Five Fighting Lessons from “The Walking Dead”

Five Fighting Lessons from “The Walking Dead”

As the chief instructor and founder of Bayani Warrior Group LLC. (, I have noticed the increased interest in people learning the Filipino martial arts to learn how to fight with weapons. A big reason for this is the increased interest in the “zombie-apocalpyse”, much of which involves the hit TV show “The Walking Dead”. As a Filipino martial arts teacher and a fan of the show, I have compiled ten lessons that we can all learn from the show as practitioners of the combative arts.

Lesson 1: Killing is a dirty business. Get your mind used to that reality.

In the earlier epsiodes of Season 1, Rick wakes up from a coma to find himself alone in a world plagued by walkers. When he first kills a walker, Rick breaks down into tears. While the zombie-apocalypse scenario may make fanboys feel gitty over the idea of killing mindless walking corpses, the fact is that human beings will feel bad after killing, particularly when killing in close-quarters. 

In season 2 of the show, the elder character Dale becomes the voice of pre-apocalyptic morality when the group considers executing a young man they have captured from another group that may threaten to harm them. Dale tries to reason with the group, telling them that if they kill the young man, then they truly have lost their innocence and dignity as Americans and human beings. The issue of taking life will always play out in life-or-death scenarios. Even if you are justified in taking another person’s life to save your own or that of a loved one, you will still feel a sense of remorse and sadness. When preparing yourself for combat, you need to really evaluate what you are willing to do. Mindset is more important than any weapon or skill you may have. Your mindset will dictate what you do and how you do it. 

The following video featuring Tuhon Tom Kier and Navy SEAL Kyle Defoor of Sayoc Tactical Group ( explains the importance of mindset.

Lesson 2: Acquire Guns, and Get Good At Shooting

One of the earliest episodes of “The Walking Dead” involved the main protagonist, Rick, trying to retrieve his bag of shotguns and rifles in a busy Georgia street despite being surrounded by a horde of “walkers” (aka zombies). I can’t say I blame him. In season 1 and 2, firearms played a huge role in the group’s survival.

It just goes to show that when in a life-or-death battle for survival, firearms are at the top of the food chain when it comes to personal protection. They have stopping power and enable you to engage an enemy (a reanimated corpse, or otherwise) at a distance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met martial artists who doesn’t see the need for firearms training. I’ve heard everything from, “Real men use fists, not guns.” to “Firearms are bad. Only criminals use them.” Those who dismiss the necessity of firearms in a life-or-death fight either have a distorted view of how real violence occurs, or simply do not want to spend the time or money on learning how to use the tools of today’s modern battlefield. In my recent articled entitled, “Firearms and the Filipino Martial Arts” I explain the importance of firearms training to those who train in the Filipino fighting arts. 

(Picture Above: In a life or death fight to survive, it’s understandable why a bag of guns would too hard to walk away from.)

Lesson 3: Learn How to Use Impact Weapons and Edged Weapons in Close-Quarters, Because Bullets Will Eventually Run Out

In the season 2 finale, Andrea finds herself separated from the group, facing a horde of walkers in the woods. She eventually runs out of ammunition for her firearms, and is forced to engage several of the walkers hand-to-hand, using her firearms as improvised clubs to shatter their skulls. She eventually finds herself falling to the ground, only to be saved by a mysterious character, who fans know as Michonne, who wields a Katana. 

The scene echoes the importance of being able to fight without the use of firearms. Having been a regular visitor to Dallas, Texas while training the Bayani Warrior Dallas Training Group, I’ve come across a lot of people who think that firearms are all you need for protection (Texans are proud of their gun culture, after all). It’s important to realize that firearms are only useful if they have ammunition. While I did say that firearms are certainly the top choice in a life-or-death battle, one must also learn how to use melee weapons (swords, machetes, clubs, etc.) in the event that the ammunition runs out. In fact, in the first episode of Season 3, Rick informs the group that they have to take control of a prison that is overrun with walkers using hand-to-hand methods, as a means to save ammunition. It again reminds us that melee weapons are just as important to learn as firearms. We in Bayani Warrior train with impact and edged weapons of varying sizes to learn how to fight effectively when firearms aren’t available. In our home state of New Jersey, firearms are not readily available, so learning how to fight with melee weapons is key. 

(Picture Above: While firearms are certainly the top choice for personal protection in battle, it’s imperative to know how to use hand-held melee weapons as well in case the bullets are scarce. It seems that Glenn approves of using Stick and Dagger methods in a zombie apocalypse.)

Lesson 4: When it comes to weapons, the bigger, the better.

After discussing the importance of melee weapons, it’s important to note that throughout the show, the most commonly used weapons used in the show against walkers are those with size, weight, and heft. How many 28 inch rattan sticks do you see the survivors using on the walkers? Answer: Zero. Why? Because Rattan sticks are not weapons, despite what Filipino martial artists may tend to think. Rather, they are training weapons to instruct the student in how to use larger or sharper weapons, such as clubs, pipes, or machetes. Rattan sticks are flexible and light, and do not have the stopping power a baseball bat, crowbar, or pipe does. 

(Picture Above: Rick swinging a baseball bat against a walker. Baseball bats have more stopping power than a rattan stick)

My training in Atienza Eskrima under Tuhon Carl Atienza, the stick fighting side of Atienza Kali ( trains us to use Baseball bats as weapons. The following video shows some Baseball Bat training methods used in Atienza Eskrima and Atienza Kali.

In Bayani Warrior, we have taken this lesson to heart and we also train larger, heavier sticks known as Tungkod as a means of fending off a serious attack.

Lesson 5: Children should understand what to do in a violent situation.

As I said in my previous article, “Protecting the Family” I outline the importance of children knowing what to do in an emergency. In the opening scenes of the first episodes of season 3, the youngest member of the group and son of Rick, the group’s leader, Carl, is scene entering the house with a firearm willing and able to engage walkers alongside the adults. Throughout the episode, Rick puts Carl in charge of security and leading the group in some instances. Now, I am not saying that you should train your 11 year old in room clearing. As cool as that might seem to some, children may not have the maturity or capacity to truly understand the severity of such methods. However, it doesn’t mean that your child has to be completely left in the dark as to what to do in a violent situation. It may be a good idea to train your child in basic escape and evasion methods, as well as how to use throwing projectiles (rocks, soda cans, etc.) as a means of fending off a serious violent attack. 

Now, there is also the possibility that depending on where you live, you may be able to instruct your child in how to use and handle firearms properly. While I know that may be a controversial idea for some, the fact is that there are some instances of children saving their lives and the lives of their families using a firearm in the event of a break-in (Check out the link here). It may not be a bad idea to introduce your child to using weapons as a means to protect themselves inside the home. However, I must emphasize that the parent must decide for themselves whether or not their child has the right temperament and maturity to properly and safely use a firearm. 

(Picture above: While it may be a controversial idea to some, teaching children proper firearm safety may save their lives.)

In conclusion, watching “The Walking Dead” is not only fun and entertaining, but is also great brain-training for those involved in the fighting arts. Watch it and learn from it. Whether you are fighting a home invasion or an invasion of zombies, the show has a lot of great lessons any practitioner of the combative arts can learn from.

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