Thursday, January 2, 2014
2014 is here! Whee! Last year (or was it the year before?) my resolution was to moisturize regularly. For such an easily attainable goal, I failed pretty spectacularly. So maybe this year, I'll aim a little higher, just to make the failures seem less pathetic! So here are my more lofty goals for this year:
1. Create a series of analog pieces (non-digital!) and actually try to get a show. Every now and then I've had a piece or two in a group show, but I think maybe now I should try to be a grown up, buckle down, and have a solo show.
2. Fight! I want to do a few grappling tournaments this year, a smoker fight, and maybe, eventually, a full MMA fight. Competition excites me, and I want to venture outside the relative safety of my gym and have my fledgling skills tested!
3. Master advanced footwork for derby! I want to nail my backwards hockey stops, 360s, and conquer the power slide on both sides. And since I'm coaching again this year, I plan to take everyone with me on this particular goal, whether they want it or not!
Audra and I also made a short list of goals we'd accomplish together!
1. Stop slacking and plan our wedding.
2. No ER trips or hospital stays.
Like I said, it's a short list!
Here's a couple of Providence Monthly quickies:
Friday, December 20, 2013
I’ve been a bit bummed out lately by the news of Julie Kedzie’s retirement from professional MMA. Julie is my favorite female fighter, not just because she’s a slick technician in the cage. I find her body of work to be impressive in its depth (29 fights!) and a testament to the work ethic and dedication that she has for her chosen sport. She’s fought the best in the world, and even though she didn’t always win, she held her own like a true warrior and took lessons from each loss. In her interviews and articles, Julie comes across as a smart, analytical, self-effacing personality. As admirable as all of these traits are, though, I liked her most of all because I think that in some ways, she’s like me.
It would be a silly comparison to draw, that Julie Kedzie’s path in MMA is parallel to mine in derby. Julie is a legend in her sport. If I were a longtime starter on a D1 championship team, or a Team USA draft pick, then maybe I could claim that our athletic careers are analogous, but that isn’t the case. I’m a decent derby player that stuck around long enough to break the bad habits I developed when modern roller derby was in its infancy. But here’s what we’ve got in common:
We both were drawn to young fringe sports that no one understood. Julie came to MMA from Tae Kwon Do and competed at a time when most of the relatively few followers of the sport believed women shouldn’t fight, or that their sole reason for fighting was to be eye candy between the “real” fights on the card. When I started in derby, even I didn’t know what it really was, beyond roller skates and short skirts. A lot of people still believe that it’s staged, or like a burlesque show with wheels attached.
We are both workaholics. I know this because I read post-fight interviews like it’s my job. Julie shows up to the gym like it's church. So do I. I find my coaches to be like good bartenders: They cut me off and send me home when they think I’ve had enough. I believe that my tendency toward over-training comes from an obsessive, mulish drive to overcome perceived weaknesses. I’m not a natural athlete at all. I was a pale, scrawny nerd that was tired of getting pushed around by bigger, stronger girls on the track. In my mind, I still am that person. During training sessions, the voices in my head speak of compensation, and trying to claw my way up from a place of “less than.” Maybe Julie’s dedication doesn’t come from that particular place, but at the very least, she strikes me (har har) as a person who puts the onus on herself to be better, rather than holding other people accountable for her success or failure.
We are, in MMA years and in derby years, old women. Reading about Julie’s weigh-in face-off with Bethe Correia, I found myself thinking, “Oh god, I know this feeling.” Regardless of our respective trajectories in our sports, I know that this particular experience is one we share: When you reach a point in your career where you have worked so hard for so long, but each opponent that comes at you is younger, fresher, hungrier, and less injured than you are. I’ve shared the jam line with skaters who have one year of experience to my nine, and they want so badly to beat me. In my modest way, I have set some kind of a bar for them, and if I don’t bring my A+++ game EVERY SINGLE TIME, they will surpass it. They eventually do anyway, because there are some truly talented skaters coming up in the derby world, and my experience and hard work isn’t a match for them.
In July, it’ll be ten years since I first put on a borrowed pair of Chicago roller skates and learned how to T-stop. The average player retires after 5 years, because derby is a demanding hobby that only a very select few can make into a career. Even Suzy Hotrod has a full-time job. (Suzy, by the way, started playing derby about three months before I did! Yeah, we’re like twins, bro.) I had a blast playing home season, and often wish I could play at a higher level than I currently do. I still actively seek to improve my game, but I wonder: to what end? How long can I sustain this? When am I supposed to retire? Does the fact that Julie Kedzie, my MMA hero, is retiring mean that I should look at my own career and figure out an exit strategy?
Part of the irony here is that I decided to try MMA because I needed a break from derby, and now I’m a fledgling in what is, to me, a brand new sport. It may seem like spitting in the eye of anyone who has ever worked herself to the bone to get even an amateur fight, but I feel like I have a sport to retire into after derby. I’ll never be a pro, because, as I said before, I’m not a natural athlete, and I’m way too old to be starting down that path. (Listening to 19-year-olds complain about their aching bodies makes me go all, BITCH, PLEASE.)
But I also got into MMA because of fighters like Julie, and now I feel like, “Wait, don’t leave, I just got here!” It’s always sad to see a role model retire. I sometimes dream about meeting my heroes in competition rather than in an autograph line, and when they retire, that possibility, however far-fetched, dies out. I anticipate that I’ll feel pretty bummed when Suzy Hotrod hangs up the skates, too. Maybe by then I’ll have retired and made peace with the end of my derby career.
For now, my wish is that Julie finds joy in whatever it is that she does next. Her work with Invicta FC is awesome to see, and I believe that she’s a huge asset to that organization. Perhaps she’ll be a coach who trains the next vanguard of UFC champions. Maybe she’ll even reinvent herself as a derby player… Now there’s something to get excited about!
PS: Another thing we have in common is that we are legit crazy cat ladies!