Roller Derby? I Haven't Even MET Her Derby!


Friday last I had myself a bit of an adventure, in the lovely Garden State of New Jersey. (Oh, how I can't say enough good things about New Jersey, and all its loveliness! My God! The state's beauty is only out won by its inherent and seemingly effortless virtue! Hail unto thee, New Jersey! Hail unto thee!) Friend Kira has taken up a new pastime, and Friday night was her first official bout. That's right. Friend Kira is gone and joined the army of awesomeness that is the Garden State Rollergirls.


Seriously: Awesome. Roller derby combines many of my greatest loves--dual identities, loud music, theatre, humor, violence and women. Tough chicks, to be more specific. Ever since joining the circus, I have had a pointed appreciation for tough chicks, and these were some of the toughest I have ever seen. And their skate names rule: Skarzipan (Kira), Jenna von Fury, Slam-n-Legs, Layla Smackdown and, my personal favorite, Belle N. Somebashin'. Roller derby comes with my highest recommendation.

Kira's team is dubbed The Northern Nightmares, and last Friday they went skate-to-skate with Jersey City Bridge & Pummel, and therein did they prove themselves worthy of the gods' acclaim. (Sorry--I've been reading a lot of Mary Renault, and it has me thanking Zeus and fearing Poseidon.) Which is to say, the NNs wiped the floor with Bridge & Pummel. You may read Kira's somewhat inebriated account of the bout here. I agree with her perspective on the thing: B&P were playing at a distinct disadvantage, but playing hard nonetheless. I hope Kira feels further motivated by her contributions to the victory.

It's been very interesting hearing about Kira's progress through this experience. It's been quite physically arduous for her, and she makes no effort to avoid admitting that she's the slowest of the team, yet she has stuck with it and has a kind of passion for it that surprised me at first. I don't credit myself with an appreciation for activities that I'm not naturally talented in. (Hell of a sentence, that. Shall we try again?) THAT IS TO SAY, when I don't show any kind of aptitude for a thing, I generally cease to work at it. It's hard for me to keep up an initial enthusiasm in such cases, and this has come to haunt me in the past year. I was not allowed to quit at learning Italian, because I simply needed to speak and understand it better. I suppose I could have quit trying in my performance of A Lie of the Mind and saved myself a lot of heartache, but the alternative of phoning it in was simply not an alternative for me. I would have had a much better time of it if I could have quickly gotten past the kind of automatic self-loathing that such occasions give rise to. It's something to work on.

Kira's experience also reminds me of a kung fu class I enrolled in with Friend Mark back in 2000. I eventually quit the class, out of frustration with the structure of the school and the time demands of trying to attend it and support my acting career, and those energies quickly found some outlet in my circus studies. But the reminiscence I particularly remember from Alan Lee's Kung Fu/Wu Shu Academy was the trial class Mark and I took together. Mark is a multi-degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do, and I think while he was staying in the city he just wanted to keep in shape and encourage me toward martial arts. So I found the school and he joined me in testing it out. In the trial class, we were sequestered into our own group of two and a teacher took us through our paces. One of the training methods employed by that school is to incorporate conditioning at the beginning and end of the class, which helps both to make the simply workout more efficient and keep the muscles trim--the ideal of this lithe and quick style of fighting. So one of the first things our private teacher that day asked of us was thirty push-ups.

When I look back on it, I wonder if he wasn't being a bit soft with us. At the time, however, I remember thinking, "Did he say thirty 'push-ups'? That can't be right." I don't believe I had ever done over ten push-ups in a row before in my life up to that point. When I was young and chubby, I simply couldn't. When I got older and slim, I didn't see the point. The only physical activity I had really been interested in at that point was the common pratfall, the which really only requires a willingness to take your lumps. In college I was cast in a production of The Three Musketeers that taught me a thing or two about stamina and flexibility, but nothing of the benefits of strength. The instructor did say "push-ups," and I did end up doing them, and more.

The next day, I couldn't raise my arms from the elbow to anything sharper than 90 degrees. I looked mighty funny, I assure you, trying to eat and brush the hair from my eyes. I was borderline injured from the exertion, yet I wanted nothing more than to do it again. I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that my incapacitation was a sign that I had done something seemingly impossible. I had transcended. I had broken past a barrier, and it hurt like hell, and it felt amazing and wonderful.

It's not every day we are presented with an opportunity to become more. Or is it? Maybe the opportunity is always there, but we only recognize it when circumstances align a certain way. Whichever the case may be, it is a cause for celebration, that effort to transcend. So I celebrate you, Skarzipan. Thanks for the inspiration. As soon as I find a new apartment, I'm going to install my pull-up bar and sign up for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
 
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