According to Alan Pitts, promoter of the 4th Annual Team USA Shidokan Open, there's a big difference between his tournament and the no-holds-barred brawls of the Ultimate Fighting Championship series (now banned in many venues). For one thing the Shidokan has rules. Fighters are allowed to make use of various martial arts and wrestling techniques, but skill, rather than force, is valued most, and sportsmanship prevails; fighters aren't allowed to punch opponents in the face, spine, neck, or back of the head. Kicks to the groin are also out, as is hitting someone when he's down. Pitts assures that the tournament is still an action-packed, bare-knuckle affair, and bouts always end in a knockdown. The competition, which has been broadcast on ESPN, takes place at 7 tonight at War Memorial Auditorium, 800 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale. Ticket prices range from $15 to $100. Call 954-359-4090.
There are three types of magic acts: "stage and illusions," large-scale stunts a la David Copperfield; "platform," tricks with ropes and other props; and "closeup," otherwise known as sleight-of-hand. Mike Shelly of Hollywood offers a little bit of everything, and he creates and sells tricks to the big names. Harry Blackstone, Jr. performed Shelly's zigzag card illusion -- in which the middle section of a playing card placed in a frame appears to move from side to side while the top and bottom stay put -- on an episode of TV's World's Greatest Magicians. A mind for magic runs in the family. Shelly's 20-year-old daughter, Ali, recently placed first in the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) and Society of American Magicians (SAM) competitions with her grocery-item closeup act. Father and daughter will participate in the 34th Annual Florida Magician's Association Convention, which features seminars for aspiring magicians, at the Holiday Inn Plantation (1711 N. University Dr.). Also included in the program are public performances, which take place tonight through Sunday (8 p.m., $20 each) and star some of the world's best magicians. Admission to the convention is $90. Call 954-987-1039.
The Summer Fair kicks off the season of sizzle in appropriate fashion with the South Florida Rib and Wing Championship. Just follow the scent of seasoned, charred meat to the cook-off, where local restaurant chefs and backyard barbecue jockeys duke it out for first prizes ($300 each) in various divisions. Last year's pro rib champion was the Winner's Circle, a restaurant in West Palm Beach. Although co-owner Eddy Sawdy wouldn't share the recipe, he did let on that the winning pork ribs were marinated for several hours in a sauce of seven spices. They then spent just ten minutes on the grill, which was enough to make the meat fall-off-the-bone tender. Yummm. Contest fare is reserved for judges, but fairgoers will have their pick of concession stands throughout the South Florida Fairgrounds (9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach). Fair admission is $5. Hours today and tomorrow are noon to 10 p.m. Call 561-793-0333 or 800-527-3247.
In Ireland, fleadh -- pronounced "flah" -- means both feast and festival, which is the perfect way to describe the Irish-American Memorial Day Fleadh. The event celebrates Irish-Americans who have served in the United States military. Some 200 Irish-Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor since the Civil War, when the pins were first given to heroic soldiers. (We'll drink to that.) Traditional Irish step dancers and some of South Florida's best Irish musicians will perform throughout the day on two indoor stages beginning at noon at Anglesea Pub (200 E. McNab Rd., Pompano Beach). Outside, barbecued fare and Irish crafts will be available for purchase. Admission is $5. Call 954-785-8878.
The awards have been doled out for the Armory Art Center's "Figurative Small Works Exhibition," and nobody can accuse the judges of hometown favoritism. Of the 34 artists who participated, the only local who placed was Bruce Helander of West Palm Beach. His painting Secret Smile received an honorable mention. The Best of Show Award went to Charles Gilliam, of Elk River, Minnesota, who won for his oil painting The Letter, which features a woman in a long black dress and white hat reading -- what else? -- a letter in front of a cloth-covered table. Gilliam says that when he paints, he usually combines two or more scenes he's observed into one and adds some imaginary elements, which makes one wonder: What exactly does the letter say? Gilliam isn't telling, but the exhibition runs through June 12 at the Armory Art Center, 1703 S. Lake Ave., West Palm Beach. Admission is free. Call 561-832-1776.
Hollywood author Craig Dirgo developed his writing chops while collaborating with true-adventure writer Clive Cussler on The Sea Hunters, a bestseller that treats readers to dives involving famous shipwrecks. But now Dirgo's striking out on his own with his first novel, The Einstein Papers. The plot revolves around Einstein's Unified Field Theory, which, if proved to be true, would allow for the creation of a weapon that makes the explosions of nuclear bombs look like campfires. In the book Dirgo has Einstein cracking the code in 1945, on the eve of the bomb drop on Hiroshima. But he's so freaked out by what he's discovered that he stashes his papers. Skip to the present day, when Chinese operatives are searching for the secret files and antiterrorist agent John Taft is out to stop them. Dirgo will discuss and sign copies of his book at 7:30 p.m. at Borders Books & Music in Plantation (12171 W. Sunrise Blvd.). Admission is free. Call 954-723-9595.
Zero Mostel starred as Pseudolus, the slave trying to obtain freedom from his master, Senex, in the original production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The musical comedy ran for nearly 1000 performances after its 1962 opening in New York City. In 1972 Phil Silvers stepped into the role, and Nathan Lane updated it in 1996. But even the Mostel "original" was a rehash. Librettists Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart pulled gags from seven farces by Roman playwright Plautus and set them to Stephen Sondheim's music. The original romps, first staged in 200 B.C., stand up because human nature hasn't changed; audiences still chuckle over mistaken identities, kicks in the butt, and doubletakes, all of which figure into Pseudolus' struggle for freedom. Dan Kelly directs and stars in the Stage Door Theatre production of A Funny Thing, which runs through June 6. The theater is located at 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs. Tickets cost $25. Call 954-344-7765 or see "Stage" listings for details.