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Words of Wisdom: Cynthia Rothrock

Cynthia Rothrock is the queen of martial art movies and was Black Belt’s 1983 "Female Competitor of the Year." She has garnered decades of accolades, but had it not been for some good advice that came in the guise of a scolding, her journey in the arts could have ended before it even got started.

cynthia rothrock

Best Advice: Be a winner, not a loser. “Early in my career, I got some good advice that stopped me from quitting martial arts,” Rothrock said. “My instructor gave a talk to the class, emphasizing that quitters are losers. And at that point, I was ready to quit karate. I was the only girl in the class, it was hard and I was getting hurt. So I asked myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’“

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When he said, ‘Quitters have bad attitudes,’ he was looking right at me — because I did have a bad attitude. And when he said, ‘Quitters are losers and will never amount to anything,’ I thought, I don’t want to be a loser.”

What the instructor said prompted Rothrock to adjust her attitude and boost her focus. “I applied that positive mindset to my training and everything else in life,” she said. “That was 40-some years ago, and I have always lived by that advice.”

cynthia rothrock

Worst Advice: Use less power. “I was in China training in wushu in 1982,” she said. “My teachers were extremely pleased with my progress and that my techniques were smooth yet very powerful. Then I came back to the States, and another wushu instructor told me I was putting too much power into my forms and that I needed to do them softer without power.“

We were both competing in forms in the same division, and I decided if I’m going to kick, I have to kick hard because I’m not going to hurt someone with a soft swing kick. And, for the same reason, I wanted to have power in my punches, too. For me, every movement of my forms had to be effective, whether it was fast or fluid, so I didn’t take his advice. I did my forms with power. Long story short, I won and he didn’t.”

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