Anyone who can consider himself (herself) a fan of action movies, or martial arts movies knows the name – Cynthia Rothrock. Cynthia Rothrock is not only a worldwide known action star, but also an incredibly accomplished martial artist.
She holds 5 Black Belts in various Far Eastern martial disciplines. These Arts include; Tang Soo Do (Korean), Tae Kwon Do (Korean), Eagle Claw (Chinese), Wu Shu (contemporary Chinese), and Northern Shaolin (classical Chinese).
Rothrock is also one of the very select individuals to be inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame and Inside Kung-Fu Hall of Fame. Inclusions in such renowned organizations as the Martial Arts Gallery of Fame, MARTIAL ARTS, Traditions, History, People, The Martial Arts Sourcebook, and dozens of other historical reference books of martial significance.
As far as cinema goes, Cynthia burst onto the scene like a stick of dynamite after “starring” in a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial in the early 1980s. Soon there after Producers and Directors recognized her martial arts skills and her career began a steady climb upward. Cynthia’s first full length motion picture was Yes Madam also starring Michelle Yeoh. The movie turned out to be a hit and broke all box office records in Hong Kong.
As a result Cynthia Rothrock spent five years in Hong Kong starring in Asian produced motion pictures. In that time she had starred with kung-fu greats Samo Hung and Yuen Biao. She was even offered a role opposite of Jackie Chan in Armour of Gods, but Jackie got injured so the company instead put her in Righting Wrongs with super star Yuen Biao.
During that Asian tenure she, unbeknownst to her, has set a record of becoming the very first non-Chinese westerner to carry an action movie single-handedly in Hong Kong. In fact, she left Hong Kong as one of the most celebrated action stars in Hong Kong’s cinematic history.
Since then, in US, Cynthia went on to star in numerous action and martial arts oriented films with such already established action stars as Fred Williamson, Don The Dragon Wilson, Richard Norton, Benny Urquidez, Bolo Yeung, and others. Rothrock hasn’t done much movie work since 2004, devoting more time to her family and her martial arts teachings.
Mrs Rothrock, how did you first start taking lessons of martial arts? You were interested in something, that visually applies only to men most of the time. What was so attractive to you in martial arts?
I first started taking lessons at the age of thirteen. My friends parents were orange belts in Tang Soo Do and I would watch them practice. I was intrigued by the movements and thought it would be really cool to have a belt. My mom signed me up for four months of lessons. After the first few weeks I hated it and wanted to quit. I was the only young girl in the class, there was one Black Belt that was rather manly and scary looking to me at the time. We had to spar and she kicked me in the head. I didn’t even know how to spar. My mom told me that I couldn’t quit I had to stay for the four months.
After two months my instructor gave a talk to us that I thought was directed to me. He said if you don’t practice you will never get good. I didn’t like karate because it was hard. I felt uncoordinated and intimidated being a small girl in a class with guys. I decided to practice and got really good fast. I skipped over a belt on my first test and entered a women’s competition and won second place. It was all belts so I only had five months training and beat out all the black belts. I realized with practice I could be the best around.
Your daughter Skylar, is she interested in going by her mother’s footsteps, or she has a completely different “road” in life?
Sky is ten years old and she is starting to get really involved in training. She is very strong and flexible. I am teaching a class at her school and she enjoys helping other students. I may open a school next year and feel she would really love training and helping me in the classes.
Of those many whom you shared screen time with, and fought against, Bolo Yeung is considered one of the best, real fighters. Please, tell about your experience working with him on “Tiger Claws” and “Tiger Claws 2”…
I really respect Bolo. It was strange though, that when we had our first fight scene he didn’t want me to hit him. I thought since he was so big and looked so strong that this would not be a problem.
What kind of business are you currently in? According to the info on the net, your last movie role was in 2004 with Don Dragon Wilson in “The Sci-Fighter”…
I did a episode of Faking It on TV a few years ago. It was a reality show where I take a student who had no martial art background and make him into a fighter in 30 days. He then has to go before a panel, with three contestants and they have to determine who the faker is. He won, they thought he was a trained martial artist. I am also involved heavily in photography. I shoot portraits and events. I am also working on a film with Richard Norton called Downward Facing Dog. We may shoot a scene in Dec. to try and get the financing for it.
Cynthia, it’s said, that you were the inspiration for the “Sonya Blade” character, in a worldwide known computer fighting game “Mortal Kombat”. Were you even approached or asked playing Sonya in the movie?
No, I was not. I heard that the producers used my likeness and did not want to use me because they did not want to pay me for my name. Everyone thinks I am Sonja Blade. It’s creepy and not fair, but that is how this business works sometime.
Back in 1998, at the “Fitness EXPO ’98”, Arnold Schwarzenegger actually sang you a happy birthday song! Most people agree that in real life, Arnold is much more funny and friendly than some of his character that he portrayed. What was your experience like meeting with him?
He was very friendly and yes quite funny. I was not going to attend the event because it was my birthday and wanted to celebrate it with friends and family. They called me and said will you come if Arnold sings to you…and I thought that was pretty cool so I went.
If you ever decide to launch a comeback into the film industry, would you stick to the genre you best established yourself in (action-martial arts) or try something new (drama-comedy-horror maybe)?
I would definitely stick to martial art related movies.
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