Years ago, before the turn of the millenia, I had begun an exploration of a martial art known as Aikido. Having dabbled in a handful of martial arts before then, it stood out; it was not like other martial arts. A fundamental idea of Aikido is to blend with agressive energy, and in so doing, work with that energy to keep not only yourself, but your agressor, safe. I was enthralled with Aikido almost immediately. It is not an easy practice, it is a life-long pursuit. Life long pursuits tend to take breaks here and there, and while my love of Aikido never lessened, for one reason or another, years went by where Aikido was solely in the back of my mind.

My path to free software began early on, where my Aunt and Uncle would give me their old computers. They weren't impressive, they didn't run the newest software, but they were functional. It became obvious to me, seeing newer computers, that they often didn't really add much capability, even though they were much faster, the newer software written for them ran just as slow as the older software, and often didn't add much functionality, sometimes even added undesireable features or behaviors.

Also before the turn of the millenia, a friend introduced me to Free Software. It wasn't always better, it wasn't free of bugs, though by and large it was functional. Fundamentally, it was software written out of need, curiousity, or even sometimes out of passion. The overall ethic seemed to be one of encouraging freedoms to use, study, change and share. This ethic built an international community, a very technically skilled, capable community. This community gave me access to it all, without even knowing me, and I was hooked.

Eventually, I broke away from simply using software to contributing bug fixes, feature requests, and it didn't take long before I was writing my own original software, built on top of the work of others. When other people started contributing fixes to my software and even publishing my software as part of a major distribution, I was kind of amazed.

What finally solidified my commitment to the community was being invited to a conference thousands of miles away, with a different culture, even a different view of the stars in the sky. It was an international conference, with a cacophony of languages and accents, a welcoming community, intent on many of the values and ethics I shared, yet diverse enough to still have seemingly infinite room for disagreements, and consequently growth and improvement. I left that conference with "Free Software Developer" as part of my identity.

Some years ago, I returned to Aikido practice. Now, both Aikido and Free Software development continue to provide enriching perspectives and community building opportunities for my life.

As a martial art, Aikido is a harmonious way of helping conflicting approaches move together without harm. Similarly, Free Software development brings together multiple contributors with varying needs and interests to collectively build more flexible and resilient systems.