Ip Man (simplified Chinese: 叶问; traditional Chinese: 葉問; pinyin: Yè Wèn) is a 2008 semi-biographical martial arts film based on the life of Ip Man, a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun and the first person to teach Wing Chun openly. One of his students was the widely influential and acclaimed martial artist and filmmaker Bruce Lee. The film focuses on events in Ip's life that took place in the city of Foshan during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The film was directed by Wilson Yip, and stars Donnie Yen as Ip Man, with martial arts choreography by Sammo Hung. The supporting cast includes Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Lam Ka-Tung, Xing Yu and Hiroyuki Ikeuchi.
The idea of an Ip Man biopic originated in 1998 when Jeffrey Lau and Corey Yuen discussed the idea of making a film based on Bruce Lee's martial arts master. However, the studio producing the proposed film closed, and the project was abandoned. Producer Raymond Wong decided to develop his own Ip Man film with full consent from Ip's sons, and had filmmakers head to Foshan to research Ip's life. Ip Chun, Ip Man's eldest son, and several other Wing Chun practitioners served as technical consultants for the film. Principal photography for Ip Man began in March 2008 and ended in August; filming took place in Shanghai, which was used to architecturally recreate Foshan. During filming, conflicts arose between the producers of Ip Man and filmmaker Wong Kar-wai over the film's working title. Wong, who had been developing his own Ip Man biopic, clashed with the producers after learning that their film would be titled Grandmaster Ip Man (traditional Chinese: 一代宗師葉問), which was too similar to the title of Wong's film. The producers of Ip Man agreed to change the title, despite Wong's film being in development hell.
Ip Man was released theatrically in Hong Kong on 19 December 2008, receiving widespread acclaim from critics and audiences. Prior to the film's release, Raymond Wong announced that there would be a sequel; a second installment, titled Ip Man 2, was released in April 2010. Ip Man grossed over US$21 million worldwide, despite not being released in North America and most of Europe. Following its success, the film was nominated for 12 Hong Kong Film Awards, winning awards for Best Film and Best Action Choreography.
Ip Man is set in the 1930s in Foshan, a hub of southern Chinese martial arts, where various schools actively recruit disciples and compete against each other. Although the Wing Chun master Ip Man is the most skilled martial artist in Foshan, he is unassuming and keeps a low profile. As an independently wealthy man, he feels no need to accept any disciples and instead spends his days training, meeting with friends, and spending time with his family?although his wife is often resentful of the time he spends training and discussing martial arts with friends and colleagues. Though not a professional martial artist, Ip is respected in Foshan due to the abilities he displays in friendly, closed-door competitions with local masters. Ip's reputation is further enhanced when he defeats an aggressive, rude, highly skilled Northern master, Jin Shanzhao, thus upholding the regional pride of fellow Southern stylists and others in Foshan.
The Japanese invasion in 1937 adversely affects the life of everyone in Foshan. Ip's house is claimed by the Japanese and used as their Foshan headquarters. Ip and his family lose their wealth and are forced to move into a decrepit house. Desperate to support his family, Ip accepts work as a coolie at a coal mine. The Japanese Colonel Miura, who is a master of the Japanese martial art Karate, establishes an arena where Chinese martial artists compete with his military trainees. The Chinese martial artists earn a bag of rice for every Japanese opponent they defeat. When one of his friends goes missing, Ip investigates and discovers the matches. At first disturbed by the spectacle, he is further enraged when he sees a fellow Foshan master killed while trying to take a bag of rice given to the master after his defeat of a Japanese opponent. To further complicate matters Ip also discovers that his friend, Li Zhao, a former police officer and Ip's friend, is now working as a translator for the Japanese. In response, Ip demands a match with ten Karatekas at once, and defeats them with ease. His abilities arouse the interest of Miura, who seeks to learn more about Ip and see him fight again.
Ip visits his old friend Chow Ching-chuen, who owns and runs a cotton mill in Foshan. Chow tells Ip that a highway robbery gang led by Jin Shanzhao is harassing his workers and extorting money from them. Ip trains the workers in Wing Chun for self defense. Meanwhile, Miura grows impatient when Ip does not return to the arena and sends men to find Ip. These men harass Ip's family, and Ip incapacitates them. He and his family then go into hiding. The robbers return to the cotton mill to demand money. The workers fight back using the techniques that Ip taught them. Just then, Ip appears and defeats Jin Shanzhao, warning him never to harass the workers again.
The Japanese soldiers eventually find Ip at the cotton mill. Miura tells Ip that his life will be spared if he trains the Japanese soldiers in Wing Chun. Ip refuses and challenges Miura to a match, which Miura accepts, both because of his love for martial arts and because refusing the challenge would be a loss of face for the Japanese. The match between Ip and Miura is a public one in Foshan's square. Ip wins the fight, defeating Miura with his skills of his Wing Chun.
As the beaten general lays down losing the fight, Ip looks over to the crowd and hears the Chinese cheering him; within the crowd, he spots his wife and child with Chow. Just then, Miura's deputy Sato shoots Ip. This sparks a scuffle between the Chinese audience and the Japanese soldiers. During the scuffle Li kills Sato with his own gun. Ip is taken away amidst the chaos. It is revealed that he survives and escapes to Hong Kong with his family. There, Ip establishes a Wing Chun school, where his students come to include Bruce Lee.