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Crowdfunded project uses 3D motion capture to catalog ancient Kung Fu styles

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
August 22, 2014
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The influence of Hong Kong action cinema stars like Bruce Lee lives on in today's cinema, but the ancient styles they based their techniques on are slowly dying out. There's now a crowdfuding project aimed at preserving the heritage of different Kung Fu fighting styles, called the Hong Kong Martial Arts Living Archive. It's a collaboration between a martial arts society called the International Guoshu Association (IGU) and the City University of Hong Kong. The goal is to use photos, high-speed video, panoptic video and motion capture to record and quantize the different techniques.

The project organizers believe that fighting styles like Hung Kuen and Wing Kong from the south of China, along with various northern styles, are best preserved in Hong Kong. That's because many of the Kung Fu masters from the nation's north and south converged on Hong Kong due to political instability on the mainland around the turn of the 20th century.

Rather than preserve such techniques in traditional 2D forms as shown above, the group wants to capture them using a rigorous 4D analysis. On top of storing images, video and mocap data, it plans to include physical data like speed, torque, torsion and force data. It's also capturing a large amount of 3D panoptic camera data shot from six different angles. That's because different Kung Fu techniques use different body mechanics, which can't be conveyed by mere drawings or oral descriptions. The archive will create a benchmark for teachers and historians, easily searchable using keywords from a Kung Fu lexicon.

While a large amount of motion capture has already been performed by the City University of Hong Kong, it says funds are starting to run dry. As a result, they've launched a crowdfunding campaign on FringeFunder, with the hope of raising $47,000 to hire motion capture experts. The minimum pledge is about $39, which will get you perks like a framed certificate and project poster, with higher level pledges snagging Kung Fu tours in Hong Kong and even dinner with local celebrities. Check the video below for more information -- and as a reminder of what they're trying to preserve, watch Bruce Lee single-handedly transform US television.



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