Danai Gurira is the actress who plays Michonne in the hit TV series The Walking Dead, which is based on the popular comic books by the same name. Michonne first appears in issue 19 of the comic book series which explains her late arrival in The Walking Dead TV series – she first appeared at the very end of the second season (but not played by Danai Gurira) and continued into the third which was aired in 2012 when Gurira took up the role.
Michone is a heroine armed with a katana sword which she uses with a skill that can almost match The Bride. Once a lawyer, now a zombie killer, she quickly gets involved in the group, developing a love interest with Tyreese before becoming a mother figure to others.
Obviously this part requires Danai Gurira to be in great shape. She needed to do more than a few weeks of stage fighting to prepare herself for such a demanding role. How did she do it?
Danai Gurira’s Fitness Workouts
To get in shape for the role she had to both get fit and also learn how to properly wield a sword. Before shooting the series she had 1 month of intensive sword training. This alone provided a good workout to burn any extra fat she was carrying and tone the upper body and legs. It takes a lot of effort to wield a sword all day long. Hours were spent every day learning the choreography with a sword master.
In an interview with Curt Wagner at Redeye she explained that the training was extremely intense and that muscles were aching that she did not know she had. “It hurt and it was exhausting.” She explained that she did already workout with weights, performing dumbbells workouts to help strengthen and tone her muscles, but working with a katana was a whole new challenge.
“You do your little dumbbells and you’re getting somewhere but the katana just totally will break you. And I love it for that. But it was a lot of work!”
She also spent a lot of time watching Samurai films to become more accustomed with how sword fighting is choreographed on film. She explained to EW.com that she found it amazingly fun to learn about the katana, its history and how it is wielded. This real interest would have helped her to learn to fight with the sword and got her fitter at the same time – this is why martial arts can be such an effective way to get fit.
High School Athletics
Danai has been athletic for most of her life, which has given her a great head start for this role. She told Geoff Berkshire for Zap2It that she was athletically competitive through high school and when she was learning acting her stage combat teacher and circus teacher both commented on her strength.
Danai has done kickboxing for many years to stay in shape. In fact, it is the main way she keeps fit. She has not graded (at least not to a high level) but does it for fitness. An hour or two of kicking and punching a few times a week will get most people in great shape, plus martial arts such as kickboxing are a good way to develop core strength, tone the legs and arms and become more supple too.
While Danai certainly had a good foundation to get in shape for the role, with her school athleticism and natural strength, it is possible for anyone to really get in shape like her. The best way would be to join a martial arts club and train a couple of times a week, and then supplement this training with 2 weight training sessions a week and some cardio, such as running or cycling, on the other days.