Blog, Weapon reviews

Zombie killer #1: the Han Ji

Happy Halloween everyone!

It was asked of me a while ago, what my go to weapons for a zombie apocalypse. I thought it would be a nice piece for the Halloween season. So here we go. First off, this wile about cold weapons, not fire arms or other weapons like projectiles, bombs, and flame throwers. (Chainsaws are terrible by the way.)

I thought about his for quite some time. First off, I limited myself tot he historical weapons of China that Have been having the honor to check out and review. Plus, this is my art and source of my particular skill sets. There are in fact limited number of weapons one could use during a Zombie horde take over, but the Chinese arsenal has a particular one that is almost perfect for the task. 

The Ji of the Han Dynasty. 

The Ji of the Han dynasty is a weapon that was quite common and found lots of use in the Han Dynasty in China. It was used as a long weapon for the military, used both for fighting on horseback and fighting mounted riders. It came is many shapes and sizes and was attached to several lengths of shaft. They were also popular with the civilian population as they are depicted in duels of swordsmen and other scenes of non military use. All in all they were well known and famous in their day, while they are quite mysterious today. 

The variables:

First there are a few variables that should be laid out. The first is what the main purpose of the weapon is for. For ease of simplicity, I will talk about the weapons best suited to Zombies for the most part. I will occasionally use examples of non-zombie uses. Against one’s fellow survivors, conventional warfare and varieties of weapon will do fine and is very much up to the individual. 

So once we have that settled, we have different kinds of zombies to deal with. Shamblers: slow zombies with little to no cognitive function remaining. Crazed zombies: Fast but consumed with hunger to the point of being unable to think other thoughts, like a person gone rabid. Swarm zombies: zombies with only rudimentary cognitive skills but a make shift hive mind the allows them to overwhelm with numbers. Finally, Crafty zombies: Zombies that retain their intelligence, language skills, and higher brain functions but are driven by hunger for brains like an addict. 

Each these categories cane further broken down and divided by method of killing. Any normally fatal injury. A normally fatal injury to the brain. Destruction of the brain stem. Complete dismemberment. Immolation needed. For our purposes we will focus on the types that only need conventional injury to the brain or other fatal target. Fire and complete dismemberment are two very specific issues that would require a more focus approach. 

The dangers

The dangers that need to be addressed with zombie hordes will be important to weapon choice and use. The problems that one must overcome with facing zombies in the after times. Each type will have different strengths and weaknesses as well. So we can look at each. 

Shamblers

Here the main risks are being bitten (or scratched) and becoming infected. Shamblers are not as intimidating by themselves as they might seem to be in larger groups. Their slow pace and dim wittedness makes for fairly easy disposal if the density is under control. But, if their numbers increase or one finds themselves in a tight enough space with a certain number of them, problems arise.  Most Shamblers in the movies can be felled with a quick piecing of the brain tissue, beheading, or other injury to the brain and central nervous system. Kill the brain and kill the zombie. 

Crazed

These are similar to Shamblers, but are quick and can run. Their intelligence is still that of a shambling zombie but when they are alerted of a presence, they can spring into violent action. The greatest danger with the Crazed is that they can easily out number and subdue you before you have time to react. While they can be killed in the same no nonsense way as the Shambler, they are much harder targets. In great numbers they are prone to becoming the next type of horde…

Swarms

Zombie swarms are not exactly their own category, but some undead are definitely more violent and unpredictable. Swarms occur when particularly aggressive zombies gather together in a sort of zombie mass hypnosis. At that point, their huge numbers and the bedlam they unleash create a super organism from the individual zombies. This mass can scale walls and overturn vehicles. They are like a riot of the undead. As such, they will be a very limited part of this discussion since when such a crisis reaches that point, individual weapons are not very useful. 

Crafty

Here we have the hardest of all zombie foes; the crafty zombie. Crafties, retain their human intelligence, high reasoning, and even memories at times. They are also possessing of the natural strength they possessed when alive. The only difference, they can no longer be affected by bodily injury. These zombies can run, corner and trick you into giving them the right to feast on you. These zombies are like fighting living people who have the added advantage of not being able to die. 

There is significant overlap with the method of dispatch with al of these categories as well.

Honorable mention: Armor

Before we get into the weapons best suited for the job, Would like to mention something that started to appear recently in zombie show and such but should be #1 on your post apocalyptic shopping list: Body armor and helmets. The use of body armor from any variety of sources and material can give you a huge advantage in a zombie hellscape. The number one danger of all of these is getting bitten when in close quarters. The first line of defense is your armor. Thick padded gambesons, motor-cross leather jackets and pants, conventional sorts armor from football etc. Anything that protects you from getting bit or scratches is going to give you options. So, when thinking about your weapons, think about your armor as well! 

The Weapon

Swords of various lengths are useful of course, and my practice with the two-handed word would immediately be applicable. But, what shape? How long? Dao or Jian? When looking at longswords they start to become less desirable for zombie encounters. Reach is a concern so longer swords are better. But they are harder to make and maintain. Plus steel might not be readily available in the quantities needed. How about pole arms like the pudao Zhanma dao and sha? Here we are getting somewhere. Length and a blade that can do significant damage to all kinds of zombie. But often, these weapons get heavy the bigger they become. So they are limited in reach by their weight. But the pulao does have the handle that can be shaped out when broken or needs to be changed. But again, the more durable this weapon the heavier. On the far end of the reach spectrum we have the spear and lances etc. These are light, fast and long, but they offer little resistance in close quarters. They again have the advantage of being mostly handle so it can be removed and replaced at will. 

If only there was a weapon that could tic most of these boxes without too much sacrifice. Well, Think I might hav fond one; the Han Dynasty Ji or halberd. This extremely simple looking weapon is one of the most versatile and intuitive weapons I have ever handled. And it has the right qualities that it cane easily altered and variations made to be more purpose built. It is smaller than a sward blade or a dao but more substantial than a spear head. The handle ca be of any length and it can even be used as a side arm. This weapon really stood out to me. 

The ji is a simple construct of two double edged blades arranged in a “T” shape. The vertical or long blade turns into a single edge blade when it contacts the shaft of the handle. The second blade is perpendicular to the first and is double edged. The relative size of these blades are due to the shaft length. Smaller blades used for longer shafts to prevent breakage and being unwieldy. Brass caps for the tip mounting and the butt end of the shaft give the weapon it’s balance. Shafts can be up to 7-8 feet long for long ones, 3-4 foot shafts for a short axe like weapon, and with the bottom part of the vertical blade used for a handle. The breaking of the shaft does not render the weapon useless. These are all good qualities for a weapon in the post zombie world. 

Utility

So where does the Ji excel against the undead? There are a few types of concerns we have for that. How well can it defend from the attack of a zombie? How well can it dispatch zombies? And how well does it do both with in real time and the chaos of a battle?  

Its offensive capabilities are fairly obvious, but there are some advantages that many will not think of when choosing a zombie killer. First off it has excellent thrusting capacity. The long thin blades can easily penetrate into flesh and are strong and rigid enough to crack through a zombie skull. The front facing blade can be used as a spear but it’s length and position make it excellent for slicing. The shaft and fittings also back up this edge to make for devastating cuts like an axe. The second blade at 90 degrees to the first and shaft can act as a pick axe with chopping motions. Being able to do this vertically will help as not to get blades stuck when fighting hordes in a tight grouping. But, the perpendicular blade also serves asa. Safety for thrusts, being bale to deliver massive cuts on both the push and the draw. The blade can be used for hooking and controlling (which can be of use against large groups of shamblers). And if the shaft of the long weapon breaks, you can simply pick it up and use it as a shorter weapon. 

It’s defensive capabilities should not be underestimated either. The long version can be very helpful in keeping hordes at bay. Just as a staff, it is used best as a barrier and prod. Again, even if the head of your Ji breaks off, you still have the rest of the stick. With. A brass cap on on end, simply turn it around for a bludgeon or club. While not zombie ending, it can buy you space and time. As the shorter of the weapons still with a handle, close combat and defense becomes much more comfortable. The short handles can allow the weapon to be welded very fast and close to the body. Such skills could save one from some tight situations. 

But, how does it fare when in the fight with the various kinds of walking dead? Each one has its approach, but the ji can handle most of them. The slow shamblers can be picked off from distances that pose little risk tot the wielder. Either by stabs or by chopping stabs with the second blade. The space between can hook and move them out of the way if you are not wanting to dispatch them and they are useful even as non mounted side arms. For the crazed the same rules apply but now the need for code range weapons becomes much more urgent. The crazed can getting on you quick and you need to be able to defend even when they are on top of you. 

Swarms and Crafty zombies need to be treated in special ways, but the Ji can be useful enthuse situations as well. As an infantry weapon, long ji can be used to push hack crowds and hold defensive positions. As melee weapons they can help one escape compromised buildings and locations. These are fairly simple to make so many of them can be created in a short time to arm as many people in a hold out as possible. 

Other advantages 

The simple shape and function of the Ji lends its self to variation. One can increase or decrease the size and heft of the blades to specify jobs. The basic shape can be used in s many ways and can be made by the simplest of methods, so that it can arm thousands quickly. It has less metaling than swords or axes. For weapons they are light and agile while be able to retain lot of power and damage capacity. In a world with few resources, one could make several Ji heads to be used in various ways instead of much more metal used to make a single weapon. 

Conclusions

There are many weapons from the ancient arsenal that people tend to advocate. The ability for cold weapons to work without reloading, be relatively safe compared to firearms, and are quiet when doing their job makes cold weapon still a viable choice in the end times. Many selections are loaded by many people. Max Brooks identifies the Chinese Monk Spade as his ideal zombie killer. However, knowing that weapon, anyone who has handled one can tell. You they are quite heavy. The same goes for Guan Dao or other larger pole arm sword type weapons. 

Against zombies of all types, the weapon you choose must be fast, agile, and versatile. The Ji is all of those things. It specializes in the type of damage that is meant to stop the undead. Everything short of setting them on fire is game with this weapon. The length shaft is variable and is even effective without a shaft at all. It takes less material to make these extremely versatile blades to be used in all contexts. While swords and spears are good and do their job well, the ability and benefits of the Ji outweigh the benefits of other bladed weapons. And the Ji needs not even be sharp! Two spikes are even semi sharp blade will last longer, and be more durable with penetration into soft and rotting brain pans.

If I was to make a weapon from steel to do the job during a Zombie apocalypse , it would definitely be the ji.

Resources:

The Ji can be purchased through LK Chen through their web site. Short shafts are available but longer ones need to be constructed here (more news on that later..).

In the meantime, if you want to see the Ji in action, please check out Sifu Kuttel on Youtube demonstrating the various configurations of the weapon.

Sifu Kuttel demonstrating the hand Ji

Happy Halloween!

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