About Us

About Rothrock's Kung Fu & Tai Chi Martial Arts

I started my learning martial arts when I was 15 years old. At the time, there were a few Judo schools in the area, but few Karate schools… and no Kung Fu or Tai Chi schools at all. And just as an aside, gas was .25 a gallon.

I always had an interest in martial arts from the time I started grade school. There were always your typical bullies growing up that would pick on you, take your lunch money, and threaten you with physical harm. I was a small skinny kid and tried to avoid them at all costs… even to the point of walking home from school following different routes.

Learning About Martial Arts

Then one day I was watching the Olympics and saw a Judo match on the old black and white TV. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about it. I rode my bike to the local W.T. Grant store (the Walmart of that time) and went to the book section. I found a book by Bruce Tegner on Judo, bought it, and hurried home to study the moves.

In my room, I opened the book and began to try to mimic the pictures. The techniques made sense, but I had no idea if I was doing the moves right without a partner. What I learned was leverage and using your opponent’s aggressive nature against them. Though the biggest thing I learned was, you can’t learn from a book.

I Start Classes

When I was 15 a karate school opened in Allentown, PA. Me and several of my friends decided to go and check it out. It was somewhat scary because we didn’t know what to expect. It helped though because we did know someone at the school. We all took our first trial class together and I fell in love with the martial arts.

Later, I was introduced to a master of martial arts. At that time, it was a big deal because there were only about 3 masters in the entire state of PA. It was scary and his classes were tough.

Now here was the amazing thing, I still never knew anything about Kung Fu or Tai Chi. One day during a training session with the master, he introduced us to a few Kung Fu techniques. We used these for self-defense and he stated that this was the origin of all martial arts. I was blown away how easily these techniques could handle attackers and Kung Fu used the same principles that I learned studying that Judo book: use the opponent’s force against them.

Grandmaster Pai (Master Rothrock's teacher in White Draogn Fist) shows a short palm strike that breaks a 1000 pounds of ice

One day the master comes to me and says, “You’re driving me to Pittsburgh because I want to me Grandmaster Pai and train with him.” What? A Grandmaster of Kung Fu. Now don’t forget all I knew were a few Kung Fu techniques. I never saw the full breadth of techniques involved with Kung Fu.

Yes! We met Grandmaster Pai of White Dragon Kung Fu >>>(WHITE DRAGON) in Pittsburgh and after he broke some blocks of ice and I was flabbergasted. I heard about this type of power and never saw it. From that moment on, I started learning Kung Fu and became a passion to learn everything that I could.

Bruce Lee & Jackie Chan

bruce-leeAt that time, Bruce Lee came out with his movie, Enter the Dragon. It was a B movie and was at a local Drive In. They asked us to do a Kung Fu demo before the movie. That’s the only reason I knew about it. When the movie started, I was blown away with the quick techniques that showed the power and effectiveness of Kung Fu. It was not people battling it out for 30 minutes.

Later, Jackie Chan’s movies became popular. He concentrated on some specific Kung Fu styles and the ancient masters and their methods of teaching. Of course, he was always the student trying to learn from a tough master. The movies always started with strengthening his body and improving his flexibility before he could learn what ever style the movie was based on. Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow was the first one I ever saw in Chinatown, New York. I went to the first showing on the first day it came out. I thought I would be early, but when I got to the theater, the line was 4 New York City blocks long. If you get a chance, check it out.

I Discover Tai Chi - The Grand Ultimate

Kung Fu, Karate, Martial Arts, Self Defense, Kickboxing,Tai ChiA few years later, I started hearing rumors about another Chinese martial art called, Tai Chi. Everyone was telling me that this was the Grand Ultimate of martial arts. I eventually learned that Tai Chi means, Grand Ultimate. >>>(TAI CHI)

At the time, I had three part-time jobs and going to college. I was taking two majors: Physics and Chemistry. Back then you had attendants to pump your gas, wash your windows, check your tires, and oil. I was that guy. A car pulled in and as I walked over to the driver I noticed that the driver was one of the female black belts at the school. She told me that she was leaving town and handed me an old book in Chinese with lots of pictures of an old Chinese master doing Tai Chi. I went home and tried to mimic the pictures in the book. But as I had learned previously, you cannot learn from a book. Eventually, I met a student at the school that discovered a Chinese master teaching Tai Chi a one of the local universities. I started taking classes there too.

I Open My First School

Still going to college and working, I was busy. Moravian College, where I was going, started a self-defense program for the women at the college. They preferred Judo, so that’s what I was teaching. This created a passion within me to start teaching martial arts.


In 1972, I opened a Kung Fu and Tai Chi academy in Scranton, PA. It was tough in the beginning, with little money, in strange town, and no friends. I slept in the school on a wooden floor. I had to take cold water showers because I didn’t have a hot water heater. It was rough, but I had a dream and I loved the students that I taught.

Eventually, my instructors moved away or just stopped teaching. I had to search for a new instructor. I wanted a system or style that fit my belief that I developed in grade school… use the opponent’s force against them.

I trained with several instructors in slightly various styles including Master Colvin Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, >>>(NORTHERN KUNG FU) Praying Mantis in Washington D.C., Grandmaster Willy Lin (Yang Tai Chi), and White Crane in Chinatown, New York.

In 1974, I opened my second school in Wilkes Barre, PA. This was on a third floor and was an old ballet school. It was perfect and that’s where I started my Demo/Competition team that became unbeatable ion the East coast.

I Meet Grandmaster Shum

sifu-inside-kung-fuu-cover-240-x-240One day I was at Henry Cho’s tournament at the Madison Square Garden in New York. He had a small Kung Fu competition division (usually in a hallway because they didn't like Kung Fu). One of the competitors did a fantastic routine of Eagle Claw Kung Fu >>>(EAGLE CLAW) that I never saw before. I found out who is teacher was and where in New York City.

I called a few days later and made an appointment to visit. The following weekend I drove the 2 and one-half hours to New York. When I arrived, I was greeted with a display of Kung Fu that I always saw in the popular Kung Fu movies at that time. Students were doing routines, 2-person fighting sets, a variety of weapons, and even the traditional Lion Dance in the corner.

Grandmaster Shum came over and sat down next to me. I had my duffle bag and I was ready to start. He looked at me and said, “You like what you see.” I said, “Yes! It’s fantastic.” He replied, “Okay, you come back next week.” Wow! I drove 2 and one-half hours for 5 minutes.

The following week I drove to New York again. I had my duffel bag and money. I had no idea what I was going to pay, but I didn't care. I arrived and sat in a chair and started watching. A few minutes later Grandmaster Shum sat down next to me. He said, “So you come back.” I just nodded. He continued, “Okay, five hundred dollars.” I was expecting that. Don’t forget this is 1975. I was ready though. Like I said I was prepared. I took out the cash from my pocket and handed it over (no credit cards back then for Kung Fu classes). After I gave him the money he said, “Okay, you come back next week.”

From that time on, I would drive the 2 ½ hours every weekend to New York City to train with Grandmaster Shum. After moving to Pittsburgh, I would fly to New York and spend four 8 hour days training. The amazing thing was that group classes didn't start until five o’clock, so I got personal instruction in the finer points of Kung Fu and Tai Chi from Grandmaster Shum for five to six hours before anyone even came to the school.

Traveling to Hong Kong

ng-wai-nung-lau-fat-manIn 1980, I had the honor of traveling to Hong Kong with Grandmaster Shum to meet his teacher the Great Grandmaster Ng Wai Nung. He took me to the school where he trained. It was on the roof of a four-story building. There were several students there working out. The Great Grandmaster asked me to perform several routines and other tests of strength and endurance.

When I was finished, he asked me to come back the next day. He awarded me my Master’s Certification. Unlike most certificates on paper, this one was a handmade cloth scroll.

In 1986, I moved to Pittsburgh and opened my third school. Eventually I opened schools in Wexford and West Mifflin. I've also helped some of my other Black Belts open schools, the latest being in Butler.


More Info

I’ve written 6 books on Kung Fu and Tai Chi… and produced over 20 different DVD’s.
-The Beginner's Guide to Kung Fu
- The Secrets of Kung Fu
- Kung Fu for Little Dragons
- A Simplified Guide to Tai Chi
- A Master's Handbook on Eagle Claw Kung Fu
- An Instructor's Teaching Guide for Kung Fu & Tai Chi

One of my goals is making sure that everyone that comes to the Academy has an excellent experience. Even after 50 years of teaching, I still enjoy working with people to help them achieve their goals. Nothing brings more joy then to see a big smile on someone’s face when they accomplish something that they never thought possible.

Because of this dedication to helping others we have received some recognition that we are proud of:
2005 - Voted Best Martial Arts School - (readers of the Gateway Star)
2006 - Voted Best Martial Arts School - (readers of the City Paper)
2007 - Voted Best Martial Arts School - (readers of the Tribune Review)
2008 - Voted Best Martial Arts School - (readers of the Tribune Review)
2009 - Voted Best Kung Fu School - (readers of the City Paper)
2009 - Voted Best Martial Arts School - (readers of the Tribune Review)
2010 - Voted One of the Kung Fu & Tai Chi School - (City Paper)
2010 - Voted One of the Best Martial Arts School - (Tribune Total Media)
2011 - Voted One of the Best (Gold) Martial Arts School - (Tribune Review)
2012 - Voted the Best Martial Arts School - (readers of the Tribune Review)
2013 - Voted the Best (Gold) Award - (readers of Trib Total Media)

We are also members of the following professional organizations:
- The National Association of Professional Martial Artists
- The Martial Arts Teachers Association
- The Martial Arts Industry Association
- The Ying Jow Pai Association.

A Little History

Map2Originally, Kung Fu was used for exercise by the monks in the Shaolin Monastery in 500 AD. After long periods of meditation, their bodies grew weak. The study five different animals to develop a complete exercise program: The Tiger for Strength, The Leopard for Sinews, the Crane for Leg strength, the Snake for Breathing, and the Dragon for waist and lower back. When they got attacked by bandits, they also could use these techniques for defense.

Tai Chi developed in the 1600’s by combining the actions of the Crane with the breathing and the smooth graceful movements of the snake.

About the Classes

When I first started training, classes were several hours long. My schools were opened 24 hours. There were always people working out. Of course, we only had 3 TV stations, no internet, and no video games. However, with our busy lifestyles today most people cannot devote that much time to working out, staying healthy, and learning some self-defense skills. So, I created classes that are 30 to 45 minutes in length.

This was a complicated feat. I wanted classes for beginners so anyone could enjoy the classes, but I also needed more advanced classes to challenge people with more advanced training as their conditioning, flexibility and skills improved.

The Kung Fu Fit classes consist of Kung Fu flexibility exercises, special breathing to keep the internal organs healthy, traditional hard-hitting Kung Fu basics, aerobic kickboxing for quick reflexes, and combat ready self-defense to handle any attacker. Classes are geared toward getting you in shape fast.

Tai Chi classes are for seniors that need a less stressful workout. Tai Chi uses slow motion postures to relieve stress, promote relaxation as you develop balance, flexibility, and strength.

I developed the Kids Fit classes to develop 4 areas: social skills, physical skills, emotional skills, and Intellectual Skills. We use the Kung Fu (Kung Fu means to work hard toward a goal) techniques to develop these 4 areas through focus, concentration, and respect.

The Trial Course

A lot of people are not sure they might want to do Kung Fu or Tai Chi… or they know that they want to do it and are not quite sure how to get started. That was my case. I always wanted to do Kung Fu and Tai Chi, but was a little scared to go on my own. I thought! Is it going to be too hard? Am I in shape enough to do it? How long do I have to do it? Am I going to get hurt?

Then, I discovered that one of the local schools offered a Trial Course. It didn’t cost a lot, so my parents let me give it a try. I found three other friends to go with me. It was the best thing that I ever did. We would go to class and after an exhilarating workout, we always stop somewhere for dinner. It was always a fun night.

That’s why I always recommend the Trial Course. This is a great way to try it out and see if it’s going to for you. So, whether you want to shape up, have your child develop more focus or discipline, or want a low-impact way to exercise and relief stress… give the Trial Course a try. I know you’ll be glad you did.

>>>Get the Trial Course Now!

The Finest Professional Kung Fu & Tai Chi Instructors

Master Rothrock has headed the academy for over 50 years, and along with his staff of expert and Professional Black Belt Instructors, we offer you a unique, safe and fun classroom experience to meet or exceed your goals.

Many martial arts schools come and go or many are part-time clubs that are only open a few days a week. Many instructors do this as a hobby or are not qualified to teach a martial art. Contrary to what most people believe, a black belt does not make you an instructor or teacher.

Here at the Academy, you have the assurance that we have a long history of success and have trained thousands of students over the years. We are a full time professional Academy. Along with Master Rothrock, he has full-time professional instructors and staff dedicated to your overall goals and success.

Chief Kung Fu & Tai Chi Martial Arts Coaches


Bill White – Sifu Level – Started training in 1994 under Master Rothrock in Pittsburgh. He’s been teaching and managing the Pittsburgh Academy for over 22 years
David Belsky – Sifu Level – Started his training with Master Rothrock in 1975 in Wilkes Barre, PA. He’s been training and teaching for 41 years. He is currently Master Rothrock’s oldest training student. He’s a disciple of Master Rothrock and runs the Wilkes Barre academy.
Alan Pesotine – Sifu Level – Started his training under Master Rothrock in 1980. He’s been teaching and operating the Scranton/Duryea area studio for 36 years. He’s Master Rothrock’s second oldest training student and is a disciple.
Mike Solito – 4th Level Black – Studied various styles of martial arts before finding a home at Rothrock’s Kung Fu in 2003. He manages the Wexford studio.
Rhett Lauffenburger – 3rd Level Black – Began his training with Master Rothrock in 2000. After earning his first Black sash, he decided that he wanted to help pass on what he’d learned. He manages the West Mifflin academy.
Rob Pagonis – 2nd Level Black – Began his training with Master Rothrock in 2010. After earning his first Black sash, he decided that he wanted to help pass on what he’d learned. He now owns Rothrock’s Kung Fu & Tai Chi in Butler.