Happy Birthday Cynthia Rothrock! March 8th
Cynthia Rothrock started martial arts at 13 at school that, I personally consider, a toxic dojo. They had her spar a blackbelt, who did not holdback, on literally her second day. Not to mention she was the only girl in class. Despite this, Cynthia pressed forward and continued training.
She became a black belt in Tang Soo Do, the art that Cynthia credits for her famous kicks.
Cynthia was at a tournament when she saw a fellow Tang Soo Do student practicing Kung Fu. Fascinated, she started up Kung Fu in addition to her Tang Soo Do. She continued to practice both Tang Soo Do and Kung Fu, until her Sabomnim found out that Cynthia was learning a different art at another school. Her Sabomnim forced Cynthia to choose: Kung Fu or Tang Soo Do. She went with Kung Fu. Her reasoning was that she is naturally very flexible and therefore felt more suited to Kung Fu.
Cynthia also took up gymnastics and ballet to improve her martial arts.
In the 80s, there were no women divisions. So, men and women competed against each other in forms, weapons, and various other categories. Between 1981 and 1985 Cynthia became World Champion in forms and weapons, again, meaning she beat out both women and men in those divisions.
While learning Kung Fu, Cynthia was constantly told to use less power. Tang Soo Do tends to be a “hard” style, while Kung Fu tends to lean towards the “soft” styles.
She has a penchant for hard styles. So when she wanted to learn Tai Chi, she went with the Chen style.
In 1983 Cynthia auditioned for a Hong Kong company, Seasonal Films, that really just wanted a boy to become the next Bruce Lee. Her teacher insisted the girls also be allowed to audition as well. After Cynthia Rothrock auditioned, Golden Harvest scrapped their plans for finding the next Bruce Lee having found Cynthia’s skills so impressive.
Her first movie was “Yes, Madam,” that also stared Michelle Yeoh, and was a box office success. Cynthia had expected that she would be in one film and then return to the states. Instead she was requested to be in multiple movies. Cynthia wanted to keep competing, so the companies allowed her to travel back and forth from Hong Kong to the United States for competitions.
During one of her movies she damaged her ACL. Deciding that the recovery time after surgery would take too long Cynthia decided to instead flip her stunts to use her other leg instead. By the time she was ready for the surgery the doctors claimed that her damaged ACL has disintegrated. Cynthia’s knee was being held in place by her quadriceps and her hamstring muscles. Since she had adapted by the time she was ready for the surgery she just decided to not have the surgery. Cynthia says she sometimes walks with a bit of a limp, but other than that has not noticed any other problems.
She has done so many movies and she is still active in the martial arts community. Honestly there is not enough time in the world to go over how many amazing things is incredibly epic woman has done. She is a real glass ceiling breaker. Whether she knows it or not her contributions to the martial arts world will help pave the way for other marital arts women to come.