The ancient art of kung fu goes digital

Story highlights

  • Artist Tobias Gremmier has turned kung fu movements into stunning video art
  • The digital designer used the motion of real kung fu masters

(CNN)The study of martial arts has existed for centuries, but one digital designer has found a way to portray the ancient practice in a new light.

In a series of beautiful motion visualizations, Tobias Gremmler deftly translates the movement of kung fu masters -- swiveling, lunging, blocking, charging -- into captivating geometric and abstract video art.
    It took the self-taught designer, who is originally from Munich but based in Hong Kong, around 10 days to analyze the motion data for the artwork, which was commissioned by the International Guoshu Association to help preserve the legacy of martial arts.
    "It's interesting because it is only by reconstructing that you can truly appreciate the complexity and beauty of human motion and form," Gremmler told CNN.
    Taking into account all the different ways the body can maneuver was no easy task.
    The physics of acceleration, deceleration, and rotation mean that even the simplest of movements can be a challenge to capture.

    Seeing the unseen

    In this instance, Gremmler had real fighters provide the original motion -- Master Wong Yiu Kau, and Master Li Shek Lin, the latter who is seen artfully brandishing a trident in the last two variations.
    Gremmler's goal was for the humans to vanish, and for the focus to be the movement itself.
    "I analyzed the data based on its velocity so whenever a particular body part started to move faster, I made it more visible," he said. "It's really about translating time into visual representation and geometry."
    He also made use of motion trails to accentuate motions.
    "When they are further back in time -- two or three or four seconds old -- they start to vanish," Gremmler said.
    In accenting certain motions over others, Gremmier believes he is revealing the unseen -- a subtle but key concept in the world of martial arts.
    "The faster the movement, the more important the movement is actually (in kung fu) -- those are the movements that are trained very heavily but our perception system can barely see these," Gremmler said.