Archive for November, 2010

2
Nov

Everything I needed to know about derby I learned from my dog

   Posted by: Bitches Bruze    in Body, Mind

Well, not really, but she has indeed taught me a lot and, more importantly reminds me all the time about the simple things that work that for some reason I forget when I strap on my skates.

My dog, Babe

This is my dog, Babe. She’s about 12 lbs, but, as you can see, she doesn’t ever grasp that her 12lbs is no match for the backhoe’s 18,000 lbs.

She also stretches – a lot. And she can run very, very fast. She’s kind of a klutz, so when she runs through the woods she’ll trip over something and stumble, but eventually, and still with forward momentum, she gets her paws back under her and continues to tear around the woods.

The other day, on one of the many roller derby forums I read, someone wrote to the group and said (I’m paraphrasing) “I’m a big girl. I’m large and tall and pretty new. Every time someone hits me, I fall over. What can I do?” She got the standard responses on how to be low, work her core, practice balance. All good things. I told her about my dog.

Every living creature intuitively knows how to be stable and to not be moved – at least until they put on skates. Yes, you need to have a strong core. Yes, you need to have good balance. But you don’t need to have a wide stance. I’ve seen fantastic skaters take hits while skating on one foot – the narrowest possible stance. You don’t need to get low – although doing so can be a good way to avoid a block.

Option 1 – Relax. I realize not all of you have 12lb dogs. But I’m sure you’ve dealt with a pet or child or protester who did not want to be lifted and they simply went limp. I’m talking about the kind of “relax” which you can practice with yoga, which starts with your hair and goes down to your toe nails. The kind of relaxed where you’re so loose, even your skate laces start to get loose. That kind of loose and relaxed. It doesn’t come from repeating in your head “Don’t tense up.” When my dog goes limp, she feels as though she weighs 60lbs. It’s as though through her relaxing she channels all the gravity of the planet to her little body. If you need a visualization, that’s it. Melt right into the track and take on all the gravity of the whole track. When you’re relaxed you won’t be knocked over. When you’re stiff like a board, all the core strength and all the wide stance in the world doesn’t stop you from being easy to knock over.

Option 2 – When relaxing doesn’t work or in addition to relaxing, squirm. Again, imagine that pet, that child, that protester who doesn’t want to move. Flailing can earn you penalties, but there is just about no way you can move your feet (on our league we call it “happy feet”) which will earn you penalty trouble. Move your body up and down, your feet all sorts of crazy ways. If you’re a moving target, your opponent will not get a lock on you. It is also impossible to be tense when you’re moving. Add a bounce to your skating and your own hitting and you’ll be much stronger and more powerful that trying to jab at opponents.

Requirement 3 – Breath. You can’t move without oxygen and you can’t relax when you’re holding your breath. Breathe in before a hit, breath out during contact. Me, personally, I’m a grunter. Like Billie Jean King kind of grunting. Like Mad Max kind of grunting and growling. Grunting and screaming is a way to expel air and energy, but that energy fills the space around you. I’ve had targets cower in the microseconds before I hit them, simply from my growl. No matter what, don’t hold your breath while giving or receiving a hit. It makes you tense and you can have the “wind knocked out” of you which hurts and momentarily disables you.

Option 4 – Have fun. Really. My dog’s life consists of barking for treats, sleeping near me, and playing like she’s still a puppy. She’s 15 now and if it weren’t for her teeth, you wouldn’t know it. She knows nothing but pure joy when it’s time to play and run. With that, nothing stops her.