Ip Man is a martial arts film based on the life of Yip Man, a Chinese martial arts grandmaster who specializes in “Wing Chun”. The scene is set in the 1930s in Foshan, China, where the wealthy Ip Man is well-respected in his community for his martial arts prowess. However, his home is seized and his family struggles for survival during the Japanese invasion in 1937. Although Ip was a martial arts grandmaster and a prosperous man in Foshan, he was the epitome of humility throughout the film. Humility is a characteristic often found amongst the Chinese to promote harmony and reduce conflict within the community (Hu, and Grove 56).
Ip often displays non-verbal cues of humility such as bowing or lowering his head when conversing with fighting opponents or countrymen. He also constantly denies his skill in “Wing Chun” to his adoring followers. In order to support his family, Ip Man works as a coolie where he reunites with one of his old friends. There, coolies are picked off by Japanese soldiers to train with Japanese martial arts students and rewarded with rice if they defeat their opponents. Loyalty to friends is of utmost important to the Chinese community.
Chinese citizens could not depend on the government of China to protect them and had to survive on their own, and help each other out in difficult times (De Mente). Ip does not hesitate to enter Japanese territory to look for his friend when he does not return from one of the fighting sessions. There, he sees another one of his friends killed over a bag of rice and in a drunken rage, defeats ten Japanese fighters. The proud Ip does not take the ten bags of rice he won from the fight but brings the one bag of rice his friend died for back to his grieving family.
Ip displays an incredible level of loyalty by risking his safety to avenge his friend and return what rightfully belongs to his dead friend’s family as a final act of friendship. Ip astounds a Japanese general with his martial arts and is forced to fight him publicly. Ip receives incredible support from the Chinese audience and eventually defeats the general, killing him in the process. He then escapes to Hong Kong with his family. The Chinese are very patriotic toward their country and culture. This Chinese pride stems from the guanxi (relationship) with their fellow countrymen.
The Chinese tend to deviate and support people from their own province in foreign situations. In a separate scene, an enraged Ip strikes his friend when he discovers that he working for the Japanese as a translator and calls him a traitor. The guilty translator cries out that he is Chinese and that he is not a traitor but appears to be visibly shaken by Ip’s words. This film truly reflects the Chinese culture at a time when Chinese values and beliefs were strong. Although these beliefs are dimming because of the modernization of China, these values of humility, loyalty and pride are still evident in the country today.