4 teachings from the movie Ip Man

Ip Man: one of the best movies on the spirit of Chinese martial arts

There are many things that in the past and in the present days contradict the pure spirit of Chinese Kung Fu described in “Ip Man” (2008) but the ideal lessons we can draw from this film remain valid and worthy of being shared.

In any case, in this discussion:

  • We will not deepen the more or less shareable aspects related to Chinese or Japanese patriotism
  • We will not even go into the merits of the historical precision of the facts narrated regarding Ip Man’s life
  • We will not criticize the obvious narrative / choreographic exaggerations and adaptations
  • We will only discuss the (direct or indirect) teachings we can draw from the martial arts point of view

A note by Master Kongling – There is a specific reason why we have listed these points; the fact that we do not discuss these aspects does not mean that they are irrelevant: it means that it is up to you to deepen them searching for the truth and build your opinion.

Said this, we continue the cinematic path started with Batman Begin (read 9 teachings from the movie Batman Begins) with Ip Man, one of the most beautiful movies not only about Wing Chun but in general about Kung Fu.

Ip Man teachings about Kung Fu

1) Stop thinking and hit the target

“Stop reciting theory and hit your target!”

This means that the flower of Kung Fu does not blossom in the retention of a crystallized theory but in the personal adaptation in the moment of the practice.

The highest results are not at disposal of who knows the theory, they can be achieved only through constant practice and experimentation in the most different contexts (opponents, scenarios, etc.).

Less talking more doing. A technique does not work by itself, it works if used by a practitioner with the right skills (read All the skills of 6 Dragons Kung Fu) at the right moment and its comprehension is a nuance that:

  • Starts from basic theory (no unnecessary insights)
  • Pass through ample practice (experimentation, etc.)
  • Reach its peak connecting the last details to the experience gained

This is our path:

2) Kung fu does not depend on gender or age but on how we fight

“A good style does not depend on sex or age.”

In the world of martial arts, there are countless cases of elderly people able to defeat young athletes (read The right age to start practice) and wherever we can find female fighters able to easily defeat most of the male sex exponents (read Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

The crucial point for a martial arts practitioner is to understand what is within his reach and what is not.

Man or woman, old or young, nobody will ever be able to win any type of clash but this is not a defeat: the only real defeat is not knowing how to evaluate our opponents in relation to our own and their preparation (read MMA vs Tai Chi 10 seconds knock out: an explanation).

This means that at the moment of truth, it is not what we are but how we prepared ourselves in relation to the challenge we accepted.

Man or woman, old or young, if our opponent, through training, has learned to resist punches more than us, to be faster than us, more tactical, more powerful (etc.): our chances of victory will be almost null.

A note by Master Kongling – Forget every prejudice: the keywords are preparation, discipline and concentration.

3) The problem is not in the style, it is within you

“The problem does not lie within your style. It lies in you.”

It is not the sword that doesn’t cut, it is the swordsman who is handling it in the wrong way, who is not addressing it in the right direction.

In any type of combat (read The 6 types of martial clash), the biggest difference is made by us; in any fight, there is an infinite number of variables and the biggest part is under our control:

  • Where to attack
  • How to defend
  • When to move
  • What stance to assume
  • The workout focus
  • The risks we take

A martial art cannot cover all the possible situations with ready-made responses, it can offer only (more or less valid):

  • Examples of techniques
  • Methods of training

Nothing can:

  • Struggle at your place
  • Train at your place

It is for this reason that all those fights like “Karate versus Taekwondo” or “Muay Thai versus Kung Fu” can be funny and instructive but do not demonstrate anything.

4) Whichever path you take is a choice of yours

“Whatever path a man takes, is his own choice.”

This is valid both in martial arts, both in life. Too often we try to take responsibility away from us by offloading them to the others:

  • The master, the martial art, etc.
  • The family, the colleagues, etc.

The truth is that in 90% of the cases we are the only responsible for our behaviors, results (etc.) but the good news is that once we understand this:

  • We gain the power to change the things
  • To fill our gaps
  • To expand our capabilities
  • To overcome the difficulties
  • To learn from our errors

If we know that there is something that we are doing wrong and we don’t take charge of how our martial training (or our life) is going, we will never be able to get out of the quagmire in which we are running aground (read Measure ourselves with errors).

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • What is your favorite Ip Man’s quote?



Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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