Cynthia Rothrock (born 8 March 1957) is an actress specializing in Martial arts films. Only 5’3″ tall, she was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and was brought up in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Martial arts achievements
She is five-time (and undefeated) World Karate Champion in Forms and Weapons between 1981 and 1985. These categories are not segregated into male and female categories but are fully open.
She holds five Black belts in various Far Eastern martial disciplines, including Tang Soo Do (Korean), Tae Kwon Do (Korean), Eagle Claw (Chinese), Wu Shu (contemporary Chinese), and Northern Shaolin (classical Chinese). She also works as a martial arts instructor.
Northern California was her home in 1983 where she worked with the West Coast Demonstration Team. At this time Golden Harvest was searching in Los Angeles for the next Bruce Lee. Rothrock’s forms and maneuvers were observed and the Golden Harvest signed a contract with her. It was two years (1985) later that she made her first martial arts movie for them, Huang gu shi jie (also known as Yes Madam or In the Line of Duty Part 2) which also starred Michelle Yeoh. It proved to be a box office success. She ended up staying in Hong Kong until 1988 doing seven films there. She may be the first Caucasian actor that ever had a lead role in a Chinese picture as a “good guy.” At the time, the typical role for Caucasian was cast as either the bad guy or as comic relief.
Rothrock became one of the few Caucasian performers to achieve genuine stardom in the local Hong Kong film industry before achieving success in their own country. Producer Pierre David initiated Rothrock’s move to the American turf. David offered her a costarring role with Chad McQueen in Martial Law, Rothrock’s first U.S. production. For the next ten years led successful career in B-grade action movies. Her films include China O’Brien and China O’Brien 2, Guardian Angel, Honor & Glory, No Retreat, No Surrender 2 and Prince of the Sun amongst a roster of thirty films. Rothrock also appeared as Bertha Jo in the 1997 television film The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion. She was an inspiration for the video game character Sonya Blade. And lended her voice on the animated series Eek the Cat.
Rothrock’s stated that, “throughout my life, I’ve been opening the door for other women to get involved with this (martial arts movies). I was the first woman to be on the cover of a karate magazine and the first woman to win a men’s championship.”