutely preposterous. Sticking a knife through a human skull takes a whole lot of work. It is best accomplished while your intended target is sitting down in front of the television, or lying down asleep. Unfortunately for you, zombies do not watch television or sleep.

According to the Journal of Neurosurgery (These people know a metric ass-load about some skulls) “an average human skull can withstand 520 pounds of force before crushing. This human bone is stronger than steel and concrete of the same mass and is almost impossible to crush unless using a heavy object. A cubic inch of bone can bear a load of 19,000 pounds before crushing” (Journal of Neurosurgery). In short, skulls are tough. Go try sticking your knife through a piece of 1⁄4” plywood while the plywood is trying to eat you, and see if you can do it.
“But wait!” you say. “Zombies are icky-smooshy deaders, so they are softer than regular people.”

WRONG. Here is why you are wrong. Firstly, if they are all soft and squishy, why are they able to remain upright? They can remain upright because their skeletal system is fully intact. According to many sources, including Nicole at Yahoo Answers, bones take forty to fifty years to become brittle from decomposition (How long does it take for a human body to completely decompose after it’s been embalmed?).

The zombie is a human corpse that has been re-animated by a virus, bacteria, or parasite of some kind, and that corpse has to be able to move around in order to infect more hosts. It would be counter-productive of the virus to make their host squishy because then it would not be able to go out and recruit more followers.

So, there you have it. Say it with me, “Swords and knives are a bad idea as a main weapon against zombies.”

What!? You need more proof than that? Well, if the toughness of bone and the difficulty of decapitation are not enough to sway you, then perhaps the next portion of the show will convince you.

Feeling No Pain

Zombies, as re-animated humans, do not feel any pain. The nervous system has been hijacked by the zombie virus, and is used solely for detection of food, and locomotion toward the food. Find, capture, eat; that is a zombie’s entire existence.
The reason for the mention of this lack of pain is that without a pain response, the undead do not care what damage you do to them. If you do not kill that creature with the first whack, it is going to be eating you.

The wild boar is an excellent example of why a sword is a bad idea against zombies. Historically, circa Ye Olden Days, hunters of large and dangerous beasties used spears with a cross-piece on the haft. That cross-piece was there to keep the enraged (rightfully so) animal from walking up the spear, and tearing the hunter a new asshole.

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Above is a boar spear. You will note that it is NOT a sword, because a sword would be stupid when going up against creatures that can eat and kill you. Yes, zombies eat you before you die. That is messed up. If you use a sword, you will get eaten and then killed. Not the other way around. Don’t use a sword.

So, you have your Vorpal blade, and you skewer that pesky zombie with aplomb. Well, no pain response, no reaction, and the revenant just walks up your sword, and eats your lips off. It eats your lips off because you used a sword. You have no lips, and you are turning into a zombie because you used a sword!

In conclusion; you should never eat yellow snow, you should never accept Kool-Aid from a guy named Jim, and you should never choose a sword as your main weapon in a zombie apocalypse.

The Stick is Mightier Than the Sword

A good melee weapon for the zombie apocalypse is a heavy stick. You need to destroy the brain, so a stick is the perfect choice.

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Above is King Richard the III’s skull. He was struck down with a blunt instrument. You know he was wishing that the person who struck him was holding a sword instead! His shit was all bunged up. His jaw and skull were battered wicked-bad.

A stick will not get stuck in a zombie’s neck, a stick never needs to be sharpened, and a ravening creature from beyond the grave cannot walk up a stick and eat your lips.
If you are interested in learning how to use a stick effectively, please check out Zombie Fighter Jango on YouTube

Also, you should really read the Zombie Fighter Jango series of books. They are on Amazon.
Live Free, and Punch Hard!

The Road to Hell is Paved with Zombies: ZFJ Book 1
Jango’s Anthem: ZFJ Book 3
Rage and Ruin: ZFJ Book 3

References
How long does it take for a human body to completely decompose after it’s been embalmed?
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070804095320AAabFgu
Journal of Neurosurgery. (n.d.). How much pressure can the human skull withstand? Retrieved from ASK: http://www.ask.com/science/much-pressure-can-human-skull-withstand- 1bcef73aaa0018cb
Macaulay, T. B. (1850). Execution of Monmouth. In T. B. Macaulay, History of England from the Accession of James (Vol. II, pp. 1-3). Leicestershire.

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  1. i have got to disagree with many of these “facts” i have been training with swords, spears, axes, bows, and other primitive weapons for most of 25 years and i have trained with wooden dummies to using pig carcasses. yes sometimes the blade gets stuck, yes some times it is harder to cut threw somethings then others but then its all about the right blade for the right job. a war-hammer is a great weapon as is a mace for bashing in skulls a scimitar or falcion is good for beheading and it takes less force to pierce the skull when you are focusing all your force to a single point such as a daggers tip or a hammers spike. i could go on and on about this as it is a subject i am very well educated in and very passionate about.

    • No one would have bothered using bludgeon weapons if swords always got the job done. No one using scimitars or falchions was forced to destroy the brain every time. Nice try though.

      • bludgeon weapons are nice but they have similar flaws as any bladed weapon. Most the time the handle is made out of wood and can break and splinter. And in your own words Bludgeoning weapons dont always smash the skull on the first swing. what if the zombie was wearing some type of helmet? how well would your “stick” work? im just saying. dont say something is a bad idea or wrong, what works for one person may not be the best idea for others.

        • Whats the point of having an opinion if we cant say something is a bad idea? The point is not that a bludgeon is the perfect weapon but that its objectively better than a bladed one against a zombie with all else being equal as the article demonstrated.

          • i dont mind opinions i do however mind things posted as fact when they are wrong. a beheading is not that hard with a blade it is very simple. if you want to prove me wrong where is your data? where are your facts? where are your resources? going into a zombie Apocalypse with not but a stick will surly get you, your team, and everyone else your supposed to be protecting killed and that is my honest opinion. the samurai use a method of slicing threw corpses as a measure of how good their blades are most can do one or two at once the master work blades can go threw three or more at once. do your research next time and make sure that you have your facts straight.

          • Judging by your last comment you didnt even read the article. He gave references. No one said a stick is all you can use. Were talking about blades vs sticks. A still corpse is a far cry from a zombie charging straight at you. Please think before you speak.

          • i did read the article for one and for two the two resources he has listed are not sufficient. only one of them has anything to do with beheading and that is a single case of botched beheading. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_were_beheaded
            here is a list of successful beheadings from around the world. and as far as comparing a zombie with a corpse that was not at all what i was saying in previous comment i was referring to a quality test done by the Japanese to test their blades durability, i am fully aware what it is like to use a blade in battle. as a live steel rein-actor and a weapon master swords are kinda my preference.

          • As a sword reenactor your bias is getting the best of you. Also, you are not ‘fully’ aware of what its like to be attacked by zombies who don’t think or move or feel pain like you. Your assuming you will accurately and fully decapitate every zombie (who are not holding still like your references were) with every strike. A stick can be less precise and is much less likely to get jammed in a skull or spine. Blades are notorious for getting stuck and/or breaking off. Your are much less likely to injure yourself with a stick. Much less likely to produce zombie-virus blood splatter. All of this is fairly common sense.

          • The points have been numerous but you cant appreciate them till you set down your sword fetish.

          • Not really. Seeing as the things he mentioned that would cause corpses to become “zombies” in the first place would be passed through blood. So in reality any close combat with any kind of weapon is a bad idea. Unless you break or remove like their legs or arms then you get away and finish them from a distance. You could also knock out their teeth but they might bleed on you so that might the best thing to do.

  2. The driving idea behind a sword or any edged instrument, even a spear really – is blood loss and organ failure. Why shoot a deer with an arrow or a bullet? The deer will die from blood loss or organ failure. Samurai battles: how many people died in combat from a beheading? Probably somewhere around none. People died of blood loss as a rule. Beheading has always been famous as an execution. Slow zombies are so pitifully helpless, how you kill them is more a debate about the consequences of doing it, like spreading their contagious blood around.
    A fast zombie would tackle you in a take down. In nearly all cases, the arms will be up and forward for a grasping posture, and thus in the way of a swing to behead it.
    Swords are very effective on humans, who die of blood loss or a punctured organ.
    It may be useful as a finishing device, beheading downed meat to make sure it stays down for good, but it is not the proper tool for destroying a brain.
    That is the real concept at work – not blood loss, not organ failure, but brain destruction, a brain encased in an armored shell of bone.
    We as humans have lots of working examples on that matter, what we call the HELMET.
    Man has invented a wide range of weapons for destroying brains through helmets and they are bludgeons and picks. An axe acts as a bludgeon in many cases.
    The sword would be far more useful severing tendons to disable zombies than it would be for destroying them.

    A baseball bat would serve far better than any sword and you won’t accidentally infect yourself with a cut from your baseball bat.

    • Nope. Swords made of high carbon steel are far more durable than any baseball I’ve ever seen, and good quality swords can easily split skulls like melons. That, in fact, is the whole point of choosing a blade in a zombie scenario; splitting skulls. Also, if it has a good point, you can stab zombies in the head, in order to keep them from tearing down a chainlink fence. And you’d have to be pretty careless to infect yourself by slicing yourself with the same blade you’ve just killed a zombie with.

  3. What if the sword had a bid of a curve to it (like a samurai sword), and was used with broad slashing strokes to destroy tendons. One slice could render a limb useless. I’d imagine that could be an effective technique?

  4. A rattan stick like the one in the clip is also not a reliable skull breaker. If you look at what the forensic anthropologists have dug up you’ll find the overwhelming majority of deaths by sword wounds were probably from cuts to the head and neck. A heavier sword like a saber, tulwar or barong can open up a skull.

    A war hammer, mace, halberd, partisan or some variation would be much better choices than a stick.

  5. The distinctions between knife, machete and sword are rather fluid. I’d just summarize them as ‘blades’, for the purpose of argument. Having said that, I’m having a hard time imagining a scenario where a blunt weapon (stick) would surpass the blade. They can be equally rugged (Hey, even “Wonderboy” [1] broke). However, the bladed weapon can inflict much more damage, even with a dull edge.

    The slashing movements of a machete allow for a much more versatile approach. I might not be able to behead them suckers with a single stroke, but even a single, decisive, slashing hit is very likely to break a bone or maybe even severe limbs.

    Once a bone is broken, they can’t possibly use it the same way as before. They’re incapacitated.

    It doesn’t even require a superior blade. Nor special skills. Just slash away with you machete as it were a shredder.

    You can’t accomplish any of those continuous slashing moves with a spear, axe, hammer or even halberd. You can do them with a stick, but it would require so much more practice to even come close to the effectiveness of a bladed weapon.

    [1] “The Natural” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087781/

    • and a good bow for ranged combat, so you can reuse your carefully cleaned arrows and not call every zombie around with the sound of your gun fire.

  6. There are swords and blades designed specifically for this kind of use though. And most of them are tested using molds of human heads that are 99-100% harder than a human head/skull. Check out the Condor Daodao for example.

  7. Mind I input my perspective? Zombies are commonly characterized as slow and careless, because as the author of the paper mentioned, they do not feel pain. They are incapable of thinking about walking properly, eating enough to keep from being slow and starving, or that they should move to avoid a strike. In the heat of fighting off a shambling corpse it can get messy. Some people will panic or make mistakes, but zombies don’t realize an opportunity to go all-in for the kill.

    While blunt weapons can smash right through bones, they also need room to swing properly and require you to take up more of your time and strength with each strike, which can leave you tired and vulnerable. With Bladed weapons, more specifically swords, they break the skin with any direct contact with the business end. Zombies may be immune to blood loss, but they are not immune to loss of limb. The limbs don’t even need to be severed to be left unusable. One cut to the spinal cord and that mindless cannibal is ready to be introduced to the underside of your boot.

    Getting past the skull is a lot easier with a sword. Blunt weapons need strong, direct hits to the dome, while swords can get at one’s grey matter from almost any angle with the same or less force. Stabbing a zombie under the jaw is an instant death. Also, with a sword you’re just trying to puncture/chop into the skull, not smash it to pieces. I would assume the latter takes more effort as the force is spread across a broad weapon on impact.

    Lastly, the thing about zombies being a bit more squishy is not due to the disease allowing the body to rot. It likely would stem from the problem that zombies only eat flesh. Zombies eat depending how much the kill and how many other zombies are gonna waltz up and share the meal. Zombies are like slow, dumb humans, and the reason humans are on top of the food chain is because they are smart. They can build and operate traps and weapons. Zombies have shear numbers, but that only gets them so far when they can’t open doors or chase down squirrels. They only eat flesh and whatever flesh they can get and being mostly human they need certain nutrients to keep their bodies from becoming brittle. Of course, they don’t know any better, because they are mindless. They don’t tell you to drink that excellent source of calcium for nothing.

    In regards to the paper, it honestly reads like a high school essay. Lots of redundancy, especially in reminding us of the purpose of the paper. Props for citations, but the author drew a bit too much attention to one of them for me not to say “good on you for quoting the Journal of Neurosurgery, but Yahoo Answers? For shame.” Using those beheadings as evidence against using blades against zombies was a bit of a weak point as a dozen other factors could have contributed to the failure to give swift deaths in those cases.

    TL;DR Zombies are slow and stupid, swords are fast and take less energy to hit where it hurts (except zombies don’t feel pain) They are too dumb to eat what keeps them healthy so it really doesn’t matter when there’s just one. When there’s a lot, you gonna get tired of swinging a stick with a lot of effort.

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