January 15, 2017 Martial Arts Studies

Synthesizing Zhenshi (Authenticity) and Shizhan (Combativity)


This article argues that Donnie Yen’s Ip Man series (2008-2015) synthesizes two predominant unarmed, hand-to-hand combat traditions of Hong Kong martial arts cinema – what I call zhenshi (真實; authenticity) and shizhan (實戰; combativity), represented by the series of kung fu films featuring Kwan Tak-hing as the legendary Wong Fei-hung and the martial arts action films of Bruce Lee respectively. Despite kung fu cinema’s claim to ‘realism’ since its conception in the 1949, there is a strong suppression of wu (武; the martial) in the genre’s action aesthetics due to the elevation of wen (文; the literary and the artistic) in traditional Chinese culture. By exposing the inherent contradictions within kung fu cinema and incorporating of combative action aesthetics derived from Bruce Lee’s martial arts philosophy and wing chun principles – what I call kuai ( 快; speed), hen (狠; brutality), and zhun (準; precision), the series presents new possibilities of wu and offers a more comprehensive understanding of Chinese kung fu.


DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10096


Wong, Wayne. 2017. ‘Synthesizing Zhenshi (Authenticity) and Shizhan (Combativity): Reinventing Chinese Kung Fu in Donnie Yen’s Ip Man Series (2008 – 2015)’, Martial Arts Studies 3, 6-23.


Wayne K. T. Wong is a joint PhD student at the Department of Comparative Literature at The University of Hong Kong and the Film Studies Department at King’s College London. His research interests include martial arts cinema, action cinema, and digital culture. He is currently researching the transformation of kung fu cinema amid the hegemonic presence of Chinese cinema and Hollywood.

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