The Road to Rollergirl How I Stopped Being a Roller Wannabe and Started Being a Rollergirl


Yo Dawg, I Heard You Like Challenges

So the old year is done, sent off with a [skate] boot in the ass by my Roller Derby Workout Old Year's Revolution. The winners, Skirt Steak of the Hellions of Troy fresh meat squad and Chrome Molly of the Southern Oregon Rollergirls, will be getting their prizes in the mail. I realized, though, if the point of the competition was to build up momentum for the new year and the Roller Derby Workout Challenge, why stop there? Consider this me holding out my arms and yelling "I'm bridging! I'm bridging!" (Ref note: your arms are irrelevant! When defining position relative to other skaters, listen to Shakira: the hips don't lie!) I decided to run another Fleetly challenge as a "primer" for those folks who just can't wait until January 29th.


Why We Roll

One of the most hotly debated aspects of roller derby is the performative/voyeuristic side of the sport. People can say what they will--and I have no doubt that I will say more about it at some point in the future--but there are many players, and many more fans, for whom a big part of the sport is sexiness from the perspective of the male gaze. This was certainly part of the initial attraction for me. What can I say, fishnets and short skirts are hot! I hoped that I could skate my legs and butt into that inimitable derby firmness.

As I have become more involved in the sport, however, I am much less concerned by what my body looks like than by what my body can achieve. Apropos of this, Jezebel recently ran a really great article about women and fitness, A Call to Arms (And Abs, Quads, Calves, and Shoulders). This article is great, but even greater is a comment by user come_love_sleep, re-posted in its entirety with permission from the author.

I have been weak and ill pretty much all my life. My eyes are terrible, my lungs are terrible, I have this odd and undiagnosable tendency to just faint sometimes, and I never quite hit average height, in a house full of younger siblings built like dancers. I had quite a hatred for my body for a long, long time.

About three years back, a guy I was into was into Kendo, a competitive Japanese sword art. He quit the dojo (because he 'wasn't feeling it,' which it turns out translates to, 'didn't want to work out so much,') and I, finally realizing I wasn't going to ever get his attention, simultaneously realized that perhaps part of my fascination with him wasn't about him at all. I went to the dojo he'd practiced at, and within the first fifteen minutes of watching practice, I was absolutely hooked.

They were beautiful. They were fierce and strong, and even though some of them were plainly in pain, they weren't stopping. During a particularly strenuous exercise, one of the girls dropped to one knee and gasped for several minutes, but there wasn't any shame on her face, just determination; this was a body thing that was happening to her, and in a minute she'd get up again.
And she did.
I wanted that so bad.

The Sensei, leaving, glanced at my eyes and grinned. "I will see you on Thursday." he said, no question at all in his voice, and I couldn't nod fast enough.

So I started to practice. At the end of my first practice, my feet and hands were blistered and bleeding; I had to wrap them in tape for weeks. I'd wake up sore, I'd cry when I had to walk down a flight of stairs because my thigh muscles felt like they were tearing apart. But there was this perfect serenity to moments of practice, there was this gorgeous, perfect silence, where my body and my brain were in perfect accord. It was beyond addictive.

Stuff happened between now and then. A landlord tried to have me murdered (only a whore has purple hair, and whores should be put down!), I was disowned by my sickeningly religious mom, I lost a job, lost out on some hopes...but through all of it, there's this rising strength in my limbs, the sense that one foot of space in front of me and one space behind me are *mine.* Nobody gets into that space without me letting them there, or they get *hurt.* I own this body now.

I can get right into the face of my screaming, intimidating 6'2 Sensei, and though he's likely to always, always beat me, I'm not afraid of it; so I get a little knock! So I walk out with strained muscles and bruises. I earned them; they're *mine.*

And best of all? The constant screaming and leaping has given me lungs that don't tire so much anymore. I can run now, for a bit. I've grown so conscious of what I eat that I'm not just falling all over the place out of weakness; my body *craves* healthy stuff, and even though I still have a sweet tooth, I can feel the difference in practice after a day or two of eating wrong, and somehow I just don't want it as much as I used to. My body's not a temple, but it is where I live, and that's a very welcome change.

The first thing I thought when I read this was THIS IS ME! THIS PERSON IS MY ATHLETIC SOULMATE. Her comment perfectly expresses why I am on this road.

I may never be the best or fastest, but I will be my best. I may never be the sexiest body on the track, but I will move powerfully, I will be in charge of my skates, and I will knock some bitches down. I aspire to be in the place where this woman is, and I am on my way. 


Derby Mania

I don't know what I was thinking!

This morning, I woke up early to attend an exercise class taught by one of the roller derby girls (sort of like this roller derby workout but on skates and including some derby drills). It was awesome, and even though it was cloudy, by the end, there was sweat pouring off every inch of my body. Major jelly legs at the end of it.

Then about two hours later, I attended another beginner training by the team, which focused on skating skills (stops, falls, form). A good derby stance is a pretty serious squat, and we spent most of the time moving and doing drills, so my quads and butt were so dead by the end of it that I couldn't sit down to pee. I wiped out once and crashed into a wall once (ooops, thank goodness for padding), but it turns out that I'm actually kind of quick! That was really exciting.

Then about two hours after that, I went to a bout to cheer on my favorite team - we won! The other team was pretty scrappy and managed to put a lot of points on the board in the last couple of minutes, but they really didn't stand a chance against our star jammer/team captain, who's a league MVP and a freakin' amazon. (I ran into her at the skate shop the day I bought my roller skates and was totally speechless. It was totally like Porky Pig: bdyuh-bdyuh-bdyuh!)

All in all, awesome day, but I am going to be dead tomorrow for sure. Today it sunk in that I am really serious about doing this, and the magnitude of exactly how much I have to work was a tiiiny bit overwhelming, but I'm seriously excited.

Next goal: practice with the local speed skating team. I need to work on my form and speed at the same time as I'm working on the derby skills.