Modern day Wing Chun can mostly be attributed to Ip Man. Ip Man lived during the turmoil of the Sino-Japanese Wars. As such, China was a world under constant turmoil and changing influences from external cultures. Ip Man has trained many famous Martial Artist, none more famous than young Bruce Lee who started to train in Wing Chun with him at the age of 16.
In the movie, Ip Man, Donnie Yen plays the legendary teacher during the time of the second Sino-Japanese War. At this time, Ip Man is living in Foshan, Guangdong during the Japanese occupation. Many people today forget how open China had once was. Guangdong, being a major area of trade with its link to Hong Kong, saw many foreign influences. Unfortunately, the general opinion of the time of the West was that China was backwards and easily overtaken. It did not help that the Chinese government at this time was heavily corrupt and falling apart, the precursor to the Communist China.
The movie Ip Man depicts Foshan as a mecca of Martial Arts. Martial Arts schools lined the streets and it was common for challenges to be issued between schools regularly. However, the entrance of the Japanese change the prosperous live of the denizens, including Ip Man. Ultimately, Ip Man must battle between his vow to his wife to no longer fight, his own beliefs that fighting is a last resort, and his strong national pride against the Japanese.
Much of the movie sensationalizes this world and this time. It is apparent that the objective of the movie was to evoke Chinese pride. It is hard to believe if someone were faced with the hardships that Ip Man is portrayed to endure, one could remain so calm. Despite this, the movie showcases some amazing Martial Arts styles. And while an over exaggeration, it does explain to younger students that how we use our Martial Arts is our choice and the correct way is to embrace a Martial way of life, not just the combative one.
Overall, this was a wonderful retelling of a modern day Martial Arts legend. It is the Rocky of Martial Arts and well worth taking the time to watch.