Local fighter excels in martial art

Amelia Moore The Daily Illini Amelia Moore

Amelia Moore The Daily Illini Amelia Moore

By Brian Mellen

While sitting at a table in IHOP next to a booth of friends, Tianyi “Joe” Zhu’s eyes lit up. But his excitement had little to do with the celebration sundae the server finally brought over to his seat.

Last Friday night Zhu won a boxing match called “Rumble in Par-A-Dice” in Peoria and, over the summer, he took home the win for the Amateur Middleweight (159.1 – 165 pounds) at the 2006 International Kickboxing Federation World Classic Tournament. Zhu, a junior in ALS, trains six hours a day nearly seven days a week to prepare for martial arts competitions. He trains in a number of different styles of martial arts.

“There’s nothing like being in the ring,” Zhu said. “It’s you versus him and I love it.”

Zhu attends several martial arts clubs around the area, but Goshin Jitsu, an RSO and a martial arts style, is where he gets a large degree of help and support. He’s been a member of the Goshin Jitsu club since first semester of his freshmen year.

Mike Aref, who’s been the chief instructor of the student organization since 1999, said Goshin Jitsu borrows from many different styles of martial arts. The goal of Goshin Jitsu is to teach students realistic approaches to self defense. Aref also won at the same kickboxing tournament in July, but in a different weight class than Zhu.

Even though Aref couldn’t be there Friday night for Zhu’s boxing match, he still called Zhu to wish him luck. Most times he tries to make sure at least someone is there to attend his students’ matches.

“Joe is a phenomenal athlete,” Aref said. “That does help him out quite a bit.” Zhu’s instructors recognize his dedication, but also his natural ability.

“When he dedicates himself to something, he gets to a high level incredibly fast,” said Jeff Serafin, one of Zhu’s other instructors from Goshin Jitsu. “He picks up stuff quicker than anybody I’ve ever seen.”

Zhu somehow manages to balance his passion for martial arts with class, his fraternity Acacia and working security at bars like C.O. Daniels, 608 E. Daniel St, and The Clybourne, 706 S. Sixth St.

“It’s just hectic,” Zhu said. “You’ve got to make sacrifices. I came to college to learn and get a degree, so obviously I put that ahead of everything.”

Constant training and commitment to fighting has its drawbacks.

“I’d love to have time to sit down and watch TV,” Zhu said. “But I’m always thinking about my fights and training. It’s one of my number one priorities.”

And yet Zhu’s fraternity brother Chris Hart, junior in LAS, said Zhu still finds time to hang out with friends. Hart went to both Zhu’s kickboxing tournament in July and his boxing match last weekend.

“I’m impressed,” Hart said. “I couldn’t do it.”

Hart said Zhu helps out with rushing at their fraternity and does not forget his friends.

Goshin Jitsu trains every Sunday from 6-8 p.m., every Wednesday from 7-9 p.m., and Saturdays between 2 and 4 p.m. for sparring. The group meets at the South Wright Street Martial Arts Facility, 1805 S. Wright Extended, in Champaign.