Workshop of the Dead
I can’t claim to be unfamiliar with the living dead. I logged enough hours watching zombie movies as a kid that I could have received a PhD in zombiology from the George A. Romero School for the Aaaaaarghts.
However, I suspect in the event of an actual zombie outbreak I would get eaten pretty quickly. In a zombie movie, I would be the type of character who might not get eaten first but who will get eaten before the end credits.
Thus it was to my benefit to sit in on the Jing Ying Institute of Kung Fu and Tai Chi’s Zombie Defense Workshop.
Led by Billy Greer, a martial arts instructor and biologist who with wife Nancy runs the institute, the workshop taught 20 aspiring and accredited martial artists how to prepare for an outbreak and fend off the undead.
I’m not sure Romero, the originator of the modern zombie, would agree with Dr. Greer on some of his points, but Romero doesn’t have a biology degree.
Into Zombie Land
From the outside, the Arnold institute — formerly a boat-building facility located off B&A Boulevard in an old warehouse — looked like the kind of place zombies would frequent.
Inside, it looked like a fine place to weather an assault, though it appeared the zombies had already claimed a few of the occupants: The makeup FX company Morphiage was on site and had painted about a fifth of the faces in the room in sickly shades of grey.
Everybody knows that’s what zombies look like. But did you know that those who’ve been infected with a zombie virus don’t actually die before becoming a zombie but merely lapse into a deathlike coma?
Or that there are two tribes of zombies, fast and slow, resulting from different strains of the zombie virus? The fast zombies rely on a rapid heart rate to maintain their speed, so they can bleed out when wounded.
Even I was surprised to learn that zombies’ highly acute sense of smell can be eluded by spraying yourself with Axe body spray.
Nor was I aware that when you draw a firearm, it isn’t quite as simple as “aim for the head.” A low-caliber bullet won’t destroy the 75 percent of a zombie’s brain necessary to make it go down for good. A shotgun, on the other hand, is a guaranteed kill. Or so Greer said to the gun-crazy boy who asked.
There were several other once-in-a-lifetime exchanges:
“Will zombies eat other zombies?” asked one young man in about the same tone that a child takes when asking about the existence of Santa Claus.
“There have been cases,” Dr. Greer replied with sober authority, “but it’s not widespread.”
At that point, I had to ask myself why am I watching a man explaining the effect of necrotic degradation on tissue, complete with pictures, to people whose average age is about 10?
Defense Against Zombies
Short of shotguns, try martial arts when you next meet a zombie. Self-defense moves. I got the hang of a few of them, like thrusting a palm up at a zombie’s nose to disrupt its sense of smell or taking out a zombie’s legs with one blade, then taking out the head with the other in a fluid movement.
Take preventive measures, too, as you would in any emergency: Stock up on nonperishable food, water, flashlight batteries, first-aid kits, bleach. Especially bleach: There’s nothing better for disinfecting zombie bites.
Greer wrapped up his instruction with what I think was supposed to be inspirational advice: “You don’t want to be eaten. But you don’t want to become a zombie either. A zombie isn’t that person anymore. It’s like being brain-dead. So don’t be too sentimental.”
Leaving, I felt considerably more confident in my zombie-fighting prowess. When the next workshop rolls around on Oct. 6, I encourage all who wish to feel the same to attend: www.jingying.org.