People say I inspire them because I'm small and
do martial arts, but I know an instructor who has no legs
and another who's eighty-nine. Martial arts are for everyone."
The Way of Star Power
By Gregory Story
Famed martial arts movie star, Cynthia Rothrock, now has a dojo designed to cater to people in the film industry. Fittingly located in Studio City, a Los Angles suburb, the school had its Grand Opening the fourth weekend in January. Amidst the tumultuous debut, the actress had a pair of scripts put in her hands in-between teaching free seminars and signing autographs at the school located at 12147 Ventura Blvd.
"Part of the work we'll do here will be designed to help actors, actresses, directors, and tech people do martial arts films. We're also starting a stunt program. We'll have beginning and advanced classes. After passing both, participants can continue with our stunt partner who'll teach stunts that don't include martial arts," she states.
Cynthia got her start in films while a member of the martial arts West Coast Demonstration Team. The head instructor, Ernie Reyes, was contacted by Paul Mayleck of Inside Kung Fu to bring some of his guys down to audition for a role in a Hong Kong film production.
"They were looking for Caucasian males, but I did an exhibition of forms, weapons and self-defense, and they liked me enough to change the part to a female," she says.
Her first three days in Hong Kong were lonely and depressing. It was monsoon season and raining so hard she couldn't go out. Stuck in her hotel room, she couldn't even understand any of the television shows because none were in English, and she was an ocean away from anyone she knew. Gradually, she made friends and came to love the locale and stayed three years making a series of films.
"We didn't have scripts and got our lines right before the shoot. They do some very dangerous stunts there and won't take no for an answer. I did things most women and men wouldn't do. Sometimes, I was scared to death, but I wanted to be the best in my trade and tried everything they asked," she states.
Cynthia attributes her determination to succeed to her martial arts training. From 1981-1985 she was the undefeated World Karate Champion in forms. In 1982, she was number one in Men's Weapons. At the time, there was a single weapon's division.
"I did my homework, trained eight hours a day, trained in classes, trained with my students, didn't do much of anything else unless it would help my martial arts," she says.
A native of Pennsylvania, Cynthia took up the martial arts in her mid-teens, but wasn't much good at it because she failed to put in the effort. An inspirational talk by an instructor on the value of practice gave her the drive to succeed, and once success came, the determination to remain the best.
"Once you're on top, people copy your moves. I've gone to China, Taiwan and Hong Kong to constantly learn new moves and improve my technique. Whatever it takes to be the best," she states.
After she returned from Hong Kong and began making martial arts films in America, some of her co-stars complained she hit too hard, a legacy of the rough and tumble style used overseas. She's also been on shoots in Indonesia, Taiwan, Nepal, Spain, Australia, and Greece.
"I guess my favorite film was "Outside the Law." I loved everything about it, including the cast, the crew. We filmed in Puerto Rica and had a really fun time," she says.
Cynthia prefers to let a choreographer design fight scenes and concentrate on playing her part. She has had to assume dual roles if the choreography fails to meet her standards, a consequence of the often limited budgets of martial arts films.
"Don Wilson, the martial arts star, told me some of the big budget action film stars wouldn't do well in our films, but if we can hold an audience in a movie costing about a million, imagine what we could do in a hundred million dollar movie," she says.
Cynthia hopes to find out someday. The prospect of doing a horror film also intrigues her. This summer, she will be featured in a science fiction film with Wilson where she plays both a real and cyber space character in a plot involving people trapped inside a video game with a killer virus.
"It's great when people tell me my movies have led them to martial arts, but I love teaching it as well in both private lessons and seminars," she says.
Her new studio will be run under the auspices of the United Studios of Self Defense program. Due to her hectic schedule, Cynthia voiced the need for the support of an organization committed to excellence that she trusted. Though a nationwide chain with a hundred twenty-five schools, she describes United as "like a family."
"It was like a dream come true to become involved with such amazing people like Charles Mattera and his senior master instructors. Although the Untied Studios organization is very successful and extremely professional, the main attraction for me was their sincere enthusiasm and concern for each and every student they teach. They not only want to share the magic of martial arts with as many people as possible, their philosophy and specialized training ensures that students truly understand how to effectively defend themselves."
Currently a holder of six black belts, Cynthia continues to learn new martial skills and is now taking up highly acrobatic Chinese styles. She lives in the woodsy, artistic community of Topanga Canyon on the outskirts of Los Angeles with her four year old daughter, Skyler, a budding martial artist.
For more information on Cynthia you can go to her website: http://www.cynthiarothrock.org. or visit her World Black Belt Founding Member page.
If you would like to contact Cynthia Rothrock, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to contact Gregory Story, you can email him at email@example.com.