I stumbled across IP MAN while browsing Hulu Plus on Friday night. (It’s also on Netflix instant streaming.) I recognized “Ip Man” as the name of Bruce Lee’s first Wing Chun teacher (although I had always seen it as “Yip Man“), and thought I might find a few good fights scenes to enjoy. I ended up loving the film.
Loosely based on Ip Man’s life, the film begins with Ip Man (played by Donnie Yen) already a Wing Chun master living in Foshan with his wife and child. When the Japanese invade, Ip Man loses his wealth and status and must survive by working menial jobs. A Japanese general and karate master arrives and begins staging fights between Chinese and Japanese martial artists. Ip Man is quickly drawn into the general’s dangerous games. (Wikipedia has more information on the film, including a plot synopsis.)
Although the story was thoroughly engrossing, I was blown away by the fight scenes. My own martial art — White Lotus Kung Fu — owes some of its heritage to Wing Chun, but I’d never seen a movie where it was featured before. Not only was the choreography fantastic — thanks to the legendary Sammo Hung — but Wilson Yip directs the film so you can actually see the moves.
As a result, I was able to identify dozens of moves that are present in techniques and forms I’m currently learning! In class, we’re always shown the uses of the moves we learn, but there’s a big difference in seeing them demonstrated in class and seeing them used — full-speed — on screen. I mean, wow. I particularly loved seeing how the strikes a Wing Chun practitioner uses when practicing with a wooden dummy translated into fighting techniques. Wing Chun is famous for being efficient and effective at close range. This film reinforces that fact a hundred times over.
I will be watching this film again. And again. And maybe a few times after that. I couldn’t help but try to mimic some of the moves I saw — especially when Ip Man begins training the cotton mill workers. I see how these moves relate to what I’m learning in class at White Lotus. There were several points in the film when I bonked my forehead and thought, “Oh! That’s what I’ve been doing wrong with that block!”
Is it a great movie for folks who don’t love martial arts fight scenes? I have no idea. Watch it and let me know.