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Film / Ip Man

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Ip Man is a 2008 Hong Kong martial arts film directed by Wilson Yip. It is very loosely based on the life of Bruce Lee's eponymous master, played by Donnie Yen, and the first installment of the Ip Man film series.

In 1935, Foshan, China is a place renowned for having a great number of martial arts schools. Ip Man is known to all as the greatest master in town, despite having no desire to take on students or test his art against rivals. Yet when a troupe of upstart Northerners successfully beats up the other local masters, it falls on Ip Man to defend Foshan's honor.

About one third into the film, the story skips ahead in time. Japan invades China in 1937, and occupies Foshan in October 1938. His mansion confiscated by the Japanese, Ip Man is forced to shovel coal to feed his family and learns of matches the Japanese are staging between their karate exponents and Foshan's former martial arts masters. When a friend's failure costs him his life, Ip Man's vengeful demolishing of ten Japanese pugilists draws the attention of the Japanese General Miura. Ip wants no more of it, but when a group of bandits threaten a friend's factory, some of whom are all too familiar, it starts a series of events that spiral to a final confrontation between Ip and Miura.

A sequel, Ip Man 2, was released in 2010.

This film provides examples of:

  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: The fighters from the north—and particularly their leader—come to Foshan and start beating up all the local masters in challenges. Since they are on an undefeated streak, they don’t respect anyone else’s martial arts and will not stop bullying people until Ip Man stops them.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Officer Li Zhao pulls out his revolver and points it directly in Ip's face. Thankfully, Ip disarms him before something goes terribly wrong. Interestingly, Ip blocks the hammer and trigger, then pops out the cylinder of the revolver, showing that he has some basic knowledge of firearms (the real Ip Man actually worked as a policeman).
  • Artistic License – History: See the film series' article.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: Despite what the film implies, Karate was not as patriotic or culturally representative to Japan as Wing Chun was to China at the time of the setting, and in fact was considered somewhat of a foreign curiosity due to its Okinawan origin. Instead, it would have been more accurate to portray the Japanese soldiers as practitioners of Judo or jujutsu, which were the "official" martial arts of the Japanese imperial military. However, as fans of Mixed Martial Arts will know, the resultant fighting scenes would have been vastly different from the final product and would have not resembled your classic martial arts flick, so it can be taken as Acceptable Breaks from Reality in order to allow for more conventional, kick-to-kick fighting scenes.
  • Blood Knight: General Miura's character is defined by a desire to pit the Chinese martial arts against his Japanese karate.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sato's actual gun. Used first to kill Liu, then to play "bang bang" with Ip Man's son, then to threaten Ip Man, then to shoot Ip Man, then Li Zhao turns it on him.
  • Colonel Badass: Averted with Sato, who most definitely is not cool. Miura, on the other hand, is a Four-Star Badass and textbook example of the noble Samurai warrior.
  • Comforting Comforter: In one scene, Ip Man is shown draping a blanket over the shoulders of his sleeping wife and son.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Both played straight and averted, where both the titular hero and General Miura can throw down with multiple opponents with ease but Master Liu, who had been winning at the one-on-one Japanese-staged matches, tries to take on three at once and gets his ass handed to him.
  • Crapsack World: The city of Foshan becomes this during the war.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Though the choregraphy avoids any potential boredom. The opponents Ip Man curb-stomps usually were curb-stomping their opponents before he shows up, also helping to reduce the boredom and make the wins more impressive. A Lampshade Hanging occurs in the final fight against General Miura, where Ip Man caps off by pinning the other guy against a pole and going to town while scenes of his practice on a training dummy are interposed.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Inspector Li repays Col. Sato's cruelty by kicking out his knee and hobbling him while he's out cold and later by turning Sato's own pistol on him and blowing his brains out.
  • Donnie Yen Is Going To Kick Your Ass: Seen in the above poster on the trope page, and here and here.
  • The Dragon: Colonel Sato is this to General Miura.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Ip Man's initial duel with Master Liu serves as a pretty efficient one. When Liu first shows up, Ip Man tries to politely decline the challenge, explaining that he's eating dinner with his family; when Liu insists on waiting, Ip Man genially invites him to join them for dinner; then, during the duel itself, Ip Man absolutely annihilates Liu in a Curb-Stomp Battle, but holds his punches and even stops at one point when it looks like Liu might have really hurt himself.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: General Miura isn't pleased with Colonel Sato murdering Chinese who lose in the daily bouts for food:
    Miura: This dojo is a place of martial spirit, this (holds pistol to Sato's treacherous head) has no place here; never bring it here again. Have I made myself clear!!"
  • Final Battle: Between Ip Man and Miura.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Everyone already knows that he would survive the Japanese invasion of China since he'll become Bruce Lee's martial arts master.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Colonel Sato wears a pair of small, round-lens glasses and is a cruel and detestable soldier.
  • Gang of Hats: The Axe Gang.
  • Henpecked Husband: Jin accused Ip of being one when he refused to fight him in his house.
    • Ironically, Jin himself becomes one in the second movie, but to his credit he is also a loving husband and father.
  • Hot-Blooded: Zealot Lin.
  • Improvised Weapon: Ip Man defeats a sword-wielding opponent (Jin) with his wife's feather duster. He takes on Jin again later on with a long bamboo pole.
  • Irony: With all its anti-Japanese sentiments, the heart-stirring theme of the film, swelling with Chinese pride is composed by Japanese composer Kenji Kawai, famous for his unforgettable musical scores for the Ghost in the Shell films and the Anime adaptation of the Visual Novel Fate/stay night.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Li, the police captain, exhibits this. His first scene in the movie consists of him denigrating Kung Fu and its practitioners, and when the Japanese arrive, he willingly serves as their interpreter, which includes persuading his fellow Chinese to take part in sparring matches against the Japanese (which is shown to result in the occasional Chinese death or humiliation). Ip Man even calls him out for being so willing to help the invading Japanese. Then, it's shown later, he's using what he gets from his interpreter job to support his family, and is likely to be the only one able to do so (the other shown members of said family are all elderly, children/late adolescent at most, or crippled). Not to mention, he hides Ip Man and his family from General Miura, and kills Colonel Sato for shooting Ip.
  • Kung-Shui: Jin smashes up some of Ip's stuff while the latter is merely dodging, before his son comes in, conveying a message from his wife to get serious. Ip does and prevents any more vases from getting broken.
    Jin: (After breaking a vase) I'll pay for that.
    Ip: You will.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Li Zhao, who becomes a translator for General Miura and Colonel Sato to feed his family. He is eventually shown to be a more sympathetic example than most, since it's clear that he does not revel in his new position and later provides shelter for Ip and his family when Miura and Sato start actively searching for them. In a deleted scene his fellow villagers beat him to death for being a sell-out after he kills Sato.
  • Mook Chivalry:
    • Averted in Master Liu's fight against three men.
    • Played straight in Ip Man's subsequent fight against ten men. While it's difficult to fight effectively with a group that large, they certainly go down easier than the ones that fought Master Liu, and as a whole seem to wait their turn to go down with little effort. Though once their ranks thin, they do get a bit better.
  • Mook Horror Show: Probably the best way to describe the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown being dished out on the ten blackbelts.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Jin's sword doesn't help him much against Ip Man. On the other hand, Ip has no qualms against arming himself.
  • Noble Demon: Miura, who is more motivated by patriotism in his viciousness than sadism like his cowardly-subordinate Sato, shows respect towards his Chinese enemies, and is in his own brutal way an honorable, traditional Japanese Warrior.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Liberally used by the Japanese. The film doesn't bother hiding its nationalism. Two specific examples are Master Liu getting thrashed by three Japanese pugilists and Ip Man going to town on General Miura. The downright horrific beatdown the TEN blackbelts receive from Ip Man after Master Liu is executed for taking a bag of rice without winning his fight to earn it deserves special mention.
    • Really, almost every fight in the movie is incredibly one-sided leading to one of these... The only time it's averted is when the beatdown-er is a goddamn saint (... AKA Ip Man when he's not severely pissed off).
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: While the different schools of kung fu are elaborately listed by their names, the name of the Japanese fighting style is never mentioned despite it being painfully obvious that it's karate.
  • Offhand Backhand: How General Miura punishes Zealot Lin trying to sneak attack him.
  • Oh, Crap!: The expression on the tenth karateka's face after Ip has swiftly and brutally beaten down the other nine and begins to walk slowly towards him.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: Averted twice.
    • Though we see Ming vases at Ip Man's home, the thing that actually breaks during the fight with Jin is cheap dish.
    • In the next scene Ip Man is being offered the best vase in his shop by a street vendor. The Law of Conservation of Detail would let us assume it will break later on, but it doesn't happen.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: General Miura throws down with three guys in his first appearance and takes them down without much fuss. Ultimately he is the only one who actually manages to land some real hits on Ip Man.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: At one point, Wing Chun is made fun of for being feminine. Without any shame, Ip Man admits that Wing Chun was invented by a woman.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The final fight ends by showing the footage that Bruce Lee commissioned of the real Ip Man practicing with his wooden dummy.
  • Ring Out: The final fight against General Miura is on a raised platform with this as a defeat condition.
  • Rival Turned Evil: While he and Ip Man never became friends until the sequel, Jin descended from martial artist rivalry to becoming a bandit and later selling Ip Man's last known whereabouts to the Japanese.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Ip Man's demolishing of the ten karateka may be one of these.
  • Seppuku: Miura's fate in a deleted scene.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The primary antagonists of this film have high government connections. This serves to make Ip Man the underdog, despite being, well, Ip Man.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: A deleted scene shows Li Zhao beaten to death by a mob in retaliation for collaborating with the Japanese against his will, bringing his tragic character arc to sudden and violent end. It's not known whether this is canon or if the final cut instead allowed Zhao to live with his mistakes, since Jin's death scene was also deleted and he turns up alive and well in the sequel.
  • Smug Snake: Colonel Sato, who makes leering grins liberally, crosses the Moral Event Horizon not long after his first appearance, dishes out No Holds Barred Beatdowns liberally and keeps asking to (and getting denied from) Just Shoot our hero.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A few times, despite the overall nature of the film;
    • Master Liu, who's been kicking arse and taking names in one-on-one duels, tries to up the difficulty to take three karateka at once. It doesn't end well.
    • Ip attempts Training the Peaceful Villagers so that his friend's factory workers can defend themselves against the bandits. However, the bandits are hardened criminals used to violence and they are not. It doesn't work.note 
    • Ip Man beats Miura and stands around dramatically while thinking about the cost of the war. Then he is shot. This is a particularly good example, since the film made it very clear that Ip would be killed if he didn't throw the match, even showing Sato's hand edging towards his holster in the middle of the fight.
  • Tactful Translation: After Ip Man beats up the ten Karate black belts and tells off the general, the translator gives the general a much more polite version of Ip Man's words.
  • Tap on the Head: Both used and averted, as many mooks go down from a single strike to the head, but named characters are more resilient. Even some mooks put up more of a fight. Ip Man either has to severely beat, or outright break the limbs of almost all the Japanese black belts in the 10-on-1 fight, for example.
  • Too Dumb to Live: You will say to yourself "No! Don't do that, you idiot!" when Zealot Lin decides to make a final attempt to attack Miura while his back is turned after their matched had been clearly finished. At this point Lin was battered, bruised and likely internally bleeding, and he barely stood a chance against him when he was fresh.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Subverted. The son of the mill owner seems confident about his fighting skills after being trained by Ip Man. However that feeling doesn't last long when facing Jin's gang in combat.
  • Training Montage: When Ip Man is Training the Peaceful Villagers.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Subverted, where our hero trains the workers at Quan's factory in Wing Chun to help them resist a group of bandits, only for the bandits to prevail anyway until Ip Man pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Translation Convention: In the Cantonese dub, Foshaners speak Cantonese while Jin's Northerners speak Mandarin. In the Mandarin dub, both groups of Chinese speak Mandarin. However, Japanese speak uninterpreted Japanese.
  • Tranquil Fury: Does Ip Man look like he's doing a literal Roaring Rampage of Revenge on the blackbelts?
  • Undefeatable Little Village: Subverted. Master Yip trains his entire local village in Wing Chun in order to fight off the bandits. However, the newly attained skills didn't prove effective and it needed Ip Man's presence to stop the gang from doing more harm to the workers.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film's historical inaccuracies are discussed here.
  • Villain Respect: Miura clearly holds Ip Man in high regard after seeing him curb-stomp ten of his men. His opinion of Ip raises further when Ip refuses his rightfully-earned rice, and only takes Master Liu's bag. Miura spends the rest of the film hunting down Ip to challenge him to a one-on-one fight.


Ip Man

Ip Man Wing Chun Against 10 Karate Black Belts.

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