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Ip Man ( ) 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. Ip Man is the first important record of Ip's life. It focuses on events in his life that took place in the city of Foshanmarker 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 ( ), 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 Kongmarker on 19 December 2008, receiving widespread acclaim from critics and audiences. The film grossed over US$21 million worldwide, despite not being released in North America and most of Europe. Following its success, Ip Man was nominated for 12 Hong Kong Film Awards, winning awards for Best Film and Best Action Choreography. A sequel titled Ip Man 2 is currently in post-production, and will be released in May 2010.


Ip Man is set in the 1930s in Foshanmarker, 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. 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 Zhou Qingquan, who owns and runs a cotton mill in Foshan. Zhou 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 Man does not return to the arena. Miura sends men to find Ip. These men harass Ip's family, and Ip incapacitates them. Then Ip and his family 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 Man 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. After an intense match, Ip defeats Miura. Just then, Miura's deputy Sato shoots Ip. This sparks a scuffle between the Chinese audience and the Japanese soldiers. Ip is taken away amidst the chaos. It is revealed that Ip survives and escapes to Hong Kongmarker with his family. There, he establishes a Wing Chun school, where his students come to include Bruce Lee.


  • Donnie Yen (甄子丹) as Ip Man (葉問), a highly skilled martial artist and sole practitioner of Wing Chun martial arts.
  • Simon Yam (任達華) as Zhou Qingquan (周清泉), Ip's friend, and an owner of a cotton mill in Foshan.
  • Fan Siu-Wong as Jin Shanzhao (金山找), an aggressive martial artist who arrives in Foshan to challenge other practitioners.
  • Lynn Hung (熊黛林) as Wing Cheng (張永成), Ip's wife, who disapproves of her husband fighting others.
  • Lam Ka-Tung (林家棟) as Li Zhao (李釗), a police inspector in Foshan, and Ip's friend. He later becomes a translator for the Japanese army during the invasion of China.
  • Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (池內博之) as General Miura (三浦), a Japanese general and a fanatical practioner of karate. During Japan's invasion of China, Miura sets up an arena for Chinese martial artists to fight against his military trainees.
  • Shibuya Tenma (澀谷天馬) as Sato (日軍主任), a sadistic, high-ranking Japanese general, who recruits people to fight in the arena.
  • Chen Zhihui (陳之輝) as Master Liao (廖師傅), a martial arts master, who engages in a friendly duel with Ip.
  • Li Ze (李澤) as Ip Chun (葉准), Ip's son.
  • Xing Yu (行宇) as "Wu Chi" Lin (武痴林), a martial artist and the owner of a local teahouse in Foshan.
  • Wong You-Nam (黃又南) as Sha Danyuan (沙膽源), Lin's troubled young nephew. During the invasion, he becomes a part of Jin Shanzhao's gang of robbers.


Ip Man is the first film based on the life of Ip Man. It also marks the fourth film collaboration between director Wilson Yip and actor Donnie Yen. The two also reunite with co-star Simon Yam after 2005's SPL: Sha Po Lang. The screenplay for Ip Man was written by Edmond Wong, the son of film producer Raymond Wong. Wong was the screenwriter of Yip and Yen's second collaboration, 2006's Dragon Tiger Gate. Ip Man's eldest son, Ip Chun, his student Leo Au Yeung , and Changquan gold medalist To Yu-Hang served as technical consultants for the film, providing advice on the film's story and martial arts choreography. The film's budget was an estimated HK$40 million (US$5,161,254).

The music for the film was provided by veteran Japanese composer Kenji Kawai, who also served as a composer on the 2006 film, Dragon Tiger Gate which featured Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen as director and actor respectively.


The film was originally conceived in 1998 when Jeffrey Lau and Corey Yuen first thought of the idea of making a film based on Ip Man's life. Donnie Yen signed onto the project, hoping to star as Ip, with Stephen Chow co-starring as Bruce Lee. Yen had signed the contract and received part of the acting fee. However, the studio producing the film closed, and the project was abandoned.

In December 2007, plans to make a new Ip Man film were announced with the filmmakers researching Ip's life in Foshanmarker. Producer Raymond Wong stated that the film would take on a similar look and feel to SPL: Sha Po Lang.


Principal photography for Ip Man began in March 2008, and was completed by the end of August. A majority of the film focuses on events surrounding Ip Man that took place in Foshan in the 1930s and 1940s during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Since the buildings in modern-day Foshan are architecturally different from the ones of the film's period, the filmmakers decided to shoot the film in Shanghai.

Filming first took place in a storeroom in the industrial district of Shanghai. Having difficulties scouting a cotton factory suitable for shooting, set designers decided to recreate one in the style of the 1930s. They spent weeks transforming an abandoned storeroom into the Zhen Hua Cotton Mill Factory, a 1930s cotton mill factory founded by Ip’s friend Zhou Qing Quan (played in the film by Simon Yam) during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It was where Ip Man first taught Wing Chun openly to the public.

Production designer Kenneth Mak included Western elements in his design, since Foshan, in earlier years, was a unique place where Chinese and Western cultures converged. Pillars were made to resemble English lampposts, and Western lighting, chairs and tableware were also used. To convey the culture and feel of the time, the buildings were made to look obsolete and worn out. Apart from historical references, Mak also created a glass house in the factory.

Stunts and choreography

The martial arts choreography was designed by Sammo Hung and veteran fight and stunt coordinator Tony Leung Siu-Hung. Hung had previously collaborated with Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen as an actor in the 2005 film SPL: Sha Po Lang. He was hired as the choreographer mainly because of his experience on the 1978 film Warriors Two and 1982's The Prodigal Son, both of which involved Wing Chun. When asked how he would work with Yen to direct the action scenes, Hung replied matter-of-factly, "With my mouth."

Yen described the role as the most emotionally and mentally difficult in his career. He spent months preparing for the role by going on a strict diet which consisted of eating one meal a day, training in Wing Chun, and learning more about Ip Man through his two sons. This was all in the hopes of portraying an erudite and cultured Ip Man, as well as bringing out the special traits of Wing Chun. Yen even went as far as to stay in character after filming, wearing his costume and changing his voice and movement patterns. While rehearsing a fight scene, Yen was reportedly injured when an axe wielder accidentally slashed the side of his left eye. Yen also had a masseur on set as he could not raise his right shoulder due to an injury.

Japanese actor Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, who holds a black belt in Judo, found it "difficult" working under Hung's command. In one scene, he suffered a mild concussion after receiving four consecutive blows. Hung later praised Yen and Ikeuchi's performances in the film, even though Ikeuchi was not trained in Chinese martial arts and was not given a lot of complex moves.

Film title controversy

Ip Man's original title was controversial. It was disputed when film director Wong Kar-wai announced plans to make his own Ip Man film with Tony Leung Chiu-Wai while filming 2046. Wong had planned his own Ip Man biopic titled The Great Master (一代宗师), with Leung in the role of Ip. Wong's film, however, had been in development hell, having been announced several years earlier.Producer Raymond Wong wanted to name his film Grandmaster Yip Man, which bore a resemblance to the title Wong Kar-wai wanted to use for his film.

After Raymond Wong announced his title, Wong Kar-wai's production company, Jet Tone Films, issued a statement saying that they had exclusive rights to the Chinese title of the film and that it is "shameful" that Raymond Wong was using it. They also denied Donnie Yen's claim that ten years ago, Wong Kar-wai and Jeffrey Lau asked him to play Ip Man.

To settle the dispute, Raymond Wong publicly retracted the film title:

It was later announced that Wong Kar-wai's five-year rights to make the Ip Man biopic had expired and that Mandarin Films had stepped in with their film. In a more recent interview, however, Raymond Wong revealed that The Great Master is currently in development.


Ip Man was first released in Chinamarker on the week of 8 December 2008 to 14 December 2008. The film was also released in New Zealand, and was the first country to release the Cantonese version due to time zone differences. The film was later released in Malaysia and Singapore on 18 December 2008, one day prior to its release date in Hong Kong. The film was released in the United Kingdommarker on 2 October 2009.


Prior to its theatrical release in China, Ip Man held a test screening in Beijing on 4 December 2008. The film was highly praised, based on survey sheets returned by the audience. Donnie Yen's portrayal of Ip Man was repeatedly hailed as the year's best performance. As a traditional martial arts film, Ip Man's fight scenes were awarded 8 to 9 out of 10 by 85% of the audience, while full marks were given by the remaining 15%. High praise was also given to the film's co-stars, Fan Siu-Wong, Lam Ka-Tung, and Lynn Hung.

Ip Man also received positive reaction from several film critics. Several critics praised Yen's performance in the film. Derek Elley of Variety Magazine wrote in his review, "Yen, who's taking on real star charisma in middle age, is aces as Ip, with a simple dignity that exactly mirrors the movie's own and a gracefulness in combat that's very different from his trademark whiplash style." Malaysian film critic Lim Chang Moh of The Malay Mail awarded the film three stars out of four, writing that the film was "nicely balanced with great martial arts action and an engaging narrative." Lim later placed the film at number six in his list of "Top Ten Movies of 2008." Jen Ogilvie of Fortean Times wrote, "what carries Ip Man is its dramatic charge: it is the story’s entanglement in the real horrors of Japanese occupation that pulls the viewer in and builds tension into the fight scenes."

Kevin Ma of Love HK gave the film a mixed review, writing that "while Ip Man may be a success as an action movie, it’s a failure as a biopic. The story is told in an episodic structure that’s more about what Ip can do rather than who Ip really was." Ma also made notice of the film's historical inaccuracies: "Ip was indeed offered the job of teaching the Japanese martial arts during the occupation, and he did refuse out of principle. However, what Ip Man probably didn’t do was beat down ten soldiers at once with lightning-speed punches to the neck."

Box office

Ip Man grossed ¥14,948,157 ($2,188,982) on its opening weekend in China, and went on to stay in second place for four consecutive weeks. On its fifth week, the film moved down to fifth place with a total of ¥91,783,626 (US$13,439,486). At the end of its theatrical run in China, Ip Man grossed ¥100 million (US$14,705,882).

The film was released in Hong Kong on 19 December 2008. On opening weekend, it came in first place at the box office, grossing HK$4.5 million (US$579,715). At the end of its box-office run in Hong Kong, Ip Man had grossed HK$25,581,958.69 (US$3,300,847). 2008 Hong Kong Yearly Box Office Results In total, the film had grossed $21,888,598 worldwide, despite not being released in North America and most of Europe. To date, Ip Man is the highest-grossing film featuring Donnie Yen in a leading role.

Home video releases

Ip Man was released on DVD and Blu-ray disc formats on 13 February 2009. Releases include single-disc and two-disc special-edition formats. Features for the special edition include deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, a theatrical trailer, interviews with director Wilson Yip and actor Donnie Yen and featurettes on both Ip Man and Wing Chun martial arts.

Awards and nominations

Award Category Name Result
28th Hong Kong Film Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Wilson Yip Nominated
Best Actor Donnie Yen Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Lam Ka-Tung Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Louis Fan Nominated
Best Cinematography O Sing-Pui Nominated
Best Film Editing Cheung Ka-Fai Nominated
Best Art Direction Kenneth Mak Nominated
Best Action Choreography Sammo Hung, Tony Leung Siu-Hung Won
Best Sound Design Kinson Tsang Nominated
Best Visual Effects Henri Wong Nominated
Best Original Score Kenji Kawai Nominated
2nd Iron Elephant Awards Best Picture Won
Best Action Choreography Sammo Hung, Tony Leung Siu-Hung Won
Best Actor Donnie Yen Won
2009 Fantasia Festival Silver Prize: Best Asian Film Wilson Yip Won
Silver Prize: Guru Prize for Most Energetic Film of the Festival Wilson Yip Won


Donnie Yen reprises the lead role in Ip Man 2, the second feature film based on the life of Ip Man. The film will focus on Ip's movements in Hong Kong as he attempts to propagate his discipline of Wing Chun martial arts; it will also focus on a young Bruce Lee prior to becoming one of Ip's most famed disciples. The film is currently in post-production and will be released theatrically in Hong Kong in May 2010. A screenplay for a future third installment is currently being written.


  1. Ip Man
  2. Leo Au Yeung
  4. Release
  5. Mandarin Films Plans Yip Man -
  7. Yip Man is No More A Legend; Production Begins in March -
  8. It's a Wrap For Ip Man
  9. HK Neo Reviews Forum - Yip Man biopic- Starring Donnie Yen
  10. Ip Man Blog
  11. Martial Arts Director Sammo Hung Has a Cameo in Ip Man
  12. Grandmaster Yip Man Plot Revealed at Shanghai Press Conference -
  15. Hiroyuki Ikeuchi Challenges Donnie Yen in Ip Man
  16. WKW vs. Raymond Wong
  17. Y Ip Man Stripped Of Grandmaster Status?
  18. Hong Kong movie company plans film about Bruce Lee's kung fu teacher - International Herald Tribune
  19. [1]
  20. China Box Office, December 8–14, 2008
  22. IP MAN gets U.K theatrical release
  23. Positive Responses at Ip Man Test Screening -
  24. "Ip Man" - Asia entertainment news from Variety -
  25. @ The Movies With Lim Chang Moh
  26. Ip Man | Films | Reviews | Fortean Times UK
  27. Ip Man (2008) review
  28. [2]
  29. Hong Kong Box Office, December 18–21, 2008
  30. Box Office Mojo: Ip Man (2008)
  31. YESASIA: Ip Man (DVD) (2-Disc Special Edition) (Hong Kong Version) DVD - Donnie Yen, Gordon Lam, Universe Laser (HK) - Hong Kong Movies & Videos - Free Shipping
  32. YESASIA: Ip Man (DVD) (Hong Kong Version) DVD - Donnie Yen, Gordon Lam, Universe Laser (HK) - Hong Kong Movies & Videos - Free Shipping - North America Site
  33. 28th HKFA Nominations
  34. 第二届铁象大赏 甄子丹章子怡雨中领奖(图)_新民网
  35. News: Fantasia Audience Award Winners Announced
  36. Three Yip Man Biopics to Commence Filming Soon -

See also

External links

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