April 1, 2014
Rat City Rollergirls’ All-Star jammer, Luna Negra, turned heads this past fall and earned MVP at the WFTDA Playoffs in Salem, Oregon. Taking her name from her favorite Rey Ruiz salsa song, Luna Negra’s approach to roller derby and life is all about the delicate balance between taking chances and taking your time. All the while, she is committed to doing it her way, and getting better every time she’s on the track. Read on to learn more about this month’s featured skater.
What is your derby name? Luna Negra
Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
Luna Negra is the name of a salsa song by Rey Ruiz. It’s one of my favorite songs, and a classic song. Luna Negra is about a woman who came and broke a man’s heart, and when she left, he couldn’t see the stars in the sky, he saw that the moon was black; she destroyed his world. For me, Luna Negra means: she’s the one that you don’t see coming or you underestimate, and then when she’s done, you will feel like, whoa…who would have thought?
What is your number? #911
What is your home league? Rat City Rollergirls from Seattle, Washington
Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
Yes. My boyfriend will say that I get sick one week before every bout. I get the sniffles, a sore throat, and I sleep a lot. I swear it’s the flu before every bout. He also buys me a whole roasted chicken, makes a big tub of rice, and gives me two avocados. I love it. It helps my nerves. Usually, you can find me taking a nap before the bout. I get so sleepy. Sometimes, when I am on the jammer line, I just want to curl up on the line and go right to sleep. If I had a blanket, I probably would.
What do you think about when you’re lacing up your skates?
When I am lacing up my skates, I am thinking positive thoughts. I am thinking about my blockers and how I trust them. I am thinking about my skills and having confidence on the track. I am thinking about what I like about roller derby. I try to think about the joy of the game and how fast I will recover between jams. I think about getting lead. I think about my endurance and that I have trained and prepared for this moment. I think: “I am ready. We are ready.”
Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
My favorite motivational quote is Joe’s pep talk from the movie, Cinderella Man. The entire pep talk. I have it memorized. Braddock is fighting Lasky in the championship fight. Braddock and Lasky have gone blow for blow the entire fight. Braddock’s trainer is telling him: “you gotta hit him from the inside out.” In this scene, Braddock takes a super hard hit straight to the face. He is hit so hard that his mouth guard comes out with a few drops of blood. Braddock looks at Lasky, smirks, picks up his mouth guard and puts it back in his mouth. Braddock is tired, but he has sacrificed everything, his family barely had food, his wife had to support him and believe in him. So Braddock has to make a choice in the final fight. It’s amazing. Watch the movie.
One of the lines from the pep talk is, “You got to hit them from the inside out.” For me, that means when they think you are down, you have to stand up and fight. You have to stand up and show that you have more. When you are up against the ropes, stand up and give more.
How did you get involved with roller derby?
I chose to get into roller derby after a rough time in my personal life. I spent some time being down in the dumps, put on weight, and decided that I needed a new challenge. I went and bought skates, and went to the local Seattle derby training group, PFM (Potential Fresh Meat). They were so nice. My second day on skates there was a three-day bootcamp with the Oly Rollers. I had no idea what I was getting into. I couldn’t skate, I couldn’t stop, and my skates were not broken in. I didn’t know anything about roller derby. I had never watched a bout. I just wanted to train for something. At the end of the camp, one of the Oly skaters made me jam, and I was like, “No. I can’t do this.” I started to cry! The skater looked at me like I was insane (because I was at the time). She just said that I could do it, and that it was okay if I looked stupid. So, I went and looked stupid. But I did it. In that jam, one of the refs was laughing at me. I didn’t know how to end the jam! It was so scary. That’s how it goes. Derby gets you hooked. And afterwards, I cried and soaked my feet. I was in love with a new sport. I was hooked.
What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
Oh…this one is going to age me a little. I played sports in high school. I played volleyball, basketball, and ran track. I also ran track in college. That was quite a few years ago…
Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
As far as skating and playing roller derby, I couldn’t skate. I played not to get hit. At that time, big hits were much more common than they are today, and I would get blasted by Shovey Chase, Sara Problem, and Anya Heels. I would get rocked and knocked off my feet. But they always smiled and encouraged me to get up and keep coming at them, and they would blast me again. That was pretty much my rookie year. That year, in the game to decide which home team would play in the interleague championships, I hurt my knee and I almost missed the championship game that the Throttle Rockets made it to. In the end, I did play and we lost…it was a tear jerker. Still hurts. My rookie year was something I will never forget. It was a wild ride.
I learned to play roller derby by just being thrown in there. My rookie year I just skated and tried not to get blasted. I still skate that way.
What is your position of choice?
My position of choice is jammer. I get to block every once in a while, but I would rather jam.
What is your signature move?
I don’t think I have a signature move. Even if I had one, I am not sure I would share it. I hate stealing moves! I think I am known for sprinting on my toe stops.
How would you describe your derby playing style?
I would like to describe my derby style as reactive, but calm. I try to adjust to game play in the moment, and not rely on the same routine or move during any bouts. I try to play in the moment and adjust. I like to be fluid. I would like to think I am graceful on skates, but that would not be accurate; I just make it work. It might not be pretty, but pretty doesn’t equal points.
We understand that you are a huge fan of salsa music and dancing. How do you think the rhythm and movements of salsa translate into how you move and/or think on the track?
I think that sometimes salsa does influence my movements on the track. In salsa, you have to use your whole body from toes to fingertips to the top of your head. Your body moves in certain ways, to different beats in the song. Sometimes, this helps with juking. Some jammers will juke using just their feet or shoulders. If you can juke with your entire body, like a body roll, it can be really confusing to blockers. Also, when you are doing multiple spins in salsa, you have to spot. In order to spot, you must pick a spot to spin your head around and back to the same spot so that you don’t get dizzy or lose your starting position. I use that same principle as a jammer. I try to keep my eyes on the open spot on the track and get there. If you put your eyes on a blocker, you will go to the blocker. Also, salsa songs are anywhere from five to ten minutes long, and the beats can be very fast. If you are the follow, you must always be ready for what’s coming next and smile. Dancing is a workout. It really helps with keeping my feet fast, changing directions, and shifting my weight between my feet. I really love dancing…
Lastly, I try to be polite when I dance and always smile. Even when I am tired, or I know the lead is going to spin me 10 to 15 times, really fast in all directions. Never let them see you sweat. It’s the same way in roller derby: always smile, and never let the see you sweat. Always have fun.
You were named MVP of the 2013 WFTDA Playoffs in Salem, Oregon. Congratulations! How did it feel to receive this recognition?
I was shocked! I was so shocked. It took me two months to realize what an honor this award was, and then I was too embarrassed to say anything. I am the worst at posting on Facebook. But I really want to thank everybody for the kind words and congratulations. Everyone was so supportive and kind. I couldn’t believe it. It was such a great weekend. Rat City came in determined to make it to Championships, and we came together as a team to meet that goal. It was awesome. And to get an award on top of that…it was unbelievable.
It was so fun to watch you compete at your first WFTDA Playoff tournament in Salem, Oregon and at Championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin! Are there any bouts from those tournaments that are especially memorable for you? What are your favorite memories from those weekends?
My favorite moment from the weekend in Salem was at the end of the third game when we realized we were going to championships. It was such an accomplishment to reach that goal. It was so amazing to see some of my teammates who worked so hard for so many years finally do something that we believed in and knew that we could do. All despite people not believing, changes in the program, and some hard losses. In that moment, I realized that Rat City was on the comeback and that we were going to be a force over the next few years. That was only the beginning…
Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
My best derby moments…one of my best moments was making the Rat City All-Star team roster for the game against the Boston Derby Dames last year. It is always very competitive to make the charter, much less the roster. I couldn’t believe it. It would be my second game for the All-Star team. It was the moment I have been training for for years.
I have had some good derby moments, with family and friends watching. My home team, the Throttle Rockets, made it to the Rat City championships the last three out of four years. Last year, we had a very difficult rebuilding year, and it was my first year being captain. That was hard, I felt like I let my team down. This year, I feel like the team has really come together and we believe in ourselves. And, we just made it back to the championship game. I can’t wait.
We are about to start the All-Star Team season. I can’t wait. Rat City is a whole new team this year. There are so many great moments to come this season from the team. It’s going to be so fun. I am so excited.
What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
I think for me, my greatest accomplishment is skating and keeping my style mine. For the first few years, I was told I have to skate in this way or that way, and it never worked for me. For so long, no one understood how I made it through the pack or got lead. Many people told me I was not a good skater because I had a funny skating form, or that I was too handsy, or whatever. I was told to skate like this skater or skate like that skater. I learned not to give value to everything that everyone told me. I decided to study the game, practice, and try hard. I chose to believe in myself. I just kept skating and kept working hard, and I got a chance. I still have a ton of work to do. I still have to earn my spot and give 150%, so I am not sure I have a greatest accomplishment yet. I just try to enjoy the moment and recognize that I have to work harder and improve.
Off the track?
My kid. She’s pretty cool. She’s also really good at roller derby. I used to coach the Seattle Derby Brats, a Seattle league with kids between the ages of 8 to 18. I used to coach the young girls between the ages of 8 and 12. The kids were so fun to coach. They have no fear. Now I am watching those same young girls continue to grow and progress at a sport. It’s incredible. Now those girls are 12 to 16, and they are SO good at roller derby. So good. It makes me proud to see them skating. They can do things on skates that I refuse to try. They have no fear, absolutely no fear. They are my heroes. Besides that, I have some stuff I am proud of, but I’ll keep that close to the heart.
Who are your derby heroes?
The first time I walked into a Fit Skate program, this beautiful, blond, intimidating woman gave me the kindest smile and said, put your skates on! She then gave me one of the hardest workouts of my life. That was Sara Problem. She was just nice and kind and she always spoke honestly to me. Shovey Chase, another Rat City veteran, always knew how to knock me down. No matter what, she would just step on the track and I would fall. She was a great teacher and so encouraging. Dirty Little Secret and Sirius Mischief are the people who helped to build my spirit, and they taught me to be strong no matter what. Lexi Luthor has been my coach from day one. Sintripetal Force, who is my current co-captain and All-Star teammate, is literally the most positive person in the whole universe. I have learned so much from her. Also Panda Beer and Calder Bluff, who are also my Throttle Rockets’ teammates are inspiring to me. They are so intense and focused. I hope to have that one day.
All of these people have lifted me up and supported me when I had no belief in or understanding of myself. That’s why they are my derby heroes. It’s not always about skating skills, or points scored, it’s about helping out your leaguemate, teammate, and friend, and helping them to grow as people. These women have done that for me.
What is your day job? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
For my day job, I help people who are currently low income or unemployed access training and education. I work at a community college where I teach workshops about how to be successful on the job, how to change the way you think, and how to access education for work.
How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
Well, we all know that roller derby can take over a person’s life. More often than not, roller derby consumes my life. However, roller derby gives me the chance to train, be on a team, and compete for a goal. I can continue to be an athlete. I will always be an athlete. Roller derby also helps me to not be over competitive in other areas of my life, like work. I need a competitive outlet or else I can get slightly aggressive. Sometimes, I find myself hangry.
How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
That’s really funny…real life and balance. When it comes to real life and roller derby, balance is a very arbitrary word. Balance comes in waves. Here’s my theory, I can manage three things at a time well: derby, my family, and work. My house and car are a mess. I am totally okay with that. As long as my job is going well, my daughter and fiancée are happy, and I am progressing in roller derby, life is good. Sometimes, I may take a day off of work to catch up on something besides derby. Or sleep all day when I should be working out. I am okay with that as well. As long as I know I have done the best that I can in the things that I believe are important to my family and me, I am happy. Fortunately, I have a great support system. My job, family, and friends are there for me when I need them. I have to honor their needs as well.
What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
Do it!!! And just know that everyone progresses at different rates. Never let anyone tell you no. Never. Last year, I was told I would never be good enough to be an All-Star jammer. At that moment, I decided that that person would be wrong. She was wrong. You can do it. You may only get one chance, you may be the only person that believes you can do it, but believe. Take that chance. Be ready and smile. At the end, no matter the results, you will be a better person.
Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for and why?
Yes! I am excited for the Rat City Championship bout on April 12th. The Throttle Rockets are playing Derby Liberation Front and I am so excited. I am so excited I can’t even talk about it. It’s going to be a battle. The last time we played, the Throttle Rockets lost by a few points. DLF has powerhouses like Ophelia Melons, Rumble Fist, and Full Neslon. The Throttle Rockets also have amazing defense from Parker EyeOut and Missile America. It’s going to be so fun! It will be a close bout. Also, the All-Stars’ season is starting soon. I am really looking forward to all of those games.
Do you have a special message to your fans?
To the people who enjoy watching, participating, or supporting a loved one in the sport, thank you. You have no idea how much we rely on your support and how that support influences our love for the game. It makes me happy when people are enjoying the bout or supporting any team. Thank you all for the kind words and cheers, the boos, all of it. Even though I might not post it on Facebook (because I really hate posting on Facebook), I hear it, see it, feel it. Thank you.
Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.