Student of Art du Déplacement, podcaster, blogger, avid reader, casual mountain-bike cyclist; Programmer, system administrator, problem solver


Art du Déplacement

Art du Déplacement, (a French phrase meaning ‘art of movement’,) is a method of improving oneself through challenge. The founders say that to practice the art means to work toward: Being mentally and physically strong; being useful; being a positive contribution to your community; being better than you were yesterday.

But what about competition, flips, stunts, jumping roof gaps and gymnastics tumbling? …are those things part of it? Certainly, some people do those things as part of their practice. Competition can make you physically stronger. Jumping roof gaps can make you mentally tougher. So these things can be part of your practice, but your practice does not have to be these things.

For me, swallowing my pride and starting over in physical fitness with a group of people about half my age… That was a challenge. For me, pull-ups are a challenge. But that’s the whole point. It’s is about me improving me, and you improving you.

But I didn’t know that when I first tried Parkour, (before I understood the Art du Déplacement roots of what I was learning,) in the spring of 2012. I had met Adam McClellan during a martial arts demonstration and he talked me into coming out to play with the growing Lehigh Valley Parkour community. I am continuously delighted to be the big, old, slow, lumbering gorilla in a community of enthusiastic, supportive and happy people. After two years of serious training, at the age of 42, I passed the ADAPT Level 1 certification through Parkour Generations. Art du Déplacement, Parkour, and this unique community, have changed my life.


Podcaster

“Why doesn’t someone…”

Hopefully, you’ve discovered the the podcast project. (Originally it was called “Parkour, They Said”.) The original project was entirely based on the written word and was inspired — ironically — by podcasts in general.

In late 2015, I was lying on the floor slow-roasting myself before the wood stove. I had stumbled onto a new-to-me podcast — yes I remember which one, no I’m not telling — and I was starting from their first episode. The episodes were horrible, but I knew they would get better, since a recent episode is what had drawn me in.

But listening to those early episodes left me with a litany of ideas:

I can’t even understand them with this crappy audio. Why aren’t all podcast episodes fully transcribed and available?

But honestly, no one would read the entire, long transcript of this horrible ramble-session. Why not break that large interview apart into its basic themes? Then people can read the entire interview, or just a part.

Why not have a standardized set of themes on the site? Then the “chunks” of the interview can be organized under those themes, and people can read just the material on a particular theme.

Why not add translation functionality? That’s way better than a podcast because people can read the interviews in many languages.

So wait, why bother with podcasts at all?

Why not just open it up with a form where anyone can write anything? Then people can contribute their writing in any source language, and the site then facilitates communication by translating everything to/from every language.

…and why not make it a generic project, conveying whatever everyone contributes? Well, what would we call that? It’s just a collection of whatever it is that people have to say…

“They Said”.

…and why not make several sites, each on a particular topic. How do we name and label each site?

“Parkour, They Said.”

(Bully on you for reading this far! You now know that the “Try Parkour they said, It’ll be fun they said,” meme is not in any way related to “Parkour, They Said”. :)

What could possibly go wrong?

I know, right… that whole project above is a TERRIBLE idea. (I’m not being sarcastic.) There are at least two, major problems:

  1. Writing is hard. People don’t like to write. Actually, it turns out that writing well is also very much harder. It’s as if one could make an entire living if one could write well. :P So this project’s success depends on… Oh, that’s a problem.
  2. The way the project works, and its purpose, are not the least bit obvious, and the name is downright obtuse. Worse, the name uses a wonky grammatical construct, (“topic, more information”) which is uncommon generally, and a straight-up Unicorn in spoken language. And the meme does not help. So, go ahead, say, “Parkour, They Said” out loud. Did you manage to convey everything about the project? Oh, that’s a problem.

But, whenever I spent 10 minutes blabbing about the project, people seemed to think it was a good idea. (This was probably the conversational equivalent of Beer Goggles on my part.) So, after many months of talking about it, we built it anyway.

“You should write something for Parkour, They Said!”

“Huh? What?”

I spent more than a year, randomly in my spare time, talking about the project and trying as politely as possible to repeatedly nag a few hundred people into writing. I learned at least two things:

  1. Writing is in fact really hard, and people already know this.
  2. “Parkour, They Said” is a strikingly unhelpful name for an already non-obvious project. If the project had been called Snorklewacker, (yes, yes it is, yes I did,) it wouldn’t have been any harder for me to explain, or any harder for everyone to remember. And just for the triple-bonus, start in the hole, difficulty score, we put it on a “.world” domain.

Surprisingly, a number of people actually managed to write some really interesting things. This made me very happy.

“Craig, why don’t you just make a podcast?”

I really like talking. (Everyone who knows me just laughed and thought, “collossal understatement there Craig.”)

Via a perfect storm of things not worth the deep dive, I wind up in a ton of fun, wide-ranging, interesting, and educating conversations. That’s not just me being hyperbolic; I regularly find people glommed onto my conversations. (I literally have a new friend who — their words — “was just eavesdropping the shit out of that conversation”, and we started talking when my original conversation partner moved on.)

People — often the people who were eavesdropping my conversations — started saying “that conversation should have been a podcast episode.” So the idea of making a podcast was gaining some footing in my head space.

But, I have a problem. It’s called shiny thing syndrome, or ADHD, or whatever. (“Get off my lawn! We didn’t have all these fancy acronyms back in my day.”) So I was really, REALLY, determined to not add “podcast” to my list of things to do. I already had this crazy “Parkour, They Said” web site sucking up time.

In one last-ditch, Herculean effort to avoid the inevitable, I started offering to help people write by recording Skype calls and passing them the transcripts. I think I did three recorded calls before I had convinced myself that-

oh! SHINY!

“Hello, I’m Craig Constantine…”


Avid reader

Reading has been a life-long addiction. Growing up, it was a 20-minute drive to anything. When we did occasionally visit a bookstore, I’d run around randomly selecting books to read. At first, science fiction was my recreational drug. But I soon escalated to fantasy, mystery, and horror, before I eventually spiraled out of control into the classics, biography, and the full-on non-fiction science and medical crack that I’m on now. After college, I thankfully discovered the 12-step program known as “Book Mooch”, and gave away hundreds of books to people all over the world. Today I continuously struggle to keep the unread book collection to one bookcase.


Student of aikido

In college, I briefly practiced Taekwondo, and I spent 5 years practicing, and informally teaching, modern fencing. (Epée!) But I didn’t begin martial arts training in earnest until 1998, at age 26, when I began practicing Aikido under the direction of Sensei Michael Wirth. I practiced non-stop, reaching shodan (1st-degree black belt) in 2003 and godan (5th-degree) in 2013.

Sensei Wirth’s Aikido is an unaffiliated, no-nonsense, art; It is built on the bedrock principles of a soft and flowing Aikido, while honestly seeking to be physically functional and practical. On the mat, his Aikido is soft and flowing; It can vary very quickly from a light touch to vigorous atemi. In more recent years, I’ve repeated catch-phrases such as “No this. No that. No delay.” and “Relax beyond any indication of every injury you’ve ever received.” to convey the idea that you can be your most powerful only when you relax and eliminate all the unnecessary thinking and movements.

In the beginning, I had no clue how unique the Aikido group was that I’d stumbled into. It wasn’t until ten years or so into my journey that I realized the incredible luck of my timing: I started training just young enough to survive the tail-end of what I call Sensei Wirth’s “Does this work?” epoch, and was just old enough to thoroughly appreciate the subsequent, “Yes, it works. What can we do with it?” epoch. Those who experienced the former epoch nod knowingly with a serious expression. Those who experience the later epoch have the luxury of following the now more direct path that Sensei Wirth has arrived upon. The later epoch is certainly better, but the few of us who experienced both are indeed, very lucky.

Along the way, as I’ve wandered (physically and mentally), I’ve taken the opportunities to experience a wide range of Aikido styles, groups and teachers. I’ve gone to fundamentally different Aikido groups’ seminars just to honestly try the “when in Rome…” thing. I also made an honest effort of a couple years in Tai Chi. I expanded my practice by reading from a wide range of topics directly, and indirectly, related to Aikido including philosophy, physiology and spirituality. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I did my best to deconstruct and reassemble everything I’ve learned.

On the other hand, I make no claim to the quality of my reassembled puzzle since some pieces are missing, several are chewed on, and many which don’t fit remain to the side. All things considered? I’m delighted to still feel I am a beginner.


Casual mountain-bike cyclist

I started road-biking in high school. After a little reading, and a lot of riding, I even tried a few criterion races. (Other than some crazy stories, no good came of my attempts at racing.) Mostly I just rode miles and miles, on evenings, weekends and dreamy summer days, through the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, unknown to me, someone invented mountain biking.

After college, I bought an entry level, steel-frame Trek and rode it incessantly until it fell apart in one season. That Christmas, Santa brought me a new aluminum frame Trek 6700, and I began spinning my way through whatever single track I could find in eastern Pennsylvania. About 3,000 miles later, I turned 40 and retired that Trek. In its place, I bought a magical Cannondale Flash 29’er instead of a cliche mid-life-crisis motorcycle.


Programmer, system administrator, problem solver

I studied Engineering Physics at Lehigh University, graduating in 1993. Through a work-study position at Lehigh’s computing facilities, I had the opportunity to use a wide range of systems including VAX, Cyber mainframe, HP Unix, and Sun Solaris. As a youngling, I met a number of computing professionals who deeply influenced me and, of course, I also had access to the Internet. I went on to spend time learning TCP/IP, routing, DNS, SMTP/sendmail (nearly got expelled on that one), WAIS, Gopher, etc.. I didn’t know it in 1989, but these early experiences would prove invaluable.

In 1994, I was involved in creating an ISP where I figured out, and then setup, all of the network infrastructure from scratch. Other, equally insane people, performed the same Herculean bootstrap in their areas. In parallel, we created an integration firm focussing on digital pre-press and design where we sold and supported Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and Apple products.

While all that was happening, Black Box was created as a design agency to be a creative force doing cool stuff. Today, anyone can hop on the Internet and rent servers or cloud resources to start a company. But back in analog-dialup-1994, creating those two companies was the only way we could invent the things that Black Box needed. Eventually we wound down the ISP and integration companies, and a spot was made for me at Black Box, where we continue doing cool stuff.


Elsewhere

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