On Thursday I went to Krannert Uncorked, which is a free wine tasting at the performing arts center here at the U of IL. They didn't give much wine, but it was enough to know what I liked. I liked the Cabernet Sauvignon the best, because its fruity flavor poured over my tongue in a way that I've rarely experienced. They also had a table full of snack foods including cheese and various kinds of crackers. I'll still take the wine tasting at Persimmon Grocery any day for $2, but this was fun, and I talked with a fellow Linguistics grad student. And it was free!
Directly after the wine tasting, I visited Best Academy School of Martial Arts in Champaign. I was quite impressed. The workouts were quite rigorous, the instructor was very knowledgable, and most importantly, the school is not very commercialized. I recognized similarities between this school and my Shotokan school in MD that made me impressed. I watched the Shudokan Karate class first. The kata in that karate are done with very high yang energy. It was interesting, but I don't know if I'd want to sustain that high yang energy throughout a whole style.
It's always a good sign if a martial arts school lets you train for free with them at least once. I participated in the mixed martial arts class, in which the black belt doing the warmup led us through 100 pushups in a row, and hard ones, not just regular pushups. So I couldn't keep up, but I did my best. I worked with the instructor on punching and kicking focus pads, and I almost fainted because of the wine dehydrating me. But I didn't say anything and I worked through it. Then we worked on sparring, at my request. He recommended slow sparring which I was impressed with. Slow sparring is very useful, and is a sign that someone is interested in applicability.
This school is not interested in tournaments, and they are probably reasonably priced. The instructor that I talked with, who has half the experience of the head instructor, has 20 years of experience. They have knowledge of pressure point fighting, various styles, high practicality, and philosophical/spiritual foundations of martial arts. He also claimed a school philosophy to not emphasize belt ranks. All of these are essential aspects of a good martial arts school. I think I may start attending this school to further my training.
On Saturday I took part in a puzzle competition called Puzzle Crunch. I was in a group of four and you can see the group if you go to the winners page and look at the 1st place team. Yes, we won! These puzzle competitions are very fun. They are meant for people with computer science or engineering-type backgrounds, and involve lots of logic, randomness, and looking in the right places. This competition involved a lot of running around campus finding clues and other puzzles, and interacting with the creators, even(we had to pickpocket one of them). We won about $800 in prizes, the biggest of which was an XBox 360 Platinum. We also got three games for it, a mug, a messenger bag, t-shirts, $200 Best Buy gift cards, and a pizza. If you want to help me with next semester's Puzzle Crack, you should contact me about it :-)