Whatever Happened to Cynthia Rothrock?

Whatever Happened to Cynthia Rothrock?

People born in the 90s or after might not know much about Cynthia Rothrock but the woman is simply a marvel when it comes to the martial arts. She started when she was 13 years old and never quit, not even in this current day. Some people find something they enjoy and care about more than anything early on while some of us have to ramble around a bit in order to find that particular something that catches our interest. Cynthia found something that she felt comfortable with and decided to make it a hobby as well as a passion that would eventually define her life. By the time the early 80s came around she was big on the competitive scene and between 1981 and 1985 she became World Champion in both forms and weapons. None of the categories she competed in were combat-oriented as they were mainly used for displays of fluidity instead of showing off her fighting skills. Even more impressive however is that men and women competed in the same category, meaning she was outdoing the men by the time she was really hitting her stride.

Cynthia took first place in forms an astonishing 32 times and first in weapons 12 times in her first 38 tournaments. This included her competition in Men’s Forms since there was no women’s division at that time. Eventually she even earned the title of Grand Master of five of those tournaments. This kind of dedication to something is uncanny since it speaks of a single-minded drive to succeed that isn’t at all average and tends to make everything else just fade away as the individual seeks to perfect their craft. As of now she holds seven black belts and sashes in various disciplines and she’s received her 8th degree black belt in Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, a style that deals with very short-range combat and is kind of impressive to watch.

It was in 1983 that she was discovered for her talent in the martial arts by Golden Harvest in Los Angeles, California and it would be in 1985 that she made her first martial arts movie, titled Yes, Madam. This film also starred a much younger Michelle Yeoh and it turned out to be a box office success. Eventually she ended up staying in Hong Kong until around 1988, making around seven films during her time. At that point she was one of the only western performers to have achieved stardom in the Hong Kong film industry before managing to become a star in her own country. Her move back to America came thanks to producer Pierre David, who offered her a role in a movie with Chad McQueen in the film Martial Law. This was Cynthia’s first US production and for the next decade she would go on to have a successful career in B-grade action movies. For the 80s this was pretty typical since action movies were a dime a dozen but could still manage to pay their actors a hefty sum if they were skilled enough. Plus action movies involving martial arts were still all the rage even if people were starting to realize that not everything they saw was bound to be real.

From movies she started making her way onto TV and into TV movies. She was even the inspiration for the character of Sonya Blade from Mortal Kombat. Eventually though Cynthia chose to retire from acting in order to teach private martial arts lessons in Studio City, California. She did return to acting eventually in 2012 and in 2014 was in the film Mercenaries along with Kristanna Loken, Brigitte Nielsen, Vivica A. Fox, and Zoe Bell.

She was married at the age of 21 to her instructor at the time, Ernest Rothrck, and the two had one daughter. At this time she works as a martial arts teacher and co-owns the same studio she teaches at.

Watching the clip below a lot of people might get nostalgic for the 80s and the kind of fighting scenes that were lengthy, not all that realistic at times, but oh so entertaining. They weren’t over quickly like a lot of the more realistic fights we see today on TV and in movies, as the goal was to entertain the audience with fights that could and would drag on for a while rather than be ended with one punch or the use of one’s environment that could end things in a very swift fashion. These were the fights that lasted longer simply because the enemy was numerous and tended to miss a lot of times because the heroes were just that good.

Cynthia is definitely from a different era and is most definitely for real, but given that she did manage to star in a few Hong Kong movies and starred in so many B films such as the one below, it’s obvious that she had a good time with what she was doing and has never taken it so seriously that she can’t see the joy in it.

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