bart rijnbout | photographer |

The Art of War

'Do you also participate in competitions?' I am often asked when a conversation lands on Kungfu. The media have shaped certain stereotypes and it's hard to explain that the true spirit of the martial arts has little to do with the concept of sport. It goes far beyond that. Of course there is heavy physical training, and sparring is a considerable part of the training, but the ultimate goal is not just to defeat the other, to break as many boards as possible or to obtain a black belt in the shortest possible time.

Photography, for example, has more in common with martial arts than you would expect at first sight. Both disciplines, if taken seriously, cannot be practiced as a form of simple amusement or light-hearted entertainment. Both are forms of expression that command a high degree of dedication and perseverance. They require a certain attitude towards life that surpasses all forms of recreation.

Achieving a certain level in traditional Chinese Kungfu is an ongoing process. Just like a photographer's, never ending search for the ultimate photo. Both disciplines require an empty state of mind, so your senses can take over. Focus, adjust to the object, know your distance, respond quickly and effectively. Timing is everything. You need your full attention in order to assess the situation. You need to be constantly on guard because when the decisive moment comes, you have to strike (or press the shutter button, if you will). Without hesistating.

The outcomes of this training however, can never be taken for granted but are inseparable from the way it is presented. And how it's absorbed. When once I remarked how difficult it is to find the right trainer, he smiled and replied that it is even more difficult to find the right student.

It is hard to express this sensation in words or in photos. The stills of fast movements of the members of 'Kungfu Wushu Maastricht' in this portfolio mainly show the spectacular exterior but the true spirit comes from within. It's quite a challenge to capture that in a single photo.