Rothrock is five-time World Karate Champion in forms and weapons between 1981 and 1985. These categories are not combat-oriented, being displays of fluidity of movement rather than fighting, and are therefore not segregated into male and female categories but fully open to both sexes.
She holds six Black belts in various Far Eastern martial disciplines, including Tang Soo Do (also "tangsudo", Korean), Tae Kwon Do (Korean), Eagle Claw (Chinese), Wu Shu (contemporary Chinese), Northern Shaolin (classical Chinese), and Pai Lum Tao Kung Fu (contemporary Chinese). She received her 6th degree black belt in Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan in 2006. She was tested by Grand Master Robert Kovaleski, 7th Dan and chair of the I.T.M.A., and was promoted to 7th degree black belt by Kovaleski in 2011. She also works as a martial arts instructor; her favorite weapons are the hook swords.
Northern California was her home in 1983 where she worked with the West Coast Demonstration Team. At this time Golden Harvest was searching in Los Angeles for the next Bruce Lee. Rothrock's forms and maneuvers were observed and Golden Harvest signed a contract with her. It was two years (1985) later that she made her first martial arts movie for them, Yes, Madam (also known as Police Assassins or In the Line of Duty Part 2) which also starred Michelle Yeoh. It proved to be a box office success. She ended up staying in Hong Kong until 1988 doing seven films there.
Rothrock became one of the few Caucasian performers to achieve genuine stardom in the local Hong Kong film industry before achieving success in their own country. Producer Pierre David initiated Rothrock's move to the American turf. David offered her a costarring role with Chad McQueen in Martial Law, Rothrock's first U.S. production. For the next ten years she led a successful career in action movies. Her films include China O'Brien and China O'Brien 2, Guardian Angel, Honor & Glory, No Retreat, No Surrender 2 and Prince of the Sunamongst a roster of thirty films.
Rothrock also appeared as Bertha Jo in the 1997 television film The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion. She was an inspiration for the video game character Sonya Blade from the Mortal Kombat series and lent her voice on the animated series Eek the Cat.
Rothrock's final movie was the 2004 film Xtreme Fighter (aka Sci-Fighter) where she played Sally Kirk / The White Dragon.
Rothrock returned to acting in 2012 with a role in the family film Santa's Summer House, with other films anticipated for the future.