By today’s standards, big number 55 is considered one of Pro paintball’s elder statesman. With a pedigree that reads like a who’s who of top competitive teams and a career that began at southern California’s renowned SC Village, it is no wonder Mike Paxson of the Los Angeles Ironmen is this episode’s Gun Fu focus.
It would appear we have a cousin to blame for Mike’s entry into the paintball world. At age 15, his cousin invited him to SC Village for a day of rec ball starting out in the bamboo arena. Mike realized that he could get “sneaky” and dispatch his opponents with the simple request of “Surrender!” After his first victim surrendered, Mike thought to himself, “This is easy!”. He quickly found another victim and dispatched him in the exact same manner. Brimming with confidence, he moved on swiftly to find yet another potential victim. However, this particular victim had other plans. As Mike rounded the corner and asked him to surrender, fully expecting the helpless individual to do so, that “victim” simply turned and promptly blew Mr. Paxson’s face off. “Ever since then, I haven’t asked anyone to surrender.” Said with a grin, mind you.
Prior to joining the Los Angeles Ironmen, Mike began his pro career with another notable name in paintball. One who has actually birthed the career of several other famous paintball players. The Bushwackers, led by none other than the infamous Ron Kilbourne. Mike speaks highly of Ron, “Ron Kilbourne who was not only my mentor and coach during my time with the Bushwackers, but he was also my teammate.” Ron and Jose Palma (currently with Los Angeles Platinum) shaped Mike’s approach to the game. They left lasting impressions on Mike and they continue to do so to this day.
When you ask him about when he knew he wanted to be pro and why, you will get a matter of fact answer, “Ron Kilbourne wanted to take the team (Bushwackers) to the next level and so I went with the decision to go pro.” After a time, Mike moved on to join Aftershock, followed by Las Vegas LTZ and eventually landed on the Ironmen’s roster in 2007. He has been there ever since.
Mike is not afraid to share. It’s in his DNA. And that is something that, when you first meet him, you pick up on pretty quickly. Jerry Caro of the LA Ironmen had this to say about his teammate, “There is no one like Mike Paxson. He shoots a lot of people and is a huge threat on the field. I just don’t like it when he’s in the snake! That means something went wrong! (laughs)… He can play anywhere on the field. Most importantly, he makes paintball really fun for all of us Ironmen. He’s been at the top level for years and knows how to win. That is one of the reasons why we are working hard to improve our game but more importantly for the team.”
Being around Mike, you realize that this “paintball thing” is pretty encompassing for him. “I always tried to make myself available to people and help out where I could. I was never afraid to get dirty and do grunt work when needed and didn’t think of myself as being any better than anyone because of my status as a pro player. I also tried to participate in anything paintball and played woodsball, played with a pump gun, played big games and scenarios even before other tournament players started to do so.”
Mike has lots of interests. Before that fateful day with his cousin, Mike had other plans; “I wanted to be a firefighter. And I want to fish a lot more than the average person.”
But let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Mike has strong opinions regarding a common mistake he sees a lot of beginning players make. “Protecting each other. It’s not just about what you see to shoot, it’s more relevant to look out for one another and even how you can help your teammates make the shots, too.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, the one drill Mike does ALL the time is simple. “Shooting off the break. If you can get someone off the break, you’re already ahead.”
So what is the one parting advice he has for players? If you know Mike, this one shouldn’t surprise you; “Listen to what the more experienced players have to say, even if you don’t agree with it. You never know when you’re going to need their help down the road. Oh, and read Zen.”
Solid advice. Especially that last part. Thanks to Mike Paxson for taking the time to speak with me and keep your eye out for the men in red at this year’s NXL World Cup.
In the meantime, since Mike mentioned laning as one of the drills he does a lot of, and keeping with the theme as of late on Zen, check out this latest laning video.