I’ve always wanted to watch a roller derby game as I’m curious about this strange game on wheels which has very little publicity over here in the UK. My friend Chris aka Horndog was having his debuting match so this seemed to be a good opportunity, especially then as I had a team to root for. This match was different from normal as men and women play separately. In this bout it was the Men of Southern Discomforts Roller Derby’s newly formed B Team versus the girls of Croydon Roller Derby’s Riot Squad.
You may think the guys would go easy on the girls, but no. It was pretty vicious out there. Both sides hitting back just as hard as each other. I knew the basic rules but at times I did find it hard to follow exactly what was going on. There were some exciting moments like when you see some fancy footwork with the ‘jammer,’ narrowly missing a bump from the opponent. All the more impressive that they’re all using quad skates as I find them so much harder to use than inline skates.
It was great to Chris in this game, especially since it was only a year ago he was looking a little unsteady on the Easy Saturday Skate, in Battersea Park. That man is a machine. He asked me if I wanted in on this game too. After seeing a guy get stretchered off during the match the answer is looking negative. His howling pain is still echoing. I can definitely see the appeal with school playground memories of ‘British Bulldog,’ and the whole team entity. However for me I’ve got plenty of other disciplines of skating to keep me occupied for now.
I took up slaloming in 2011 and made good steady progress, however in 2012 it all slowed down a little. The learning curve seemed to have become steep for the more complex tricks. As I learnt new moves, some of the earlier tricks got left behind and were never truly perfected.
I decided to attend another slalom workshop to help get things going again and to have any bad habits pointed out. My workshop was with Natalie Ujuk, she is an ICP Slalom Instructor (ranked #1 in the UK and 17th in the World in Freestyle Slalom). Natalie is a part of the Skate Freestyle group, the same team as Megan and Tim with whom I had my first workshop with.
Before our lesson Natalie invited us with requests for the weekend. I’ve been hacking at this trick called the ‘Twister,’ I had seen on the internet so asked for help on that. (She later said she learnt that trick that week so she could teach it that weekend). Secondly, when I first started learning I saw lots of people learning the toe trick ‘Swan.’ I wanted to learn that too.
There was snow on weekend of the workshop so the obvious Hyde Park spot was a no go. We went to some sheltered basketball court by Royal Oak instead. It wasn’t as good as Hyde Park, the surface is a little patchy in place. However in weather like this it was the best thing available.
Firstly Natalie gave us a check sheet for us to go through and self-assess. It had all the core tricks we should all know as they are the foundations to the more advanced moves. This gave us a time to reflect on ourselves and approach things which we may have been neglecting.
A few people have had lessons with Natalie before, but for myself and others this was Natalie’s first chance to observe and gauge what level we really were at. Only then was she able to put us into subgroups.
The first day for me was about tidying up everything. My ‘nelson,’ wasn’t quite a ‘nelson.’ Once my bad habits were corrected I learnt the ‘Mega,’ which is a combination of forwards and backwards nelson. It was a good move to know as it changes your weight from left to right very quickly, making you a bit lighter on your feet, less heavy weighted from doing just a line of nelsons.
‘X,’ was another move I learnt. It looks quite cool when done right, especially the jumping variation of this manoeuvre. The reason why Natalie wanted me especially to do this move as it then led on to the ‘Special,’ which is exactly the same as X but all on toes. So whilst I did not learn the Swan that weekend, the Special will help me up the trick ladder to Swanning.
For the Twister she gave me some pointers to help me out. ‘Aim for the later step,’ was something that stuck in my head which seemed to give me more progression.
To end the weekend in front of everyone we had to individually go down the line of cones and show what we had achieved from the workshop. However I don’t actually like people watching just me, or knowing that people are watching just me. (It goes for a lot of other things too, not exclusive to skating).
I messed up my run and ended up kicking all the cones. So then I tried the things I normally can do and it wasn’t any better. I bailed a bit earlier than I intended, blaming my aching legs from a whole weekend of skating.
Everybody else did there runs better than myself. Having seen the tricks people were working on, it was great to see they had nailed it during the weekend. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t show what I’ve done too. Public slaloming is something I need to work on, especially as it always seems draw in a crowd on the Serpentine Road in Hyde Park.
Overall though it was a good weekend session. Natalie was very patient with each of us and she catered to our different levels. If we didn’t understand what she was saying she’d find a different way of explaining.
This weekend I’ve resparked my slalom interest as I now have plenty of more tricks to play with.
So while no skating went on today, it was nice that the Easy Saturday Skate group still made a big social turn out. Making the most of the Ireland's big celebratery day.
An instructor, Mile Van Erp had been holding some speed skating drill sessions over the winter. It wasn't so much a lesson but he got us doing strange exercises that focuses on specific areas of your technique.
For me I had no interest in speed skating but it was an evening during the week where I got to do some skating/exercise with my friends.
The drills were pretty weird, the drill names were weirder. Lemons, Awoogas, etc. Mike said we should all be aiming to land on our outside edge, this concept sounded frightening.
It wasn't until one evening I watched a slow motion video of a speed skater that the pieces started coming together and I began to understand what we're aiming towards.
Being able to already do lots of slalom tricks I decided that I should be capable of doing this outside edging technique. Difference is that slalom tricks are generally done at a slow pace when compared to speed skating, that's what made the idea a little scary.
With this edging technique I've tried a couple of times but lacked the confidence to go for it. Today at Victoria Park was the first time I got a nice outside edge with both feet. Today it really clicked and my skating style has changed since. It's far from perfect but I can already notice being more efficient on the longer stretches.
"Any tips, reviews and advice are my own opinions and are not to be taken as professional view points. The information on this site is what has worked for me and is here for guidance only, but I hope you gain insight into the various activities I partake in." Jonathan Chen