Know Your Zombie Weapon: The Katana

A good zombie offense is the best zombie defense.


So the shit has hit the fan and zombies are everywhere. Some are fast, some are slow, all are hungry. After soiling yourself and quietly weeping for a few minutes, you decide to get up from the fetal position, regroup, and start thinking strategy. Item one: zombie weapon.

A variety of weapons are available now and will likely become more available as the less-prepared develop a penchant for brains. The key to a good zombie defense/offense is diversity. Every weapon offers its own advantages and disadvantages which tailors it best to a particular situation. Firearms, for instance, offer the ability to dispatch zombies quickly and at a safe distance; as such, every zombie survivalist probably has some sort of pistol, rifle, or shotgun in his or her bug-out-bag. However, the noise generated from firing an unsuppressed firearm may draw unwanted attention from both the living and undead alike. Additionally, they are dependent on ammo, which may become sparse as the zombie apocalypse drags on.

So let’s consider some silent, errr, replenishable alternatives: in several cases, blunt-force trauma with a garden-variety of objects should suffice. However, while quieter than firing a Magnum, bludgeoning can still make a lot of noise. Additionally, it typically takes time and requires large amounts of energy. Since all survivors will become calorie counters, these objects will suffice when push comes to shove, but it’s best to have a less labor-intensive weapon in tow. Blades, for instance, require less energy to carry, less energy to use, and are as silent as a zombie mime. However, several blades (survival knives, especially) have to be wielded at arms length, increasing one’s proximity to its subject and the risk of being bitten.

Fortunately, a katana offers that elegant in-between that decreases proximity without compromising effectivenss, allowing its those that wield it to dispatch a zombie silently, with minimal energy, and at a relatively safe distance. A few things to know about Katanas:

The Katana descends from a longer blade called the Tachi. Measuring about 70-80 cm, the Tachi hung at the waist of the Samurai with the edge facing downward. Some speculate that the length allowed the Samurai to dispatch enemies while on horseback, but this is hotly contested.

What historians don’t dispute is that around 1400, several Samurai began sporting the Tachi with the sharp edge facing upwards. This facilitated the ability to strike the opponent at the same time of the draw, bestowing one with a small but significant time advantage in a duel. This new style caught on, and since the Samurai reversed the way they carried Tachi, the swordsmiths would then ‘sign’ their swords on the opposite side of the handle. These swords became known as Katana.

Katanas are a slender, slightly curved single-edged blade spanning 60-73cm in length, forged from a combination of high-carbon and low-carbon Japanese steel. Their full-tang grip accompanies two hands and typically sports a square or circular guard. The curve of the Katana is due to the formation of the less-dense iron carbide during sword construction, which aids in its cutting power. One can distinguish a Katana from its Tachi brethren based on the location of the signature, blade length, and blade curvature (the Tachi is typically more curved).

Wielding a Katana is fairly straightforward: draw, dismember, repeat if desired. More elegant handling can be learned from Aikido, Kendo, and Iaido Japanese martial-arts styles.

Regardless of how one uses it, proper Katana maintenance is paramount to its (and subsequently, its owner’s) vitality. It should be stored in a horizontal sheath with the edge facing upwards in order to avoid dulling the blade. The Katana requires frequent oiling (preferably with Chuchi oil, a combination of 99% mineral oil and 1% clove oil) and polishing, lest it rust from the transfer of moisture due to handling and/or cutting through zombie flesh, brains, sinew, etc. Salts from the oil can also precipitate mold formation, requiring frequent drawing, inspection, and polishing.

Is the Katana be-all, end-all zombie weapon of choice? Not by any means. But due to its blade sharpness, length, and strength, it’s not a bad idea to have one at your side.