Karen Sheperd

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Karen Lee Sheperd
Born (1961-11-12) 12 November 1961 (age 58)
OccupationMartial artist, stunt double, actress
Years active1981–present

Karen Sheperd (born November 12, 1961) is an American martial artist, stunt double and actress who has worked in film, theatre and television.

Sheperd was the first woman to hold the title of #1 Women's Black Belt Forms Champion and was instrumental in pioneering recognition for female martial arts forms competitors.



During her reign as the #1 Women's Black Belt forms champion, Sheperd received an offer from Tadashi Yamashita to star in The Shinobi Ninja.[1] This was her first film.

After filming Shinobi Ninja in Japan in 1981, Sheperd retired from competition to study acting in Los Angeles, California.[citation needed]

A few of the films she subsequently starred in are:

Sheperd is known for her character as "The Enforcer" on television's Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Her first episode, titled "The Enforcer", received the highest ratings for the entire series.[2] Author Robert Weisbrot said "The fight scenes between Hercules and the Enforcer are among the series' best".[3]

Sheperd has performed on stage (theatre) in such plays as Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams and In the Boom Boom Room by David Rabe.

Martial arts[edit]

Sheperd was the first woman to be officially rated #1 World Karate Champion in forms, a title she held for two years, 1979 and 1980. Before 1979, separate ratings existed for female fighters but not for female forms competitors. Often competing against a field of men, Sheperd believed more women would compete if they had a title to compete for. Sheperd organized a petition to establish the title and garnered the support of tournament promoters to begin offering a separate forms division for female competitors. The editor of Karate Illustrated Magazine, Renardo Barden, established the first official ratings for female forms competitors in 1979. Having gained the highest accumulated 1st place points on the Karate competition circuit, Sheperd achieved the #1 rating by Karate Illustrated Magazine for 1979 and 1980.[4]

Sheperd also had the distinction of being the first #1 Women's Forms Champion in the STAR System World Kickboxing Ratings (Standardized Tournaments And Ratings) System which was established in 1980 by editor Paul Maslak for Kick Illustrated Magazine.[5]

Sheperd was the first woman to ever win the Grand Championship title over all male and female forms competitors at the US Open Battle of the Superstars at the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, Florida on November 1, 1980. Her victory with her signature chain whip was featured on "The World of People" television show.[citation needed]

As the nation's top-rated woman, Karen Sheperd continued her dominance by defeating Belinda Davis, Cynthia Rothrock and Lori Clapper in Women's Black Belt Forms at the Diamond Nationals on May 2, 1981 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[6]

In 1992 Sheperd was voted the "Most Popular Female Martial Arts Superstar" by readers of Inside Kung Fu Magazine.[7] In 1997 Sheperd was inducted into the prestigious Black Belt Hall of Fame as "Woman of the Year".[8] In 2002, she was inducted into the Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame.[9]

She currently holds the rank of 7th degree Black Belt (martial arts) in the art of Wun Hop Kuen Do, based on the Kajukenbo system founded by Al Dacascos. While Al Dacascos is her head instructor in Wun Hop Kuen Do, Sheperd was the protégé (for forms competition) of Malia Bernal, stepmother of Mark Dacascos.[citation needed]



Year Title Role Notes
1981 The Shinobi Ninja Elizabeth Smith
1982 The Concrete Jungle Kung Fu
1986 America 3000 Keva
1986 Above the Law Karen
1991 Blood Chase Cheryl Anderson
1992 Mission of Justice Lynn Steele
1993 Terminator Woman Sgt. Julia A. Parish
1993 Cyborg 2 Chen Video
1994 Operation Golden Phoenix Princess Tara
1997 Soul of the Avenger Zani
1998 Firestorm Carmin
1998 Boogie Boy Marlene
1998 Another Day in Paradise Big Man's Wife
2003 Midnight Expression J.P. Harley Short film
2014 M.A.R.R.A Deidre


Year Title Role Notes
1996 Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Enforcer "The Enforcer", "Not Fade Away"
1998 Diagnosis: Murder Liz Ambrose "The Last Resort"
1999 V.I.P. Leena "Val Goes to Town"
2000 The Privateers Capt. Lana Tori TV film
2011 Criminal Minds Katherine Shepherd "Epilogue"


  1. ^ The Shinobi Ninja on IMDb
  2. ^ http://www.whoosh.org/epguide/herk/
  3. ^ Weisbrot, Robert (1998). Hercules, the legendary journeys : the official companion. New York, N.Y.: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-32569-X.
  4. ^ "1979 Karate Illustrated Competitive Ratings". Karate Illustrated Magazine. 11 (5): 30–34. May 1980.
  5. ^ "Kata Ratings". Inside Kung Fu: 47. October 1980.
  6. ^ McIntosh, J.R. (2 May 1981). "Harris, Chung & Limas Win Big at the Diamond Nationals". Sport Karate. 4 (5): 24–30, 39.
  7. ^ "And the Winner is...". Inside Kung Fu: 56. September 1992.
  8. ^ "Yearbook 1997". Black Belt Magazine. 34: 36–37. Fall 1998.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-17. Retrieved 2011-03-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]