Women in martial arts: Cynthia Rothrock - Blonde maiden of pain


Our film pick: China O’Brien

A self-proclaimed ‘queen of martial arts films’, Cynthia Rothrock is one of the few – if not the only – Western female martial arts heroines to achieve stardom in the Hong Kong movie scene. At a time when Hollywood was looking for the next Bruce Lee, Rothrock did quite the opposite and decided to make the move from California to Hong Kong to star in martial arts films here.

Rothrock successfully made the transition from champion fighter to martial arts actress in her cinematic debut, Yes, Madam, opposite the internationally famed Michelle Yeoh, which went on to be a box office success. Rothrock’s unforgiving and aggressive fighting style mesmerised audiences while her ‘hyah’ battle cries made their hairs stand on end. She held her own against big stars like Sammo Hung in Shanghai Express, but her biggest role to date is playing the lead in the China O’Brien franchise. Playing a disgraced policewoman seeking justice through her badass fighting skills, the movie eventually reached cult film status. Rothrock was such a popular fixture in the Hong Kong film industry that there weren’t many fight movies during the 80s she didn’t have a role in. Till this day, Rothrock is still training and teaching in California, still drop kicking goons. Olivia Lai

See also

Women in martial arts
Bringing together the trailblazing ladies who helped forge HK's greatest cinematic legacy. Read more



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