For most of us, seeing martial arts practiced in real time is an embarrassing "no, wait, dude -- it only works if you grab my neck right here" kind of voodoo we'd rather forget having witnessed. It is far removed from the ballet, the wire-sailing and the sword maneuvers of fine Asian cinema, which we'd prefer to believe is the accurate representation. The real thing seems secretive and even scarier, full of the evil Cobra-Kai who will sweep Daniel-san's leg (not the leg!) to secure tournament victory. For those informed primarily by movies and bad party tricks, it may be time for the Midwest Winter Open.
The Winter Open is a martial-arts tournament featuring 300 competitors from across the nation. It's hosted by the Midwest Martial Arts Circuit, a 25-year-old organization that promotes tournaments and supports a number of schools. Competitors are matched according to age and rank, which makes sense; additionally, this system allows you, the spectator, to seek out the higher-ups and see the real thing your friend couldn't quite reproduce after a late night of Bud Light and Ultimate Fighting reruns.
The tournament is broken into four events: kata, musical kata, weapons and point sparring. Katas are the physical forms of the art practiced (similar to doing scales on the piano), and many styles are represented, including kenpo and wushu; musical kata events add music to the kata. The weapons program, we hear, is usually the most exciting to watch, and we bet that's true. The weapons in question include the sword, staff, sai (a three-pronged bayonet, like Elektra uses on the big screen) and others too ancient and obscure for us to describe. It's fearsome and beautiful stuff performed by top practitioners, people who have trained for years to perfect the ancient art. And point sparring? Come on -- that's fighting!
The tournament is open to everyone, and it's cheap ($5) for spectators. The excitement begins at 9 a.m. at Machinists Hall (12365 St. Charles Rock Road, Bridgeton) and runs until 5 p.m. Visit www.winteropen.com or call 314-427-5425 for details. And please: Don't try this at home. -- Mark Dischinger
Dogs beg to go!
If you have a college-educated dog, like at N&D Global, the Beggin' Strips Mystic Krewe of Barkus Pet Parade might not be the best event to chauffeur your pup to. He'll be too busy reading books to venture outside and have fun with the other 6,000 or so dogs. Yeah, the streets of Soulard may be too lowbrow for the doctor-type dogs -- but maybe the common, working-class dogs there can teach these smarty-pups some new tricks. In that case you should bring all of your doggies (in costume) to the registration tent at Menard Street and Allen Avenue (beginning at 10 a.m.), pay $5, and let your pup, be she fancy or fancy-free, parade around at 1 p.m. with the other pooches. Proceeds benefit the Open Door Animal Sanctuary; visit www.stlmardigras.org for more information. -- Alison Sieloff
The Cool Kids
Last year wasn't a very good one for teens on ice rinks in St. Louis. Just ask Katie Wolfmeyer. Sure, a jury of her peers exonerated her, but she'll probably never again pass an ice rink without feeling a cold shudder. Fortunately for Katie and all her fellow teens, 2004 is so last year. From 8 to 10 p.m. at the Brentwood Ice Arena (2505 South Brentwood Boulevard, Brentwood; 314-963-8689), teens can begin 2005 on the right, er, skate when the Brentwood Community Center hosts Teen Night. For just $5, teens and tweens skate under dimmed lights while listening to music that teens love. Think of it as a dance club on ice. Skateless? You can rent a pair for $1 more. -- Ian Froeb
If you're still holding your breath for the Tonya Harding slasher movie, perhaps this will hold you over. Smucker's (maker of fine jams and preserves) presents Smucker's Stars on Ice at 7:30 p.m. at the Savvis Center (14th Street and Clark Avenue; 314-241-1888). Let's say you'd like to see 2002 Olympic gold-medal winner Sarah Hughes in action again, or you're a fan of the tight, sparkly outfits. Maybe the spectacle of Kurt Browning throwing down in a "cavalcade of comedy and pathos" on ice (as promised by Scott Hamilton, who now serves as the show's producer) is something you just can't pass up. However you justify your attraction, tickets are $25 to $95. C'mon, what would Brian Boitano do? -- Jedidiah Ayres