Ip Man – a movie made in 2008 starring Donnie Yen is about the man of the same name, the Grandmaster of Wing Chun – Ip Man (or Yip Man) before his death from throat cancer in 1972.
One of the reasons I think this movie was so popular wasn’t just the story but the connection to Bruce Lee. Let’s face it, every Martial Arts fan loves Bruce Lee, and Ip Man was Bruce’s first instructor in Wing Chun (William Cheung being another of his instructors, but under Ip Man), and a movie about Bruce Lee’s teacher is pretty much guaranteed to bring some attention.
But Ip Man is a great movie that stands well on it’s own , without the Bruce Lee references, and really pays a good tribute to Ip Man, however semi fictional.
My only slight disappointment is the way a lot of movies that are ‘based on a true story’ seem to go far above and beyond the truth, but then again the truth might not have been that entertaining.The story starts off with Ip Man living in Foshan, a southern part of China in the 1930’s that has a large martial arts community. We’re shown the level of skill Ip Man has through various challenge fights at the beginning by Kung Fu teachers and the head of a travelling gang. Needless to say, Ip defeats all of these guys in cool cinematic style (with a few far fetched flips and wire work, gotta keep the people happy!).
But this just sets up the character of Ip Man, showcasing his gentle nature and high level of martial arts mastery. The real story begins when war hits China and Foshan is occupied by the Japanese. Ip Man and his family, now homeless, then try to get by as best as they can. Ip gets a job shovelling coal, when he is given the opportunity to fight Japanese men in front of the Japanese General Miura.
In classic movie style Ip Man becomes noticed by the evil General and his men, and becomes a target. Ip then must avoid being captured which leads to a lot of back forth between him and the Japanese, escalating and leading to some cool kung fu fights, with a few other fights with the travelling gang along the way.
Ultimately the story of this movie is pretty straight forward, but it demonstrates a certain circle of life (they didn’t hold up cubs over a cliff edge like in the Lion King, sorry) of a life long martial artist.
A Movie about the Teacher…
With Ip Man historically being famous as Bruce Lee’s teacher, a heavy theme on his transition into teaching is put forward to the audience.
At the beginning of the movie, Ip has plenty of money, he trains regularly on his wooden dummy, fights off guys and has a pretty cruisy existence.
But when times get tough during the Japanese occupation of Foshan, he comes to the conclusion that even though his talents in martial arts & fighting are great, he is but one man and is ‘completely useless’ (as he puts it, even after taking on 10 black belts and beating them easily).
That’s when Chow Ching-chuen’s Cotton mill is attacked by the travelling gang and he is told that he must teach in bad times. Since people have become so vulnerable to oppression, it’s no longer just a matter of choice. He then realises the value in passing on what he knows by teaching the factory workers, who then use their training (with the help of Ip of course) to fight off the gang when they return.
The role of Ip Man as a teacher in real life, becomes a major part of his character in the movie.
The Racial Oppression
Like most Chinese Kung Fu movies set in this period (when Japanese have occupied various parts of the country), a show of strength against the condescending attitude of the Japanese plays a major part. Of course the Japanese are portrayed as being quite evil and Ip’s attitude towards them is that of someone who has no respect for them.
After seeing Chinese people die needlessly in the Japanese dojo, Ip takes on 10 Black belts and beats them senseless, to prove they’re not as above the Chinese as they believe. He then refuses to take home the rice he ‘won’ for his victory, leaving it has the feet of the Japanese men as he exits.
The on going battle of the movie is primarily Ip against the Japanese General, refusing to fight him. Even when he is caught, he doesn’t accept any food or anything they have to offer – not so much a statement against Japanese people but against any type of racial prejudice, or oppression. A strong part of China’s history.
The Martial Arts of the Film
This movie has a very unique style within it’s fight scenes due to the character and style Donnie Yen was portraying.
Donnie Yen trained for a year under Ip Chun, the son of Ip Man, i order to get a solid foundation of the art so he could portray Ip’s fighting style as accurately as possible. It’s actually quite refreshing to see a movie where the main character doesn’t do these superhuman flips and moves (except maybe once or twice) to defeat his opponents, but instead uses an awesome degree of speed and precise technique.
The portrayal of Wing Chun is amazing, Donnie Yen’s used it in every fight scene. The close range fighting range is constantly used and Donnie manages to pull off the Wing Chun straight blast (a series of speed punches performed rapidly) so damn well.
This makes the fight scenes believable and incredibly exciting. I watched them over and over when I first saw them.
All in all, I’d say the fight scenes are entertaining for anyone watching the movie, but if understand martial arts technique and recognize certain moves and styles, you’ll be really immersed in this portrayal of Wing Chun in an action movie!
Finding the Movie..
As usual here’s a few links to buy the movie if you want to own it for yourself!
On Blu-Ray –
Region A (US & Canada)
Ip Man on Blu Ray
Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, etc)
Ip Man on Blu Ray
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Ip Man on DVD
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Ip Man on DVD
Region 4 (Australia & New Zealand)
Ip Man on DVD
or Watch Ip Man Online here (US & Canada)