hckr.fyi // thoughts

Closing Chapters

by Michael Szul on

Yesterday I took my black gi from Kajukenbo and all my Kaj and Aikido belts and put them in the trash can. I studied Aikido in my 20's and did quite well at it until my progress was derailed by a relationship. Too often in the past I invested myself wholly in my relationships with significant others, and such behavior was detetrimental to progress and hobbies within my own life. Aikido fell to the sidelines—never to be picked back up.

A few years ago I began studying Baguazhang (a Chinese internal martial art). I had always wanted to study that particular art form ever since seeing Jet Li in The One. It's circular patterns reminded me both of Aikido's use of momentum, but also the circular nature of life. I had finally reached the point in parenthood where I accepted that my life would be about my kids and there wasn't going to be much time for myself. It was that letting go that led to me actually finding time. Baguazhang was the first thing that I pursued.

The martial arts organization that I belong to teaches multiple martial arts and their "invitation only" art is Kajukenbo—a mixed martial art with a significant cultural history. One of my "kung-fu older brothers" was studying for his black belt, which is only given out during the annual conference. I was invited to attend these prepatory sessions, which eventually led to twice monthly Sunday morning blocks at 4 hours a piece getting punched and kicked in semi-to-full contact. It was wonderful.

Last year I made it to the annual conference and had a great Kajukenbo session on Tuesday. I ended up leaving the conference early and apparently failed to tell the right people (although I did notify a number of other, not-so-right people). Nobody noticed until the second Kaj session on Thursday, which led to some grumblings, and ultimately I decided continuing with Kaj just wasn't worth it. There was this weird power trip dynamic of teacher over student that just rubbed me the wrong way. I also didn't like how belt promotions (or lack thereof) were handled, and nobody was every really clear on what work needed to be put in. I'm 45 years old… I really don't need any of that.

Even more… I was pretty banged up. I proved to myself that I could hang, and by the time the conference rolled around everybody from my area that wasn't a black belt was relying on my memory for the routines and counters. That was enough for me (in a good way). I had nothing else to prove, but I had a lot of healing to do. My lower back was trashed for a week after every Kaj session, my right hand still has issues with grasping, and much like one of my colleagues, I just got tired of going home with a headache after each session. I started doing Baguazhang to increase my health, but all my gains were going out the window because of Kaj. Putting the gi in the trash bin was my final sign off.

There was a point in my life where I wanted to write a book titled Codepunk: The Cyberpunk Guide to Computer Programming. I'll never write that book, but that's okay. When I started hckr fyi I was very clear that I was coming to terms with a lot of things I was never going to finish.

I spent the last few weeks cherry-picking blog posts that stretched all the way back to 2004 and that's not even the start of my life and times on the Internet. I moved some good posts over; I moved some bad posts over. I tried to collect fragments and memories of my life on the grid just to build a history in this new space—a place for us to meet.

The last few posts were about those past lives—a unreliable history by an unreliable narrator. Why? Because just write something. Get it out. I had corners in my mind that needed to be both exercised and exorcised so that I could close those chapters.

Throughout my digital life, I had at least:

…and other forgotten places.

When I started hckr fyi I was inspired by an email from Toby Shorin. It was just words on digital paper, but he mentioned treating each message like a bento box. Prior to closing doors with the last few posts, I was attempting to follow a very simple formula of me now, me future, us now, us future in each of my posts. Now that I simply have a final door to carve symbols on, I'll be going back to that formula as a simple, tight way to guide the purpose of what I write… even if the purpose of why is still being debated.