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Ip Man is a 2009 film Very Loosely Based On the life of Bruce Lee's eponymous master.

Foshan in 1930s China is a place renowned for the number of martial arts schools in it, with the exception of the titular hero who wishes not to take in any disciples. When a troupe of upstart Northerners successfully beats up the other masters, though, it falls on Ip Man to defend Foshan's honour.

Fast forward to 1937, when the Japanese invade China. 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, leading via a run-in with bandits threatening a friend's factory to a final confrontation.

If you are looking for an in-depth biography of the master of Bruce Lee, you are looking in the wrong place. If you are looking for a great martial arts flick, albeit one that depicts how viciously foreign invaders treated the Chinese, you are in the right spot.

A sequel has been released end-April 2010 (very close to the UK release for another "IM2"), focusing on Ip Man's attempt to propagate Wing Chun in Hong Kong after the war. In doing so, he finds opposition from other martial arts masters as well as the British.

A "prequel," The Legend is Born, that doesn't even really qualify for In Name Only status sometimes gets lumped into this franchise, due to the reuse of a number of actors from the first two films.

Note for Western readers: The character name is rendered in traditional Chinese style, so "Ip" is the surname. Additionally, it is not a superhero name. Please do not be confused.

This film series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: In the "prequel" movie, Ip Man's brother is in love with a girl who is in love with Ip Man. There's also another girl who is in love with Ip Man. Meanwhile, Ip Man himself was too much of a Chaste Hero to notice either one's affection for him.
  • Arrogant Kung Fu Guy: The series is loaded to the brim with these. Best examples being General Miura, a Four-Star Badass with Blood Knight tendencies, and Twister, a Complete Monster Western boxer. Also notable is Wong Leung, who grows out of it after some hard lessons.
  • Asskicking Pose: True to genre convention, all the martial artists in the movies assume one before fighting. Somewhat Truth in Television, as most martial arts have a default 'ready' stance.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Part of Ip's defeat of the Twister.
  • Authority Equals 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 real hits on our hero.
  • Awesome Yet Practical: Ip stays away from fancy, over-the-top moves for the most part. His signature move is... punching people a lot.
    • Twister is even worse: He doesn't use kicks at all, and only uses basic punches. However, thanks to his speed, incredible strength and sheer axcraziness, he still manages to murder Master Hung Lie-Nang.
      • Both of the above are justified. Ip Man is a master of Wing Chun, the signature move of which is the chain punch. Twister is a western boxer, a style that does not use attacks with the feet at all.
  • Backstab Backfire
  • Badass: The eponymous character. Bruce Lee's master, mind.
  • Badass Long Robe: Ip's.
  • Beware the Nice Ones
  • Big Damn Heroes: Training the Peaceful Villagers has been subverted, the factory workers are still getting their asses handed to them by the bandits - until Ip Man shows up and gives them the old what-for.
  • Blood Knight: General Miura's character is defined by a desire to pit the Chinese martial arts against his Japanese karate.
  • Call Back: Early in the second film, Wong Leung asks if Ip has defeated ten men at the same time.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Master Hung
  • Character Title
  • 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.
  • China Wins The War: The closing narration of the first movie describes China's defeat of Japan without mentioning the involvement of other Allied nations, including the atomic bombs, the Soviet invasion of Japanese-held China, or the American occupation of Japan.
  • 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.
  • Combat Pragmatist: A number of characters, not least the titular hero, who can easily go from smiling genially like the nice guy he is outside combat to kicking your joints in and raining Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs on your face and head. Subverted with Zealot Lin. The sequel takes Ip's Pragmatism to another level. Twister is also a Pragmatist, doing things like repeatedly slugging Master Hung in the face when he refuses to let go of the rope or hitting Ip just as the bell rings.
    • Ip learned his pragmatism the hard way. It took a forced 180-split from an elderly medicine seller to teach him that improvisation was acceptable in Wing Chun.
  • 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.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Most of the fights in that the titular character is in. The film was explicitly meant to glorify him and be all nationalistic, though, plus the choreography is superb, avoiding any potential boredom. The opponents he Curb Stomps usually were Curb Stomping their opponents before he shows up, also helping to reduce the boredom and make the wins more impressive. An arguably deliberate 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.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Ip Man accidentally kicks Twister after kicking has been banned in their match.
  • David vs. Goliath: Ip Man versus the Twister in the second film is this very straight. The Hero may have got his Badass cred down pat earlier, but the Twister is not only physically larger, he had destroyed the Old Master who fought Ip to a draw and gleefully murdered him in cold blood, so there is a definite underdog vibe.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Double subverted with Wong Leung.
  • 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: The Twister from 2 calls Master Hung a "yellow piece of fat" early on, and only gets worse from there.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: General Miura isn't pleased with Colonel Sato murdering Chinese Warriors 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!!"

  • Evil Brit: Twister and the brutal policeman in the sequel were pretty much. Seems that being a Complete Monster is a prerequisite to being a brit, which is a stark contrast to the Politically-Correct History that's often portrayed.
    • To be perfectly fair, there are pretty heavy doses of Accentuate the Negative in the Hong Kong segments. The British certainly were NOT that englightened or innocent as is often portrayed, but a lot of the scenes in the film (particularly the copious officially-sanctioned use of Police Brutality to intimidate dissidents) dates back far before the film is set after said issues had been largely cleaned up (by WWII the British realized it was not a good idea to needlessly provoke their Chinese allies when both the KMT and CCP were calling for annexation and they themselves were heavily dependent on the anti-Colonial US for support, and even as early as the 30's police corruption on the scale we see in the film- particularly involving violence- was met with jail). However, in this case, one may well say that Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped.
      • Also, it's implied that their British superiors weren't aware of the level of corruption and brutality, and bringing it to their attention is enough to get the head of the police fired. (Not that they particularly care about the Chinese, they just don't think it's appropriate behavior.)
  • Extremity Extremist: Invoked in the second film, where the British make kicking against the rules after Twister takes a few good hits.
  • Flexible Tourney Rules: When Ip Man starts to win against Twister, the bloodthirsty Chinese-bullying british boxer, the referees "suddenly" remember that you're not suppose to kick in western boxing matches and call Ip Man on it; something they didn't bother to call on in the last match when Twister was having an orgasm beating a sick-and-elderly Chinese Warrior to death.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Everyone watching the sequel already knows that he would survive the Japanese invasion of China and become Bruce Lee's martial arts master. Ip will also definitely have to prevail against the Twister in the second.
  • Foreshadowing: In the second movie, Ip Man defeated Wong Leung who was fighting using a boxing stance. Fast forward to the later parts of the movie where Ip Man took on a British boxer.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Sato.
  • Freudian Excuse (Jin tries to offer it.)
  • Fridge Logic: Master Hong, I know it's noble not to give up, but you're not going to win... and I don't think your wife and seven children care about honor as much as you do.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Twister's boxing is brutally effective. Earlier subverted with the street fighting of Wong Leung and his friends, who get stomped by Ip.
  • Heel Face Turn: Jin in the second film.
  • Henpecked Husband: Jin accused Ip of being one when he refused to fight him in his house.
    • Oh the irony, Jin himself becomes one in the second movie, but to his credit he is also a loving husband and father.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!:
    • The old medicine seller who schools a young Ip Man on improvisation in Wing Chun is Ip Man's real-life son and Wing Chun grandmaster, Ip Chun.
    • If you're into Japanese Drama, you can recognize Kunio Murai as General Miura. Bonus points for Hiyoruki Ikeuchi (General Miura) being a Judo expert in real life.
    • Kano is the powerful boxer 'Twister' Milos.
    • Ricky Oh is Jin Shanzhao/Ip Tin-chi/Tanaka Eiketsu.
  • Honor Before Reason (Ip Man himself obviously, and surprisingly enough Miura, who honors the code of the warrior even towards his Chinese enemies.)
    • Ip rejecting the ten bags of rice after destroying the ten black belts. While he was obviously trying to make a point, as well as avenge Master Liu's death, you have to wonder just how many of his people Ip could've fed with all that rice.
    • In the sequel, Master Hung offers protecting the honour of Chinese martial arts as the reason why he does not back down against the Twister.
  • Hot-Blooded: Zealot Lin in the first movie, Wong Leung in the second.
  • Improvised Weapon: Ip Man defeats a sword-wielding opponent with his wife's feather duster. He takes on Jin again later on with a long bamboo pole. In the sequel, he uses even more of these, such as wooden pallets and baskets/trays.
  • In the Back (How Zealot Lin tries to defeat General Miura, and fails)
  • Inferred Holocaust: The first movie concludes the final fight with the spectators overpowering the Japanese guards to get to the wounded hero, then cuts to him being taken to safety and later to his real-life success. What happens to the Foshan townsfolk as a result of the most probable Japanese response is left unknown.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted; Ip's knuckles are clearly bruised after he finishes dealing with the Japanese pugilists.
  • 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.
    • Not necessarily, modern Japanese and Imperial Japanese are very different people. While some of the intended movie audience is indeed the nationalistic anti-Japanese crowd, the movie itself is explicitly anti-Imperial Japanese. To put it into analogy, If Mr. Kawai is a German, he would be like a modern German composing for an anti-Nazi Germany movie, in which there would be no irony because he is not a Nazi German.
  • Karma Houdini: Jin. In the first film he begins as an Arrogant Kung Fu Guy incarnate, becomes a bandit, and then sells out the location of Ip Man to the Japanese. In the sequel, he's treated as an old friend and is seen happily married with a child.
    • Then again, he is also deaf in one ear and his first scene in the second movie consists of him helping Ip Man.
    • And in Ip Man 2 Twister was not killed, or even at-least crippled, for murdering Master Hung and destroying his school.
  • Karmic Death: The cruel Japanese Colonel Sato, who had shot Master Liu to death earlier for losing against Japanese fighters, eventually gets killed by a shot from his own gun after it is wrestled away from him. By Li Zhao, who he had smacked around for no good reason.
  • 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.

  • The Law of Diminishing Defensive Effort: Twister laughs off the attacks of Master Hung's students, taunting their weakness, but properly dodges and blocks Master Hung and Ip's attacks.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Li Zhao, who does not revel in his new position unlike many others.
    • In a deleted scene his fellow villagers beat him to death for being a sell-out after he kills Sato.
    • "Fatso" for the British in the second movie. Like Li Zhao, he ends up betraying his boss and helps the Chinese.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Twister can take and dish it out well while still being fast enough to keep up with Master Hung and Ip.
  • Lowered Monster Difficulty (Look closely at how the Japanese pugilists fighting Ip Man act, compared to those fighting Master Liu.)
    • Justified in that Master Liu had been regularly humiliating the Japanese black-belts for quite some time then, and the best of the bunch couldn't resist taking a crack at the sub-human who had been kicking their asses one-on one. But when an unknown asks to fight 10 other people, those same best of the best probably took a pass on what they thought would be a ten-on one massacre. Turns out is was, but not in the way they imagined it, I'm sure.
  • Martial Arts Do Not Work That Way: Subverted. Ip's Wing Chun generally eschews showboating and kicks much ass, while more showy pugilists don't fare well, and the toughest opponent thus far is the Twister, who sticks to boxing.
  • Martial Pacifist (Unless provoked, anyway)
  • Mook Chivalry (Averted with Master Liu's 3v1 fight, played straight with Ip Man's 10v1 fight.)
    • Seemed more like Ip was just that good. He barely has breathing room at the start of the fight, and the Japanese students understandably start to lose morale after he not only fights back, but starts mowing them down like a thresher through wheat.
      • While this might be understandable for the last two or three fighters, the students press him a little at the beginning and then proceed to stand around looking gobsmacked as soon as he hits back. They all politely look on while he puts one of them in an armlock and punches him in the face repeatedly, missing only a look of distinguished approbation and a monocle each to appear completely detached from the fight. Until they get their gobs smacked for real. They seem to recover a lot quicker from surprise when Master Liu smacks them around a bit, before they get their act together.
      • They seem to lose their chivalry when they are down to four, though.
      • The 10-man fight scene can be justified in that given what an honor-heavy culture WWII Japan was, a Japanese black-belt attacking a single fighter from behind when you've got 9 other buddies, might seem a little cowardly. At least from the start. Reason before Honor seems to take hold once they realize they just got put in the ring with the Chinese Terminator.
      • People forget that it's actually hard to fight in a group effectively in martial arts outside of dogpiling. Being crowded limits your kicks, you can't do punches other than straight ones due to space restrictions. If you want to be "proper" in your forms and attacks some personal space is required. Martial artists also almost never receive training in group combat outside of historically military ones that might have been in use in the battlefield.
  • Mouthy Kid: Young Bruce Lee.
  • 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.
    • It does help. As much as Ip is at taking down his opponents, a competent opponent with a sword is a lot harder to get close to for a decent hit rather than an unarmed one. The solution? Extend his own reach with an impromptu weapon, even if it is a feather duster. Really the main issue here was how far he could go to score a hit and he knew that based on his style, he probably would expend more energy trying to land it and risk getting hit than just grabbing something.
  • Nice Guy - Ip Man.
  • 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. Two examples in the sequal are Twister beating Master Hung to death, and Ip Man thrashing Twister's face towards the end of the final fight.
    • Really, almost every fight in the first 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).
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Ip Man generally avoids direct confrontations and attempts to pass this onto his students.

 Wong Leung: I bet you can go up against 10 men!

Ip Man: The best way to deal with it is to not fight at all.

Wong Leung: What happens if they have weapons?

Ip Man: (Briefly chuckles) Run.

    • I wouldn't call that stupidity. Quite the contrary, in fact.
  • Offhand Backhand (How General Miura Catches Zealot Lin Fighting Dirty)
  • Old Master: Deconstructed with Master Hung, as exhaustion starts setting in during the match against Twister.
    • Also discussed by Ip Man himself, who tells a student that no matter how good he is, his abilities will degrade with age.
  • The Other Darrin: Donnie Yen plays the older Ip Man, while Dennis To is the younger version.
  • Perspective Flip: An early part of both films involves a newcomer challenging established martial arts masters. Thing is? In the first film it's a villain doing so, who Ip puts in place. In the second, it's Ip himself who's the outsider. Pity that it was never commented on.
  • Police Brutality: In the second film, a British policeman beats on editor-in-chief Kan.
  • Politically-Correct History: Averted; the first film doesn't try to whitewash wartime Japanese behaviour, while the second doesn't shy from depicting Western racism.
    • Played straight in other instances. To be more Communist-friendly, the first film does not mention that Ip Man was a Kuomintang supporter who left for Hong Kong to escape the Communists, not the Japanese.
  • Pummel Duel: In the second.
  • Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: Liberally used by the titular hero.
    • Truth in Television - kinda. Linking multiple straight punches in quick succession - also known as chain punching - is one of the cornerstones of Wing Chun, the southern Chinese martial art of which the Real Life Ip Man was a master. However, in practice students are advised to keep it to short bursts: it's impossible to maintain the initial striking power beyond a certain point (not to mention the risk of interruption), and to prolong it further is dangerous and impractical.
      • They should also be taught not to use it as an entry technique. It's possibly one of the worst ways of closing distance and entering an opponent's guard short of putting your hands in your pockets and running forward with your chin out.
    • The sequel has pummel duels. MUDAMUDAMUDAORAORAORA anyone?
  • Reality Ensues: 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.
  • 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.
  • Reverse Mole: "Fatso" in the second film.
  • Ring Out: The final fight against General Miura is on a raised platform with this as a defeat condition. In the sequel, Ip has to face the Hong Kong-based masters on a table, with getting off it 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 10 judoka karateka may be one of these.)
  • Seppuku: Miura's fate in a deleted scene.
  • Sequel Hook: The second film ends with the introduction of young Bruce Lee.
  • Showy Invincible Hero: The titular character Curb Stomps all his enemies, but the choreography is tight enough to minimise boredom.
    • Minimize is an understatement, the fights are good enough to eliminate ALL boredom.
    • YMMV. The choreography was great, but in a film that's ostensibly based on a true story having the title character fight, variously, a professional kung fu master, an armed bandit (while wielding a feather) and ten karate black belts at once without even receiving a scratch stretches willing suspension of disbelief. Especially since the movie has strong nationalistic themes and Bruce Lee is often portrayed as an undefeated fighter when he fought few regulation matches.
    • Averted in the second film, where Ip defeats the Twister, but not before he gets knocked down a few times.
  • Sleeve Rolling of Asskicking
  • 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. His Karmic Death is much-welcomed.
  • So Last Season: Beating up ten Japanese karate experts and a general is nothing compared to fighting a showy British boxer.
  • 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
  • Those Two Guys: In IM 2, there's a pair of martial arts masters whose main role is to sit together and comment about the fights they're watching. They mock Ip Man during his "tryout" for the Hong Kong martial arts society and cheer him on when he's fighting Twister.
  • Too Stupid 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, I guarantee it. At this point Lin was battered, bruised and likely internally bleeding, and he barely stood a chance against him when he was fresh.
  • 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.)
  • Trash Talk: The Twister mouths off about his perception on the supposedly inferiority of Chinese martial arts a lot. A LOT.
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: <Insert fighting style here> vs. Wing Chun. Let's rock!
  • Undefeatable Little Village: Master Yip trains his entire local village in wing chun to fight of bandits.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Applied to Ip in the second film.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film's historical inaccuracies are discussed here.
  • Warrior Poet: Ip Man
  • Warrior Therapist: Ip Man becomes this accidentally. Between the first and second films, his friend Zhou Qing Quan loses his memory after being shot in the head by the Japanese. Zhou regains his memory after listening to Ip Man's match with Twister on the radio.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Twister mocks the "dancing" of the martial arts demonstration.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Both films are very similar to Rocky IV. A fighter from an enemy nation shows up on the hero's home turf. The hero's rival-turned-friend gets killed in a match. The hero avenges the death in the ring without killing his opponent. Ip Man 2 even ends with the beaten up hero giving a speech on peace and tolerance, getting applause from his opponent's fans.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him: Colonel Sato insists on simply shooting Ip Man, but General Miura is having none of that.
  • With My Hands Tied: In the second film, Wong Leung spends some time doing this.
  • You Look Familiar: Both Sammo Hung and Louis Fan play different roles in the trilogy. Sammo plays Hung Chun-nam, a rival teacher in the sequel, while in the third movie, he plays Chan Wah-shun, one of Ip's kung fu teachers. Louis Fan plays the northern fighter/bandit/husband Jin Shanzhao in the first two movies, while in the third, he plays Ip's adopted brother/Japanese spy Ip Tin-chi/Tanaka Eiketsu.
    • Don't forget Dennis To who played Jin Shanzhao's henchman in the first film, then he played the gang leader and student of Hung Chun-nam in the second film, and finally he played the young Ip Man himself in the third film.
    • Ironically, both characters which Sammo Hung plays have asthma.