For those unaware, Ip Man is about a Chinese martial art master mostly known for being the master of famous Bruce Lee. In the two movies made so far Master Yip* faces different challenges.
The first movie takes place in Fo Shuan in the late 1930s when the Japanese invade China. Yip Man refuses to teach holding on to his peaceful life style, as opposed to many other masters in the city. However, this changes when outside challengers threat the whole martial arts neighborhood. Knowing that fighting among themselves will solve nothing, the Chinese stands up for the Japanese without success. That is, until our protagonist decides to stand up for his fellow Chinese.
The sequel sets in Hong Kong during the 50s. Here, the Chinese battle the British. Much like the first movie, Master Yip must stand up for his belief, and to defend the pride of Chinese Martial Arts.
If anything, these movies teach us to fight for a greater purpose, and not just for ourselves. However easy it might be to misinterpret the spirit of fighting as some sort of pride, I would have to agree to a certain point.
I was raised to be proud; to be a proud person, never to yield to anything other than my own beliefs. Through the many lessons life has taught me, pride has become a part of my fighting spirit. I realized that pride is nothing if one has nothing to fight for. In that reasoning, I also found that pride takes you nowhere if you are only proud of yourself. Apart from this very old way of raising children, I was also brought up by the guidelines of Buddhism. As contrast to the pride, Buddhism taught me to be gentle with all beings, to be at peace with myself.
As I reached my 20s, I realized that much of the pride that was fed to me was easily fought back by my Buddhist beliefs. Somehow, that side was stronger even though the pride still is present.
So when I watched these brilliant movies (although much of the first movie, like choreography and acting, is almost indefinitely better than the sequel), I thought to myself that the pride really doesn’t matter. What matters is the heritage from each culture we are meant to nurture. In both movies, the viewers are allowed into a world not many know of. For most people, Chinese culture is all about hot pot, noodles, martial arts and of course, math. Not many people know of the suppressed and brutal history of an ancient country. What Greece was to Europe, China is to Asia. All countries have it, and it should not be forgotten. History and culture are there for us to learn from.
I strongly believe in conserving culture, not to a sense where we must live like our ancestors did, but to the extent that no one forgets our roots. It’s something that we’re born into, something that we should allow future generations to partake.
*Yip Man is the Cantonese translation of his name (葉問), while Ip Man is the Mandarin translation