Enter the Dragon… and Paintball

“The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” – Sun Tzu



  1. inclined or disposed to war; warlike:
  2. of, suitable for, or associated with war or the armed forces:
  3. characteristic of or befitting a warrior:

Did you know that the term “Martial Arts” actually came from Europe and not Asia?  The term actually comes from Latin and is translated as “Act of Mars” for the Roman god of war.  And now you know.

Depiction of Mars – Roman god of war. Get some.

But what does this have to do with Paintball?  I was talking with a group of friends on a team I guested with recently and we were talking about how to effectively execute on the paintball field.  I used the analogy of my past training in the martial arts in an attempt to explain how we should think about each point on the field.  I made a mental note of the conversation and decided it would make a good blog post.  You tell me.

I think the argument can be made, and I believe most would agree, that paintball is a martial sport.  Similar to Boxing, Kickboxing, Wrestling, MMA, and the like, the only difference is that paintball is a team based fighting sport.  When fighting in the ring, we want to train ourselves to recognize and create openings in an opponent’s defense and hit clean causing as much damage and trauma as we can.  Conversely, we want to make sure we don’t make a wrong read of our opponent and take damage. **(Maybe American Football would be a better analogy for my Alabama readers?  Everyone has their job to do for a particular play to develop.  A missed assignment by a linemen or back can spell disaster for the play/team.  But I think we can all agree that, when players do their job, things usually go well.)**

Let’s break it down to a street fight analogy.  The “street” would essentially be your physical surroundings/environment or in the case of paintball, the layout.  The “Break” in paintball would your body positioning in relation to your opponent.  With your environment being the field layout, it will determine how you move to position and engage your opponent.  The ground you take on the break or rather, the bunkers you position in, determine whether or not you are fighting from a position of strength, one of disadvantage (loss of players on the break) or an even playing field.  Of course, this is all in relation to the “stance” your opponent took.


Your game plan is the “style” or “technique” you wish to engage your opponent with.  Similar to the jujitsu practitioner wishing to take opponents to the ground or utilize an opponent’s clothing to their advantage, the game plan needs to have a purpose, a goal.  Do we think their guns are weak snake side? Do we want to take the snake on the break and put two guns behind it to push that side, or utilize the center more in order to lock a side down, etc.?   All of this needs to be committed to.  The game plan is your attack, it is your defense, it is your footwork…

Reading your opponent is a necessity in any fight and it is every bit as important in paintball.  Being explosive, quick, feinting, and countering your opponent by understanding what he shows you is vital.  It is the reads we make that ultimately determine how we will react.  What did the opposing team show you on their last break out, during their mid game, how they finished (hopefully you scoped this team prior to playing them, an excellent advantage)?  Individually, did you see a specific player-position drop on the break and if so, did you already know what you needed to do once this happened?  When you block a punch or kick and counter, paintball is no different.  Blocking could be your lanes on the break, zoning up, and acquiring dominance on a player.  Attacking is getting that kill, making that aggressive move into the 50, gaining position and drawing guns.

Getting the picture?

If you want a physical embodiment of this, hopefully you had an opportunity to watch the webcast of the NXL Cleveland Open this past weekend.  An excellent example of punch/counterpunch, reading an opponent, creating and taking openings would be the AC Dallas/Houston Heat game.  Watch the first 2-3 minutes of the 1st point (the first point went over 5 minutes).  The 4th point is another excellent example of punch/counter punch.  Sure, there are more examples from the webcast but I was watching that match when I wrote this…

Training should be mental as well as physical

Like fighters, we have to train our bodies and our minds.  ** (Like football players we have to train as a team, we have to train and understand our assignments, so that when the time comes and we are mixing it up, we know what and how to do our job)** Roll Tide/War Eagle

I’m going to shift gears a bit hear and hammer something I have talked about several instances before.  Training individually is smart.  It needs to happen.  But training as a team is every bit if not more important.  Remember, there are several components to creating a successful team.  Team is the most operative word in paintball.  Everyone has a job to do and everyone needs to train accordingly.  But creating that environment in order that the team has this capability is paramount.

Teamwork is an incredibly underutilized trait in many teams.  It needs to be recognized and supported.  A good paintball team will set a goal and before they just blindly chase it, they should develop tasks that must be performed in order to improve and move towards that goal.  It makes sense to develop skill sets but you have to identify who has those fundamental abilities already.  A good team will always maximize individual talent and leverage that with an environment that focuses on positivity and team cohesion.

Now, in order for your team to reach its maximum potential, you need to make sure you have chosen the right people.  We have talked about this before.  You need like-minded people in regards to winning and work ethic, people who understand the goal of being competitive.  But at the same time, try to find those that will complement each other.  Choose those who will support the culture you are developing.

When your expectations have been communicated and everyone is on the same page, now everyone needs to pull their weight.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have played with a team and when the match was over, certain people grabbed their own stuff and bailed.  This is unacceptable.  You are all in it together, from the coach to the pod runner, you all have stake in the team.  So act accordingly.  No one is above the other.  Help each other.  Foster the team environment.  Manage expectations from the get go so you don’t have a diva on the team.  Make sure everyone has an assignment and mix it up.  Trust me; you will be happy you did.

Team.  Nothing like it.

You will want to see results, right?  So you will need to track progress of individuals and the team as a whole.  In a perfect paintball team environment, everyone gets along, everyone pulls their weight, everyone helps everyone, no one gets angry, everyone improves, everyone plays and you win.  But this is the mythical unicorn.  It doesn’t exist (if it does, I want to come play for that team).  Sure, there will be differences and that is okay.  It can make the team stronger in some instances.  But for the most part, you need to make sure there is a way for things to get worked out.  A forum where everyone is heard and differences are addressed.  Otherwise, it will build up and explode.  Have that outlet pre planned.

Before this gets too long, it is important to remember that, when your team wins, exceeds its goals, or moves in a positive direction, be sure to recognize that!  Build each other up.  It pays off, I promise.  The more successes, the more drive to have that feeling again, the greater the comradery, the greater the need to feel that success again.  This builds upon itself until you have an environment where there is a constant motivation in the camp.  Good stuff.

All of this is to say that, when we train appropriately, when we have the right work ethic, when we have the right team mates, the right leadership… then a paintball team has all the advantages and tools it needs to compete and win.  Like Bruce Lee said, “A good martial artist does not become tense but ready. Not thinking yet not dreaming, ready for whatever may come. A martial artist has to take responsibility for himself and face the consequences of his own doing. To have no technique, there is no opponent, because the word ‘I’ does not exist. When the opponent expands, I contract and when he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, ‘I’ do not hit, ‘It’ hits all by itself.”


Be water, my friends.


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