Walkers aren’t the biggest threat: Self defense in the apocalypse

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier; Walker - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier; Walker - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

One of the most terrifying aspects of the zombie apocalypse isn’t the zombies but the threat from other people. Here are some real-life self defense strategies that can help.

Much like the real world, the greatest threats to a person’s safety in a zombie apocalypse comes from other people. What can you do if you are grabbed? How can you get out of a choke? How risky is it if someone grabs your hair? Here are some tips and tricks to increase your survival chances.

Are walkers scary?

Well yeah, they are. They travel in large numbers at times, they never rest, they’re quiet and they’re always hungry. But let’s be real: After 10 seasons living in a zombie apocalypse you’d know how to take care of them. It’s not like they are great thinkers or planners.

The real risk is other people. We’ve seen it on the show many times: Randal’s group from season 2, the Governor and his henchmen, Joe and the Claimers, the Wolves, the Saviors. Living in a lawless land emboldens those that would take advantage of the new world.

You could find yourself in a situation where you are dealing with these wanna be thugs at a time when you can’t use a weapon. How do you get free?

So what do you do when some scumbag that hasn’t seen the right side of soap and water grabs your wrist to drag you away for some nefarious reason? 

One of the simplest releases, a basic wrist release, can get your arm free. If it’s on the same side, think elbow to elbow. Simply bring your arm up, step with the same side foot closer to your opponent, quickly bring your elbow to theirs as you pull your arm free.

If it’s a cross grab where their right hand grabs your right wrist, put your hands together like you are praying and push HARD with the side of your joined hands against the little wrist bone.

If in doubt, ask yourself which is stronger, 4 fingers or one thumb? (It’s the four fingers, FYI) Aim for the gap between the fingers and thumb, pushing or turning your arm towards the weakest link.

Remember: elbow to elbow or prayer hands depending on how they grab you. Speed counts.

OH NO!!! Mr. “I ain’t brushed my teeth since  MMM Bop was on the charts”  grabs your hair.

Hair pulls are dangerous, not because “dude, that’s my hair” but because  it puts your neck at risk.  Also, unless you’ve got a scalp of steel, it HURTS when someone pulls your hair. Basically they own you at that moment.

My first bit of advice is if you have longer hair, braids are your friend. It’s harder for a opponent to tangle their fingers into a braid and it’s easier to get free.

Start by securing your neck. Bring your hands up and anchor their hands to your head, get a good stance so if they try to drag you around like my dog with his new squeaky toy, your head and body move as one and you don’t get tossed like a rag doll.

If they grabbed the front of your hair, simply push their knuckles as hard as you can into your skull and bend at the waist, the pressure will force their fingers open and you can go Princess Vespa (bonus if you get the reference) on them.

If they grab your hair from the back (pony tails being a primary target), with their hands anchored to your head quickly spin under their arm coming up on the side so that you’ll see their elbow bent backwards. Removing one hand from the anchor slam it down on their elbow joint.  Do you have any idea how easy it is to break an arm at this angle? Yeah, it’s that easy. Even if you don’t break it they will be feeling it for a long while.

Remember: Your neck is the most at risk. Anchor their hand to your head, speed counts, braids are your friend. 

Choking ain’t my kink

Nothing is scarier than having a pair of beefy unwashed hands wrapped not so gently around your throat.  First rule is you have 3 seconds to act. Not because you’ll die in 3 seconds or don’t have air, the 3 second rule comes from the fact after 3 seconds, panic sets in and panic leads to not so good outcomes. Of the grabs I have mentioned above, this is the most dangerous. There are a few different ways to get free, and they all rely on speed.

1:  Using the bottom side of your fist, strike their forearms as hard as you can right below the elbows on the meaty part of their arm. If you do this right, not only does it hurt them but it can provide a few brief seconds of weakness in their arms which is all you need to get away.

2: With your palms, strike one arm (right to right, left to left) and then the other. This will force their hands away from your throat. Throw in a good kick to the naughty bits or a punch to the face/throat for good measure.

Remember: 3 second rule, strike hard, strike fast. 

You really want to throw that punch at me?

Scumbags always want to throw that punch. Your best defense is using their momentum against them.  The bigger they are the louder the BOOM they make when they hit the floor.

1: As they step toward you with their fist raised and start to swing, quickly step towards them using the same side outer forearm to block the punch by hitting their forearm. As you do this bring the other arm up, keeping the arm straight and slam it into their chest. Your body will naturally follow an arc using their momentum against them. The stunned look on their face as they look up at you from the ground is more priceless than free WiFi.

For this particular one, if they are a 6 ft ogre and you are a dainty little pixie, I wouldn’t recommend this move. (I’m not dainty or a little pixie and have dropped guys 6 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier than myself with this move, but I’ve been training in martial arts for 15 years)

2: Now, if you’re saying “But NEVA!!! I can’t do that one!!! What do I do???” try dropping to the ground right before they get to you and once again aim for the naughty bits. A foot to the gut is also a great way to stop their momentum and leaving them gasping for breath.  You’re using their mass to cause the damage.

Remember: Speed, use their momentum 

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A few more tips:


These are just some very basic techniques that can be used against another human who is set to do you harm. There is no substitute for taking a self-defense class and if there is one in your area I highly recommend it. We might be talking about scenarios in a zombie apocalypse but these tips will help you in real life, and if you’re prepared in real life then you can also survive in the apocalypse.

Just remember:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • Never travel alone in unfamiliar areas if you don’t have to
  • Be hyper vigilant
  • Know where your exits are
  • Don’t put yourself at risk

Stay safe everyone, because we don’t all have nine lives or the benefit of a director calling “Cut” after a fight scene.