Saturday At The Movies: The Grandmaster


My oldest grandson, Jimmy, a lover of martial arts and a serious student of Muay Thai; won every tournament he’s ever entered. This year he and some of his friends joined the military; the United States Marines to be exact. Physicals done, tests passed, oath taken, Jimmy and the others are waiting to go to boot camp. But, with all this stuff happening in Syria; he might go off to boot camp much sooner than anticipated.  What does this have to do with the martial arts movie, The Grandmaster? Find out after the jump.

Young Warriors

Like I said, with the events happening in Syria, there is a strong possibility that our young men and women will be sent there to fight. And while Jimmy is looking forward to boot camp, my daughter and I are not; especially with Syria in the picture. I’ve been worried about Syria, Jimmy, and war in general, so my husband and I treated Jimmy to dinner and a movie of his choice. Jimmy chose The Grandmaster; we were not disappointed.


The Grandmaster

The movie, which was released in China on January 8, 2013, was the opening film for the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival in February of 2013, and chronicles the life of Ip Man, the Wing Chun Kung Fu grandmaster and teacher of Bruce Lee. The film directed and written by Wong Kar-wai, features Tony Leung as Ip Man, Jin Zhang as Ma San, Qingxiang Wang as Gong Yutian, and the beautiful Ziyi Zhang as Gong Er.

The movie is sub-titled, but don’t let that put you off. Hearing the actors speak in Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese only adds to the enjoyment of the film. Ip Man (Tony Leung, also known as Tony Leung Chiu Wai), who was trained under the master Chan Wah-shun, is happily married to Cheung Wing-Sing (Hye-Kyo Song). Ip Man, a Kung Fu master of the South, comes from a wealthy family and is living the good life, complete with a beautiful wife and children. But, his life changes when a powerful martial arts master from the North, Gong Yutian (Qingxiang Wang), arrives in town and announces that he is retiring and that his new heir is his student, Ma San (Jin Zhang).


Before he retires, Gong Yutian wants to fight with the best of the Southern masters. The masters of the South must first pick a representative from their group; they pick Ip Man. Watching Ip Man use Wing Chun Kung Fu to compete with the Southern masters is a stunning chorographical treat to the eyes; a ballroom dance of precision; a display of moving art. When Ip Man and Gong Yutian finally meet, the fight becomes a discussion; an exchange of philosophical beliefs. Ip Man wins the discussion and respect of the masters. But, Gong Er (Gong Yutian’s daughter) challenges Ip Man to a new challenge. Whoever breaks a piece of furniture during the fight is the loser. Ip Man not only loses this fight, but his heart to Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang). They make plans for a rematch.

Gong Er fighting Ma San


Before Ip Man has a chance to move his wife and children to Northern China, the Second Sino-Japanese war starts in 1938. The Japanese take away his home, and Ip Man and his family are forced to live in poverty. Things are bad, food is scarce, and two of Ip Man’s daughters die of starvation. Ip Man leaves China and his family to find work.

Things are no better in Northern China and Ma San becomes a collaborator for the Japanese. Angry that he was not picked as heir to the grandmaster, Ma San kills Gong Yutian. It’s up to Gong Er to reclaim her father’s honor.


It was after watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for the first time that I felt the world of martial arts films had changed, forever. Up until then, I never took these movies seriously; thinking them a joke; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon changed everything. I began to understand the loyalty and dedication of the people who practiced martial arts. But, after seeing The Grandmaster film, I think the bar has been raised. And, any future films on the martial arts, must now strive to reach the same level of excellence. It was fun to learn the back story on Ip Man; how he became a master of Kung Fu; and why Bruce Lee became his student.


What does this have to do with my grandson and his joining the Marines? A Marine drill sergeant is charged with the duty of teacher. The drill sergeant must take naïve boys and girls and turn them into fighting machines. When and if my grandson, Jimmy, is sent to fight on foreign soil, I’m hoping his instructors will have prepared him to fight as well as a Grandmaster.

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