A Great Movie. =)
It is 1930s Foshan and the mood is one of wushu, wushu and more wushu. One fateful night, Sifu Liu calls at the mansion of the renowned Ip family after the opening of Liu’s new wushu school. During the friendly visit, Liu challenges devoted Wing Chun master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) to a sparring match behind closed doors. Ip wins easily.
The match remains a secret until the younger brother of Kungfu Crazy Lam (Xing Yu), saw the fight and decides to tell everyone about it. It is a loss of face for Liu and results in some serious rows. Ip is mocked by a police officer, Li Chiu (Gordon Lam Ka-tung), and breaks the latter’s revolver in two. In the meantime, marauding thugs and followers of Kam Shan-chau (Louis Fan Siu-wong) goes around challenging the Foshan wushu schools. In one fight, Kungfu Crazy Lam is seriously injured. Ip tried to save him but is challenged by Kam. The whole of Foshan gathers to watch Ip dispense with Kam easily using the four forms of Wing Chun: fists, legs, knives and poles. Ip becomes an overnight hero and wins Li Chiu’s respect and Foshan goes crazy for Wing Chun.
Ip’s prosperity does not last long. In 1937, the Sino-Japanese war breaks out and within a year, Foshan has fallen. The Japanese army seizes Ip’s family home and Ip and his wife Cheung Wing-sing (Lynn Hung) as well as their son seeks refuge in a derelict house. On his way to a pawnshop one day, Ip bumps into an old friend Chow Ching-chuen (Simon Yam), the boss of a cotton mill factory. Chow offers his old friend help but Ip is too proud to forsake his dignity for food and shelter. When food runs out, Ip is forced to work as a coolie to keep his family alive. At the factory, he is reunited with Kungfu Crazy Lam.
One day, a troop of Japanese soldiers led by General Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) arrives at the factory. Miura is crazy about wushu and uses rice as a reward to temp the Chinese to contest the Japanese in martial arts. Ip refuses to be baited but Lam eagerly takes up the challenge. Lam’s skillful moves fuel General Miura’s enthusiasm and he enters the ring to take on Lam himself. Lam is no match for the General and pays with his life.
The next day, Ip finds Lam missing. He is forced by the soldiers to go to the arena and is shocked to see Sifu Liu already severely beaten up by three soldiers. Ip is furious that Liu had to risk his life for food provisions and enters the arena to challenge the Japanese enemies. Even though Ip is outnumbered, he beats down his challengers one by one until none is left standing, Miura is elated and full of admiration for Ip. But Ip is very upset especially when Miura rewards Ip with the bag of blood-stained rice.
Kam leads a robbery at Chow’s cotton mill, which leaves several people dead. Chow decides to seek Ip’s help. Ip finally agrees and trains the mill workers Wing Chun and the factory grounds are turned into a de facto wushu academy. Kam stages another attack and although Ip and his followers are no match for Kam’s thugs, they score a magnificent victory.
Meanwhile, General Miura cannot forget Ip Man’s masterly skills and places Ip on the wanted list. To avenge his defeat, Kam disclose Ip’s whereabouts to the Japanese. General Miura storms into the mill with his army. While Ip, tipped off by Li Chiu, decides to forsake his own life in exchange for his followers’ freedom. With great sadness, he hastily arranges for his wife and son to leave Foshan.
The approaching army is stopped in its tracks by a towering figure: Ip Man. Ip challenges the general to a duel but the general wants to take the fight to the streets of Foshan where he wants the residents to witness Ip’s defeat.
In the ring, Ip and General Miura give their all in a life-and-death match that pits Wing Chun’s Chi Sao against Japanese karate. As excited Japanese soldiers cheer their general on, their Chinese counterparts are forced to witness the fight in silence. But with each attacking move, Ip wins back dignity for the Chinese. As he hears a sudden roar of applause, Ip realizes that his family and friends have not abandoned him. As his supporters cheer him on, he becomes more courageous and daring. But at a crucial point when Ip launches his final deadly punch, a Japanese officer responds by pulling his gun on Ip. A shot rings out and the scene turns to mayhem.
Several decades later, a trendily dressed young man walks into a Wing Chun school in Hong Kong. The young man wants to learn Wing Chun from Sifu Ip Man. His name is Bruce Lee. The elderly Ip, with eyes like a hawk’s but a peaceful air, shows who the true master of kung fu really is.