How many times has the infamous one-inch punch sent a poor, unfortunate soul hurling in the air during a martial arts movie? Bruce Lee’s fame skyrocketed when he taught this skill in the West to eager students. “Ip Man” starring Donnie Yen tells the story of how Bruce Lee’s teacher struggled to survive during the Sino-Japanese War era, yet inadvertently spread the martial art form, Wing Chung throughout China.
It is very obvious that writers Edmond Wong and Chan Tai-Li faced the daunting task of compressing years of history and details of Yip’s life into 90 minutes.
However, Director Wilson Yip takes their vision and portrays Ip Man as a loyal Chinese citizen whose immense talent piqued the interests of other Chinese people who are bullied by a Japanese gang.
Their leader, played by Louis Fab Siu-Wong, arrived in Foshan determined to establish himself as a Martial Arts teacher by defeating all of the Martial Arts teachers in the area.
After Ip Man effortlessly beats him, him, the workers at a cotton factory ran by his brother (Chow Ching-Chen played by Simon Yam) flee to Ip Man to train them when the Japanese gang robs them.
In addition to the attacks from Japanese war lords, Ip Man also faces a match with General Miura who wants Ipman to teach his Japanese army Kung Fu. Ip Man’s courage here is incredibly admirable and the support from his fellow Chinese citizens is overwhelming.
Although the film focuses on Ip Man’s career and rise in the ranks as a Martial Arts specialist, it also examines the strain that his career put on his personal life. His wife, Cheung Wing-Sing (Lynn Hung) is devoted to her husband but expresses her disdain for the lack of time he spends with her and their son. However, as the film progresses, we see Ip Man’s family strengthened amidst his financial struggles caused by the Japanese invasion. Although he is forced to work in the coal fields, he finds solace in his wife’s happiness about being together. She never hounds him about the fact that he is hardly able to provide food for them. Instead, she console him and listens to his troubles which makes the film a heart-felt romance.
It needs to be said that the Martial arts of the film is nothing short of a skillful demonstration of Kung Fu executed by experts of the arts. In several scenes, Ip Man executes a win mill-type series of punches without breaking a sweat. In fact, he faces each opponent with the soft energy most typical of the Wing Chung art form. When Louis Fab Siu-Wong sees the Chinese people defend themselves with Wing Chung, he automatically laughs at their efforts- still convinced that Japanese Kung Fu is superior to Chinese Whing Chung Kung Fu. However, Ip Man’s effortless defeats against his opponents prove to challenge and discredit his conclusions.
“Ip Man” is a story of inspiration and courage from the standpoint of Bruce Lee’s legendary teacher. The story ends by alluding to Ip Man’s escape to Hong Kong where he meets Bruce Lee. “Ip Man” rates 5 of 5 stars and is a must-see.