Jamal Luckett's Amazon Page

Jamal Luckett's Amazon Page
Current list of Published works.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Zombie Combat 101: Learning from The Master Roger Ma


After a day off for my Birthday we are returning with a "Sit Down" that brings none other than Roger Ma. Roger was the combat expert enlisted on The History Channel's "Zombies a Living History." During this "all star" Zombie Documentary Roger gave real world tips for the average person to fight and survive during a zombie outbreak from his "The Zombie Combat Manual." Now comes Roger's new project "The Vampire Combat Manual!" Ready set fight!


1. Roger without using the words vampire or zombie. Describe the man you are outside of the public persona. Tell us about your background?

Father, writer, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, Brooklynite, pretty much in that order. My public and private persona are virtually identical. What you see is what you get.


2. As we go through this interview some folks might ask "Roger what are your martial arts qualifications?" How many styles are you skilled in? Are you a teacher or trainer in any fighting skill sets? What is your level of individual and group combat?

It’s a good question. Right now there’s only one art I practice with any regularity, BJJ. I’ve been a martial artist and a fan of the combat arts throughout my life, having studied Shotokan Karate, Wing Chun, Washin-ryu Karate, Escrima, and Arnis. However, I’m not a “black belt” or trainer in any of these arts, which I think is an important point. My approach for my books was that of a researcher, studying the physiology of both undead creatures, and determining what would work against them from a variety of styles. Because I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of styles, I think I was able to retain the objectivity of being art-neutral, and take certain techniques from any traditional martial art to address this particular opponent. I also felt it was important to emphasize that you don't need to be a martial arts expert, soldier, or professional fighter to prevail against the undead. My manuals are written for the layperson in mind.

3. Where does the idea for a "tactical manual" for up close and personal combat come from? Where did you get your inspiration from to approach fighting zombies and vampire hand to rotted hand?

As they say, “Write what you want to read,” and my books combine my interests of martial arts, weapons, close-quarters fighting, and horror. I also was inspired by the fact that I live in New York, where it is very difficult to legally own a firearm. With zombies, everyone says “Shoot them in the head.” Well, what if you don’t have a gun, or run out of ammunition. I wanted to create a book that solely focused on the hand-to-hand combat scenario of facing the undead to address that very situation.


4.  Most of us out there shudder at the idea of unarmed combat with the undead. What would you tell a trainee to keep them focused for the fight ahead? On the other side of the spectrum how would you keep an experienced slayer humble?

The most important thing for a trainee to keep in mind is to keep calm. When people engage in close combat for the first time, undead or not, what happens is that they expend way more energy than necessary – they tense up, hyperventilate, and overexert their muscles for the situation. If you do that, you may not survive for very long. In my book, I even provide a breathing technique used by military and law enforcement to calm their nerves in the event of combat. The experienced combatant needs to remember that the opponent they face is not a human one – what happens is that people who are experienced with human combat (boxers, soldiers, fighters) apply techniques they learned for human combat against the undead. This is another reason why I felt a combat manual against the undead needed to be written.


5. Starting with your first book "The Zombie Combat Manual." Take us through the dynamics involved with fighting flesh hungry zombies one on one. How do you feel about fast moving zombies and how does that change your tactics?

Fighting a zombie one-on-one is about being methodical, and taking advantage of its vulnerabilities. Realize that your mobility and dexterity is much better than your opponent, and use that to open up target areas on the skull. The mistake often made is that people confront a zombie head-on like a human opponent. Why do that when you can strafe around and attack an open side? That’s the tactic I discuss in detail in the book. Fast moving zombies change the picture entirely, that would be a whole other book!

6. So I've got myself a weapons depot and less than a minute to choose. What is my best choice for armed combat against the living dead? What changes when I confront a horde of zombies? From a tactical and weapons standpoint?

When I think about weapons to use against the undead, there are three categories I consider: durability, maintenance, and skill. For example, a katana samurai sword is always a popular weapon the average citizen thinks about zombie weapons, but let’s consider it from these three categories: it can be highly durable, provided it’s an authentic, well-made katana, and not a “mall-ninja” brand. It requires pretty high maintenance in terms of sharpening, which most people do not know how to do. The skill level required to wield it is also pretty high for the average citizen (how many people have actually swung a katana to cut something?) Against a horde of zombies, this becomes even more critical, because you’re not going to be able to stop and maintain your weapon in mid-combat. My ideal zombie weapon is a tool that is highly durable, requires minimal maintenance, and very little skill to wield. For these reasons, my personal favorite is the medieval mace, as it falls into each of these categories.



7. Switching gears Roger before you go into combat details about Vampires. In the new book "The Vampire Combat Manual" you dispelled some "myths" about bloodsuckers. Why is this important? Tell us about the things we do know about combat against Vampires that are true and those that are false.

From a purely literary perspective, I thought it was important to start the discussion about vampire combat with what I perceive as traits of the creature. The vampire has such a long history with many different permutations, that if I didn’t do so people probably would have been confused about what type of vampire I’m talking about. What I tried to do was relate the vampire back to a very humanoid type of being – one that was not supernatural or metaphysical, and based its traits on science. So, the vampire I’m talking about cannot fly, cannot mutate into animals or disappear into mist, and is vulnerable to ultraviolet light, garlic, silver, and wooden stakes. And it’s not physically attracted to nor can it procreate with humans.

8. How does fighting an undead foe that maintains its intelligence change the rules of combat? So all Vampires are not created equal? What are "Vampire Castes" and how does a vampires "type" change your fighting techniques?

Everything changes when your battling a sentient creature, that’s why I felt the need to create manual on vampire combat, because any rules I developed for zombie combat don’t apply. The “Vampire Castes” I developed define several types of vampire – Banals, which are most like us, Seducers, which are highly attractive and tend to avoid physical combat, Supremists, vampire who believe that they are a superior race, and Elders, the oldest, and generally most powerful of the species. Because there have been so many changes to vampire canon, I thought it would be interesting to explore various types of vampire that we’ve seen in the past, and address their background, physical assets, and deficiencies.

9. Let us know where and how readers can find your books "The Zombie Combat Manual" and "The Vampire Combat Manual?" What are "Zombie Combat Club" and "The Vampire Combat Club" and how can one join? What other places can fans find Roger Ma on the web?

The books can be found “anywhere books are sold,” as they say –Amazon, BN, Powell’s, and your local bookstore. If your favorite bookstore doesn’t have it, smack the clerk upside the head and ask them if they’re trying to get their customers killed by the undead. The
Zombie Combat Club and Vampire Combat Clubare sites where people who enjoy the books can follow other stories, links and blog posts I find interesting and related to undead combat. Those are the best places to find me online, and on Twitter and Facebook groups for both books as well.

10. In Zombies a Living History on the History Channel you showed us your skills as a practical Zombie Slayer. How did this opportunity come about for you Roger? How did it feel to be included with the likes if Jonathan Maberry, Max Brooks, Kim Paffenroth and J.L. Bourne to name a few on the show?

I was approached by the producing team specifically for the combat aspect since that’s my primary focus. It was so much fun shooting the fighting scenes in the academy where I study BJJ. It was surreal to be featured alongside those individuals, legends in the zombie genre. The show is actually on at this very moment, and I still can’t believe I’m in it.

11. What does the future hold for Roger Ma? Any plans to give us combat tips on any other "Monsters?" The reason I ask is I have an ungodly fear of Leprechauns!

Leprechauns are deadlier than most people think, especially if you’re looking to snatch their precious metals. I have a cool contribution to a comic books anthology coming out in a few weeks called Shattered: An Asian American Comics Anthology. It’s an adaptation of one of the stories from The Zombie Combat Manual – if you want to see Shaolin Monks battling zombies, definitely check it out!

12. When Roger Ma reads about Zombies. Who are your favorite authors and why?

You know, I haven’t read that much zombie literature recently. Initially I was staying away from it because I was working on the book. Two of my all time favorites though are anthologies – John Skipp’s original “Book of the Dead” is one of the best, and John Joseph Adam’s “The Living Dead” anthologies are great. Of course, I’m a fan of the writers that were also in the History Channel documentary.




  1. I love the use of the Pike!

    1. Roger Ma was an awesome interview. His combat manual took Max Brooks Survival Manual out of my number one spot.