I’m Kamikaze Kitten and I live in London, I skate for the London Rollergirls and have done since I first heard about Roller Derby about four years ago. At the time I was working as a self-employed illustrator when my husband read an article about rollerderby in a magazine. I’d been really into skateboarding as a teenager and definitely had an affinity for the feel of wheels underfoot. I was also pretty shy and if I’m honest, didn’t really like meeting new people or doing social stuff so the first practice that I went to watch was quite hard work. I watched that first practice session from a bench on the sidelines and thought how weird it looked, and I don’t think I would have gone back if Kitty DeCapitate hadn’t been so friendly and welcoming.I was invited to help out London Rollergirls’ first public bout, ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Rollerderby Swindle’, the following weekend where I was promised an exciting action-packed experience. Was it love at first sight? Were there spills and thrills a plenty? Er, no. I actually thought it was pretty boring. But I could see how great it COULD be, one day, when there were more leaps and spins and speed and aggression and passion and sweat.
The following week I had arranged to borrow some skates off another skater, and had scoured London’s skate shops for a set of pads. The moment I put the skates on in that first session and had my rookie training with Drolma it all got a lot more exciting. Back in the old days, 20 minutes in the middle of the track with the newbie trainer to show you some basic stops and falls is all you got. You were then in with everyone else. One hour after putting skates on for the first time in 15 years and I was thrown in to my first scrimmage. Kitty DeCapitate asked if I wanted to jam next rather than just be in the pack. I said no like a total scaredy cat. That feeling of being disappointed in myself for turning down an opportunity has stuck with me through the years. Ever since, I have endeavoured to take full advantage of everything that rollerderby offers me. There’s no room for the scaredy cat part of me when I’ve got skates on. I gave up skateboarding after a particularly painful knee injury. It wasn’t the knee that stopped me skateboarding- that healed up eventually- but it was the fear that killed it for me. I wasn’t going to let fear be a part of Roller Derby.
Roller Derby quickly became a pretty big part of my life. If you’ve ever tried to learn a trick on a skateboard, you’ll know that it takes a certain kind of attitude to failure. An almost compulsive perseverance in the face of constantly mucking it up. This is what I brought to skating. People have sometimes suggested that I have a natural ability for skating but I disagree. What I have is a hunger to learn new stuff, EVEN if this means looking like a total moron for the majority of the time whilst I’m trying to work out how to do it. This hunger to constantly achieve new goals became pretty addictive. Some skaters are in it to make friends, to be part of something big, a movement, an inspirational group of strong women, to feel connected to others, I was in it for training. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hermit in the corner, I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, it’s just never been a primary focus of my involvement. In fact, dealing with strong personalities that don’t agree with your every thought is trickier than a one footed 360 degree spin. The organisational aspect of Roller Derby seems to be where the truly useful life skills are developed. Learning to understand the motivations and fears of others is how to build compassion into your life. Whether you want to or not.
Over the years I’ve changed a bit. There’s the body image stuff. Being 12 or 13 and having a relative say that I had Thunder Thighs had a big effect on my self image. I had no idea what Thunder Thighs were but it was definitely said in that way that implies they are A Very Bad Thing That Should Remain Covered Up. Suddenly I was in an environment that prized having developed quad muscles and it was liberating. That brave new person that wasn’t afraid at training started appearing in my regular life. I had confidence, which, as it turns out, can be applied to every aspect of life.
There was also a point pretty early on in the league’s development when we realised that Roller Derby was a sport. I think it tied in with some US derby being shown on some obscure sky channel. I remember going to watch the 2008 WFTDA Tournament at Stefanie Mainey’s house. What a revelation! I fell instantly in love with the skating style of both Bonnie Thunders and Suzy Hotrod. They were made up of arms and legs just like us, why didn’t we skate like that? From that moment onwards the bar had been raised in my head. I wanted London Rollergirls to play against these teams and I wanted us to train hard enough to match them. 2 hour training sessions felt like a race to cram in as much learning as we could to make up ground on the US leagues. I had started skating as a way of getting fit, but suddenly I was getting fit OFF-SKATES to be better at skating. It was like the world had turned upside down.
Two US trips with London Brawling later and we have finished Fifth in the Eastern Region in the 2011 Regional Playoffs. What do they say about reaching for the moon? We’ve not quite reached my goal of matching the likes of Gotham or Oly, but we’ve definitely landed amongst the stars and I’ve still got plenty of rocket fuel in my backpack.