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Yip Man Prequel - The Legend is Born

Trailer and Details on Herman Yau's Ip man prequel by Mark Pollard | February 9, 2010

While audiences wait to see Donnie Yen face off against Sammo Hung in Yen’s highly anticipated return to the role of Wing Chun master Yip Man in IP MAN 2, production in Foshan has wrapped on a prequel to IP MAN that may have more to offer when it comes to authentic Wing Chun and old school action. It’s a film that features Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yip Man’s eldest son Yip Chun, Fan Siu-wong, and a cast made up of mostly real kung fu practitioners.

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Directed by Herman Yau, THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN traces the early, fictionalized life of Yip Man, before the events depicted in IP MAN (2008). It centers on his resistance against foreigners and romantic relations while under the tutelage of three Wing Chun masters, Chan Wah-shun, Ng Chung-sok and Leung Bik.

First-time actor To Yu-hang portrays the young Yip Man. He has trained in Wing Chun for six years and was originally a martial arts consultant on IP MAN before being cast in this prequel.

Yip Man Two

Although new to acting, To Yu-hang received help from Donnie Yen on how to approach the character. Likewise, Sammo Hung gave him advice on how to act without over exaggeration by presenting him a copy of Akira Kurosawa’s classic SUGATA SANSHIRO.

In IP MAN 2, Sammo Hung will portray a Hung Fist master but in THE LEGEND IS BORN he is “Money Changer” Chan Wah-shun, one of Yip’s Wing Chun mentors. Joining him is Yuen Biao as fellow mentor Ng Chung-sok.

The Photo Below is a scene from Yip Man Two
Ip Man 2 MovieAs with Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao’s presence in this prequel is apt. In addition to being the underappreciated and highly talented peer of Jackie Chan and Hung with an impressive body of memorable fighting film roles, he has portrayed real-life Wing Chun masters in Hung’s THE PRODIGAL SON (1982), and recently in the TV series REAL KUNG FU (2005) and WING CHUN (2007).

What may impress Wing Chun practitioners most is the rare casting of Yip Man’s eldest son, Yip Chun. He portrays Leung Bik, who in real-life would be his father’s second mentor. Although advanced in age, Yip Chun reportedly has a few action scenes. The film’s producer Sin Kwok-lam highly praised his performance while the elderly Yip Chun expressed joy that the “tedious” shoot was over.

Fan Siu-wong, who initially plays an antagonist in IP MAN and later becomes a student of Yip Man in the sequel, appears in the prequel as Tian Ci, a senior Wing Chun student.

Additional cast members include Huang Yi as the martial arts-trained object of Yi Man’s affection, Rose Chan as the object of Fan Siu-wong’s affection, Bernice Liu as a Japanese martial arts master Yip Man fights, Xu Jiao, Lam Suet, and Ma Sai.

The film’s Wing Chun action is expected to be a highlight with both open-hand and weapons combat featured. Wing Chun will be put up against a variety of different martial arts styles including Jiujitsu, karate and chin na which is the Chinese art of locking joints. The action sequences will feature long takes of up to 15 seconds each where 10 to 20 movements are exchanged without break.

Because of the level of realism employed in the film’s fight choreography, injuries on set were common. Yuen Biao, who goes up against Fan Siu-wong and Sammo Hung, suffered a rib injury severe enough he had to take time off from the shoot to recuperate. On Bernice Liu’s first day of shooting, she accidentally slashed Fan Siu-wong’s head with a katana. That injury required several stitches.

The existence of THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN and director Wilson Yip’s two IP MAN movies can be directly attributed to Sin Kwok-lam, a wealthy businessman and avid Wing Chun practitioner who first approached producer Raymond Wong and convinced him that a movie on the life of Yip Man could at least break even as a result of the many Wing Chun practitioners around the world who would be willing to pay to see it.

It was mere coincidence that filmmaker Wong Kar-wai had long been planning his own Yip Man biopic. This led to a dispute between the two camps that was finally resolved. Wong Kar-wai is now directing THE GRAND MASTER, starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai as Ip Man.

It’s been speculated that Wong Kar-wai, who is best known for his art house dramas, might downplay the martial arts in favor of a more dramatic account of Yip Man’s life. That notion has been refuted by Leung while recently speaking at a press conference.

“This is a genuine kung fu movie,” said Leung while adding, “there really will be many action scenes.”

While Leung may not have the youth and martial arts background of Tu Yu-hang, he has been fully committed to getting the martial arts action right. During intense training in preparation for the role he even broke his arm when a sparring partner got overzealous in a counterattack.

The actors involved in making IP MAN 2 have been no-less committed to delivering the best fighting action possible. Donnie Yen’s commitment to all of his roles is well documented. As for Sammo Hung, he refused to let heart surgery keep him from the set for long and despite his age and stature was willing to mix it up enough to take his share of lumps.

According to stunt actor Stefan Morawietz, who has a small role in IP MAN 2 as a boxing coach, Hung took a punch on the mouth from stunt actor Darren Shahlavi that dropped him to the mat. Shahlavi apparently did the same thing to Hung’s stunt double, Lan Hai-han.

So there you have it, 2010 is the year of Yip Man and Wing Chun. THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN will be joining IP MAN 2 and THE GRAND MASTER – all high-grade martial arts biopics of Wing Chun master Yip Man – for release this year. In addition, Wilson Yip is planning IP MAN 3 and it was announced last year that Taiwanese producer Yang Pei-pei secured rights to shoot a 40-episode TV series on the life of Yip Man.

Source: Stefan Morawietz blog,, The Associated Press

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