Hey there fellow fans of fantastic fighting female furies, and welcome back to our ongoing/occasional series where we strive to acquaint you with some our favourite formidable females from throughout cinematic history. Last instalment we caught up with the magnificent Moon Lee, our absolute fave ever Asian action star, this time around we’ll be introducing you to none other than the bombastic blonde fury herself, scintillating Cynthia Rothrock! of all the action/martial arts stars throughout film, Cynthia has always been our most revered and is, arguably, the most accomplished female martial expert of all time!
Formidably known in her cinematic heyday as The Queen Of Martial Arts, Cynthia has undeniably lived up to that daunting moniker – starred in over sixty films since her dynamic debut alongside Michelle Yeoh in Yes Madam, attained an astonishing seven black belts with a rank of 8th Dan in varying Chinese, Japanese and Korean martial disciplines, is five times undefeated world Karate champion in weapons and forms, was the first ever female cover star on both Inside Kung Fu and Black Belt Magazine, is the inspiration for two of video-games most popular female fighters – Sonya Blade from Mortal Kombat and King from SNK’s popular Art of Fighting and King of the Fighters series, and, is an inductee in the distinguished Black Belt Hall Of Fame alongside such legends as Bruce Lee… Phew!
Cynthia Ann Christine Rothrock was born in 1957 in Wilmington Delaware, though her formative years were spent in Scranton Pennsylvania, it was at the age of thirteen that she first developed an interest in martial arts. In 1981 Cynthia won her first world tournament in the forms and weapons classification, this particular martial category deals with fluidity of movement and form and is mostly non combat oriented, and saw both female and male participation, with Cynthia managing to easily outclass both sexes, she would go on to win this title for an astonishing four more years.
In her first thirty eight tournaments she took first place in forms discipline an astonishing thirty two times (again competing against both female and male martial artists) and twelve times in weapons, she was also pronounced Grand-Master (an honorary title given to individuals who excel at their chosen art and are revered by their peers) at five separate championships… it’s safe to say that Cynthia was a martial arts savante from a very young age.
It was at the height of her tournament dominance that the esteemed martial magazine Black Belt took notice and inducted her into the Black Belt Hall Of Fame as the “Female Competitor Of The Year” she also took the coveted front cover status on the very same issue, the first ever female in martial arts history to receive that distinguished honour.
1983 was the year that Cynthia would first be propelled onto the cinematic stage after being talent scouted by venerable Hong Kong based fighting film studio – Golden Harvest. It was in 1985 that Cynthia co-starred in her very first movie – Police Assassins alongside the magnificent Michelle Yeoh. The film was a massive box office success and launched Cynthia’s long running movie career, with the rapidly rising star going on to make another sensational seven movies for the studio giant, including my personal favourite – Blonde Fury.
Cynthia also holds the prominent achievement as the first ever westerner to be billed as the leading actor in Asian fighting movies. Upon returning home to the United States, Cynthia continued her movie calling with titles such as – China O’Brien and its sequel, Guardian Angel, No Retreat-No Surrender, Prince Of The Sun and many, many more.
She eventually retired from acting after the movie Sci-Fighter in 2004, when she returned to teaching martial arts and expanding on her own, already formidable skills, though she still occasionally cameos and guest stars in various television productions including her own YouTube channel where she continues to showcase her incredible agility, and at sixty three years old is still able to out-surpass the majority of her younger martial peers!
Cynthia Rothrock Movie Recommendations – Blonde Fury, Police Assassins, Righting Wrongs, Prince Of The Sun, The Millionaire’s Express.
Aah the 1980’s, it was a gloriously golden time for action and horror movies, in fact that decidedly delectable decade was most definitely THE trend setter for these two particularly popular filmic categories. Iconic is undeniably an over used term, but it’s a phrase that encapsulates 80’s genre films perfectly. Movie stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Jean Claude Van-Damme (and countless, countless more) are paramount as archetypes of their day, exemplars that have been copied and trended throughout the decades since their first paradigmatic entries onto the silver screen and into fervent fandom.
That said, and as much as I am a fan of these burly, brawly action paladins, I have, from as far back as I can remember always, always preferred kick-arse female fighters, not just in movies but also in my other cherished media of comic-books and video-games. As a young lad growing up in the eighties I was inducted into the formidable fold of fantastic fearsome fighting female furies (phew!) by the meritorious, marvellous and magnificent Moon Lee, though I had encountered other female martial arts stars in various films previous to my encounter with Moon, they were usually cast as second tier characters in film, back up to the male lead… Moon Lee for me was a revelation, a gifted actress with phenomenal martial skill, and, the most predominantly prominent point… the lead in virtually every movie she ever starred in!
Moon Lee Choi-Fung was born in Hong Kong in 1965, though from an early age she spent many years living in Taiwan with her father who ran a business out of the southern port city of Kaohsiung. During her six year stay in Taiwan, Moon attended Youchang grammar school, where she discovered an inherent aptitude for piano and dance proficiency. After moving back to her homeland of Hong Kong to attend middle school, Moon was approached by television director Hsiao Hsianhui after he saw her in a school dance performance.
Hsianhui was so mesmerised by Moon’s remarkable athleticism and dancing talent that he cast her in a small role in his television series Fatherland. From this humble introduction into acting, and thanks to her incredible physical abilities, Moon went on to become Hong Kong’s action movie queen. At a mere eighteen years old, Moon signed contracts with Asia television, and most importantly martial arts movie production giant – Golden Harvest. It was whilst filming a commercial for Mitsubishi that she adopted the first name of Moon, when the directors of the advert asked her to pick a western sounding name for foreign audiences.
After cutting her acting teeth in television with an appearance in an astonishing four hundred episodes over many different series, Moon went on to become the most sought after female action movie star in Hong Kong history thanks to her first major role in the classic period Kung Fu movie Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain, where she starred alongside such martial legends as Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Corey Yuen.
Moon throughout the eighties and early nineties starred in close to an incredible fifty action movies, with co-stars that included the aforementioned Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and the great Jackie Chan. But it was in Japanese martial arts actress Yukari Oshima (also known as Cynthia Luster – soon to be another inductee into this ongoing series) that Moon finally found her forever co-star with whom she starred in many, many movies over the years as both antagonists and protagonists. The dynamic duelling duo had an onscreen cohesion and physical synergy that was unsurpassed in the field, and held female fighting film fans worldwide spellbound, in fact Moon and Yukari were almost single-handedly responsible for the burgeoning Girls with Guns sub genre, which became an action movie staple throughout almost their entire acting careers.
In the latter part of the nineties Moon gradually left the movie business and moved back to her first love of dance and the arts, and eventually opened a school dedicated to nurturing talented dancers, with many of her students winning excellence awards for their abilities in the field.
Moon Lee Movie Recommendations: Kickboxer’s Tears, Fighting Madam 1 and 2, Angel Enforcers, Angel Force and Zu Warriors.