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IP Man Movie Plot
In 1935, Foshan is a hub of Southern Chinese martial arts, where the various schools’ students compete against each other. Ip Man, the most skilled martial artist in town, maintains a discreet profile while building a reputation for skill through friendly, closed-door competitions with other masters. One day, a local troublemaker named Yuan loses his kite, which lands in a tree in the Ip family’s backyard. While retrieving it, Yuan witnesses Ip defeating fellow kung fu master Liu in a sparring match. Although Ip and Liu had agreed that the news of who won would remain a secret, Yuan unwittingly spreads the story around town, inadvertently embarrassing Liu. Yuan’s brother Lin, a restaurant owner and disciple of Liu, publicly embarrasses Yuan as he tries to arrange a rematch between Liu and Ip, and Yuan runs away from home.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ip and his family are forced to move into a decrepit apartment after the Imperial Japanese Army confiscates their house for use as a military headquarters. Running out of valuables to sell for food, Ip gets a job at a coal mine in 1938 alongside Lin, who hopes to reconcile with his brother but has so far failed to track him down. General Miura, a Japanese Karate master, sets up an arena where Chinese martial artists can challenge his military trainees for a bag of rice. Former police officer Li Zhao, now an interpreter for the Japanese, visits the mine to recruit anyone willing to fight. Ip declines to participate, but Lin does. Lin and two other fighters face Miura, but Miura fends them off easily. When Lin refuses to surrender, Miura kills him. Ip, worried about what happened to Lin, decides to participate in the fights.
At the arena, Ip witnesses Li Zhao translate for the Japanese during the fights and sees Master Liu get overwhelmed by three karatekas. To the horror of the Chinese bystanders, including Ip, Liu takes a bag, even though he did not win, and is quickly shot in the head by Miura’s sadistic second-in-command, Colonel Sato. Realizing that Lin must have been killed here, Ip demands to fight 10 karatekas, to the bewilderment of Miura and Li, and to the amusement of Sato. He then brutalizes all 10, winning the respect of Miura, who inquires Ip’s identity. Ip tells Li to say that he is just a Chinese man, but Li gives his full name instead.
Jin Shanzhao, a highly skilled Northern Chinese martial arts master who once defeated all the masters in Foshan except Ip, now leads a bandit gang and harasses the workers at a cotton mill run by Ip’s friend Chow Ching-chuen. Ip agrees to train the workers in Wing Chun for self-defense. The workers are able to stall the gang when they return long enough for Ip to arrive and defeat Jin and Yuan, now a part of the gang. After running Jin’s gang out of Foshan, Ip confronts Yuan and gives him a small tin that belonged to Lin after informing him of his brother’s death. Yuan opens the tin and finds his kite inside; this motivates Yuan to leave the gang.
When Ip does not return to the arena, Miura beats Li and sends Sato and two soldiers to track him down. After overpowering them at the apartment, Ip and his family flee and hide in Li’s house. The Japanese learn about the cotton mill and take the workers hostage. Despite Li’s warnings, Ip surrenders himself to the Japanese while arranging for his wife and son to be sent to Hong Kong for protection. Miura asks Ip to train the Japanese soldiers in Chinese martial arts, but Ip refuses and challenges Miura to a match. Though Sato insists on executing Ip, Miura accepts the challenge to uphold his honor and crush the Chinese spirit; Sato threatens Ip with death if he does not allow the General to win.
With the people of Foshan watching, Ip defeats Miura after a long and hard fight. Looking over the cheering crowd and seeing his wife and son, Ip is shot in the shoulder by Sato. As the crowd overwhelms the Japanese soldiers, Li manages to kill Sato with his own gun. Ip is taken away by Chow amid the chaos and manages to escape with his family to Hong Kong. A closing montage and captions reveal that Ip spent the rest of his life working to spread the teachings of Wing Chun, establishing a school and training several students, including Bruce Lee.