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The Asian ApertureIp Man
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, May 9, 2011    Share

Donnie Yen explodes on the screen in Ip Man, based on the life of Bruce Lee's Wing Chun Sifu. Action
movie fans will recognize Donnie Yen from his role with Jet Li in Once Upon A Time in China II, as well as, Iron Monkey 1 and 2. Yen may be the most exciting Martial Arts actor to come along since Jackie Chan and Jet Li. In Ip Man, Yen does a great job representing the spirit of Ip Man, better known in the West and to Bruce Lee fans as Yip Man.

Yip Man (1893-1972,) from Foshan, Guangdong, China, started learning Wing Chun when he was 13-years old. Wing Chun is a Southern Kung Fu style that emphasizes a direct boxing style. Punches are delivered to the center line of your opponent. The Center line is the line running down a person starting from the forehead down to the nose and etc. Wing Chun was created by a woman called Yim Wing-Chun and it is an art form that is perfect for those of a smaller structure. A person well schooled in Wing Chun can take on bigger opponents with excellent result. Bruce Lee was only 5' 7 and weighed only 130 pounds. Because of his Wing Chun training, he was able to knock a professional football linebacker 8 feet into a swimming pool uses a one inch punch, meaning the hand is only one inch from the striking area. Wing Chun continues to be a practical martial art that is effective in street fights today. (Bruce Lee training with Yip Man in Hong Kong see below.)

In Ip Man, Donnie Yen shows the young master being challenged in his hometown of Foshan. He lives in a mansion with his young wife and child. Near the center of town is a square that is referred to as Martial Arts street. There, numerous masters and students practice many different forms of Kung Fu. Ip Man gets challenged by some thugs that have traveled across China to pick fights. The thugs hope to gain students by beating masters. That is until they tangled with Ip Man who beats a valuable lesson into them. Things are going well for Ip Man and family until the Japanese army invades in 1937.

Ip Man's beautiful mansion is confiscated by the Japanese and he is forced to work in a coal mine to provide rice for his starving family. The Japanese send an interpreter to encourage young Kung Fu students to fight against Japanese Karate masters for 1 bag of rice. Ip Man suspects foil plan and doesn't get involved until a good friend of his is beaten to death by the ruthless General Miura.
Ip Man shows up to a room with Japanese karate students sitting cross legged around a giant square mat that is used for fighting contests. He takes on 10 men and wins. The General is naturally upset and vows to fight against Ip Man because Japanese martial arts must be superior to Chinese. I won't speak of the ending because it would spoil the final effect. One thing I will mention is that there has been a trend in 21st Century Chinese martial arts movies to show the Japanese as hell bent on the destruction of noble Chinese. This idea is getting old. The Japanese have long been the bad guys in Chinese cinema but it is time to enter this new century with some new ideas. The atrocities of the Sino-Japanese War should not be forgotten, however for entertainment something new needs to be thrown in the mix. It would be like a dozen movies being made about the civil war showing how evil the Southern states were or Nazi Germany and the Jewish Concentration camps that endlessly show the same thing. A lot of times the enemies in these movies are exaggerated to the point that the enemy is not really human but some evil creature, which takes away from the desired impact.

As a work of entertainment, Ip Man is a great movie to watch despite the usual liberties taken with his life. The real Ip Man never went to work in a coal mine during the Japanese Occupation of China. He worked as a policeman. He was driven to live in Hong Kong due to his wealth and political influence during Communist rule. He never fought against a Japanese general All that aside, Ip Man has several exciting fight scenes that show off real Wing Chun and not some mixture of Tae Kwon Do and Western Boxing or Wushu fighting with high fancy kicks. Donnie Yen does use Wing Chun punches and shows how those techniques would work against an opponent.

Highly Recommended with 4 and a half out of 5 Stars, would have been 5 with the historical mistakes corrected.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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