Every Bruce Lee Reference In Donnie Yen’s Ip Man Movies

at Donnie Yen Ip-Man the films make numerous references to the career and life of the legendary Bruce Lee. The Ip-Man The martial arts film series was a launch pad to international stardom for Donnie Yen, with Yen portraying the revered Grandmaster of Wing Chun kung fu, Ip Man. Apart from his fame as a kung fu master, Ip Man is also well known around the world for his role as a mentor to young Bruce Lee in his early kung fu studies.

Bruce Lee has something of a background role in the Ip-Man films, with famed Bruce Lee lookalike (and Jeet Kune Do exponent) Danny Chan playing Lee in IP Man 3 and Ip Man 4: The Finale. As Lee’s presence grows in the Ip-Man movies, much like the franchise’s Easter Eggs and references to elements of Bruce Lee’s life that helped make him the enduring martial arts legend that he is. Here Are All The Bruce Lee References Seen In Donnie Yen’s Ip-Man movies explained.


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Ip Man beats karate black belts

One of the most famous martial arts fights in the Ip-Man films sees the grandmaster of Wing Chun take on 10 karate black belts, easily defeating them single-handedly in the first Ip-Man. This fight scene is similar in structure and meaning to that of Bruce Lee beating an entire karate dojo in fist of fury. The two Lees fist of fury Chen Zhen and Ip Man are also motivated by the oppression of their fellow Chinese during the Japanese occupation, and are also motivated by the recent death of someone dear to them (Chen Zhen’s sifu Hou Yuan-jia and the friend of Ip Man Lin, respectively). With Bruce Lee having delivered such a classic dojo fight scene in fist of furyit is normal that Ip-Man should do the same with its big dojo fight scene.

The name of Bruce Lee in Ip Man 2

IP Man 2The final scene marks Bruce Lee’s first appearance in the Ip-Man franchise, Lee played by Dai-Yan Jiang. In IP Man 2, Bruce Lee met Ip Man as a child and asked to study Wing Chun with him. Lee specifically identifies as “Lee Siu Lungto Ip Man, which refers to the title Lee gained during his early fame in Hong Kong. Bruce Lee’s Cantonese birth name was Lee Jun-fan, while Lee Siu-lung was his name in his work as a child actor from Hong Kong. Lee Siu- lung translates to “Little Dragon Lee‘, referencing Lee’s birth in the Year of the Dragon (1940, more specifically). As Bruce Lee began to gain international fame, the dragon spirit would become closely associated with him along with his films. The Way of the Dragon and Enter the dragon. By identifying Bruce Lee as Lee Siu-lung when he first appeared in the Ip-Man series, IP Man 2 recognizes the importance of the Dragon title to his legacy.

Bruce Lee thumbs his nose in Ip Man 3

After their first meeting in IP Man 2Bruce Lee returns as a talented fighter to meet Ip Man as a teenager in IP Man 3, determined to prove himself worthy of studying with the great master of Wing Chun. This scene includes Lee thumbing his nose as he again introduces himself as “Siu lungto Ip Man, and it was a gesture of on-screen bravado by Bruce Lee in several of his films. Throughout his career, Lee conveyed an image of absolute power to intimidate his opponents, and one could often literally seeing him thumb his nose in their direction. IP Man 3 brings this back as a reminder of Lee’s self-confidence when he and Ip Man reunite.

The nature of water in the philosophy of Bruce Lee

While demonstrating his kicking speed to Ip Man, the Wing Chun sifu squirts water from a coffee cup at young Bruce Lee, who kicks the water. Ip Man then comments “Not bad. But did you really kick the water, or did you just think you did?“It leaves Lee confused, while also being a nod to Lee basing his philosophy of life and martial arts on the fluidity and intangibility of water. As Lee himself once said , “Water is also insubstantial. By that I mean you can’t take it. You can’t hit him and hurt him. So every kung fu man tries to do that, to be soft as water and flexible and to adapt to the opponent.” For Bruce Lee, mimicking the nature of water was the highest level of martial arts, with IP Man 3 showing a fictionalized version of Lee realizing this in his youth, while leaving Ip Man once again with another snub.

RELATED: How One Fight Completely Changed Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu Style

Ip Man 4 Martial Arts Tournament

At the beginning of Ip Man 4: The Finale, Ip Man attends a martial arts tournament in San Francisco in which Bruce Lee demonstrates his new art of Jeet Kune Do and spars with an opponent. The tournament scene in IP Man 4 acts as a sort of homage to Lee’s real-life display at the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championship. At this tournament, Bruce Lee demonstrated his famous one-inch punch and two-finger push-ups at a impressed crowd. Additionally, Lee and his opponent are wearing combat gear in IP Man 4The 1967 tournament is identical to the same equipment Lee later fought with at the 1967 Long Beach tournament. Lee was an early proponent of such sparring equipment in the West to enable close contact combat complete, with IP Man 4pays homage to Lee’s famous tournament appearances.

The blow of the lamp

During Bruce Lee’s big fight scene in IP Man 4, one of his opponents in a blue karate gi (Mark Strange) performs a leaping front kick that shatters a hanging street lamp to challenge him. It’s a clear homage to Lee performing this exact feat in two of his movies. The 1969 movie Marlowe sees Lee’s character, Winslow Wong, extinguish a lamp as he trashes the office of James Garner’s Phillip Marlowe. Later in his directorial debut The Way of the DragonBruce Lee used a jumping front kick to smash a ceiling light and scare off some opponents. Bruce Lee popularized the lamp kick as few did, and IP Man 4 acknowledges this with Mark Strange’s character performing the technique.

As Lee approaches his opponent to fight, Strange’s karate exponent shows a backward kick against a metal gate on the alley wall. Lee is not impressed, commenting “The door won’t retaliate, but I will.This comment paraphrases Lee’s quote in Enter the dragon after O’Hara (Bob Wall) hits a board to demonstrate his fighting skill to Lee before their match in the tournament. Lee just smiled at that and said “The boards do not retaliate”making the retooling of the quote in IP Man 4 a tip of the hat to one of Bruce Lee’s most famous fights in Enter the dragon.


As Lee’s alley fight with his opponent progresses, Strange’s karate fighter pulls out a pair of nunchaku. Lee then proceeds to disarm himself and gives a brief demonstration of his skill with them before using them against his opponent. The nunchaku is closely associated with Bruce Lee, often being considered his weapon of choice in several of his films. Additionally, Lee’s quick display of his skill with them is a tribute to how the nunchaku was frequently introduced in his films, with Lee getting his hands on a pair and quickly spinning them to let his opponents know that it is serious. Bruce Lee’s nunchaku demonstrations can be seen in fight scenes in fist of fury, The Way of the Dragon, Enter the dragonand game of deathwith IP Man 4‘s alley fight featuring a nunchaku demo of Lee in its big fight scene.

RELATED: Why Bruce Lee Avoided Western Roles (But Wanted His Own Western Show)

Side kick from Bruce on his opponent

The alley fight of IP Man 4 ends with Lee kicking Strange’s karate exponent back several yards, the fighter acknowledging Lee’s victory with a thumbs up. The side-kick was one of Bruce Lee’s signature techniques in his films, with Lee forcefully demonstrating his power with it in two films in particular. During a training scene at The Way of the Dragon, Lee kicks a sparring partner holding a punch shield, hitting him with such force that he knocks him back several feet. Bruce Lee’s fight scene in Enter the dragon against O’Hara also features a very memorable moment with Lee kicking O’Hara several feet into the arms of two bystanders. The use and framing of Lee’s side-kick in IP Man 4 is another clear tribute to the memorable way he used it in his filmography, with his opponent’s thumbs-up expressing the same awed sentiment as audiences around the world in Bruce Lee‘s own time did.

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