Bullied to Bully-proof: The George St. Pierre Story
He is known as one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time.
A three-time former UFC Welterweight champion, UFC Middleweight champion, and Canadian Athlete of the Year three years running.
For many, he is the very definition of ‘tough’.
But George St. Pierre was not born this way.
Throughout his childhood, the martial arts superhero was the victim of horrendous bullying.
In our case-study, ‘Bullied: The George St. Pierre Story’, we uncover exactly how GSP turned his life around from playground-victim to Martial Arts World Champion.
As if being small, skinny and shy wasn’t enough, Canadian winters would mercilessly crack & chap young George’s lips every morning as he walked to school.
George couldn’t stop himself from repeatedly licking around his dry lips. So much so that the skin turned raw-red around his mouth.
This left him with a clown-like rim around his lips, and made him an easy target for local bullies.
At just nine years old, he was picked on by kids three years older than him.
Before he could even reach the school-doors, they would grab him, strip down his favourite Adidas pants, take his lunch-money, and leave him physically & emotionally bruised on the cold Canadian pavement.
Every day at school was hell for young George.
Instead of listening to his teachers & learning in class, George would spend the whole lesson-time planning how to escape from the schoolyard and get home safely.
The Hero’s Journey Begins
Eventually, George decided enough was enough.
After years of keeping his torment secret, he finally opened up to his father about what was happening.
? The next day, his father drove him to a local Kyokushin Karate academy to begin his training ?
And so began his career in Martial Arts and with it, his journey from victim to hero.
Within the four walls of the small dojo, George began to rebuild his shattered confidence. He learned the benefits of discipline and self-mastery. Sheltered from his problems at school, the Dojo provided a sacred space to nurture the broken young boy.
For a great video of a young GSP training Karate, check out the link here. He may be far from UFC Champion, but his new-found self-esteem and determination is clear.
After Karate, he graduated to learn wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Boxing. Being a victim to bullies quickly became a thing of the past.
From then on, his love for Martial Arts led him to begin his professional career. And, in time, to become one of the greatest Martial Artists the world has ever seen.
Lessons From GSP’s Story
1) We Can Choose How Bullying Defines Us
We can’t always prevent discrimination. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, bullying just happens. But, we do have a choice in how we react to it. Do we choose to let it define as a victim for life, or as a chapter in our Hero’s Journey?
For GSP, he chose to define himself as a hero. Yes, he experienced bullying, but he refused to identify with it. Instead, he used it as a reason to develop into the best version of himself.
Afterall, who knows, if GSP had never been picked on as a small, shy kid in St-Isidore, Québec, perhaps he might never have stepped into that Karate Dojo, and begun his path to greatness?
2) The Importance of Communication
George set up the GSP Foundation to raise awareness about bullying.
In his mission statement, he outlines the importance of communication for any child who finds themselves the victim of bullying.
Talking with adults; teachers & parents is a crucial part of defeating bullying. No child should be left to face bullies by themselves. Adults can help with bullying, but only if they know about it in the first place.
George took years to open up to his parents about being bullied.
? The turning point in his journey from victim to hero was not when he became UFC Champion, but the day he told his father what was happening ?
Communication is a key part of the Anti-Bullying Alliance’s ‘Change Starts With Us’ Campaign. Check out there manifesto here.
3) Bullying in 2019
In an interview with Montréal Gazette, GSP lamented how technology has fallen into the hands of bullies. Smartphones and Social Media have allowed bullying to creep outside the classroom and schoolyard, and into a child’s home.
Campaigning for Technology Companies to take a more proactive stance against bullying, is another cornerstone of the Anti-Bullying Week 2019 Manifesto.
The ABA asks Tech Companies to be more transparent in sharing data regarding incidents of bullying on their platform. This allows anti-bullying initiatives to better locate & target online ‘danger-spots’.
The ABA, guided by feedback from youth advisory groups, also called on Tech giants to be more rigorous in monitoring online harassment, and faster to remove harmful content.
4) Bullies Prey On The Weak
George describes his childhood bullies as predators who deliberately targeted the vulnerable.
By starting his Martial Art training, George took up the task of empowering himself. To learn how to stand tall and speak confidently. And this is a lesson he has carried through with him to adulthood.
As a professional fighter, his opponents would try to trash-talk and verbally bully him before their fights. But throughout every press-conference, George carried himself with confidence & dignity; countering their intimidation with his unshakeable self-belief.
As we know at InPower, a crucial part of defeating bullying is by empowering the victim. Not only to safeguard them in the playground. But to give them the foundational self-esteem to carry them through the rest of their lives, and against any future challenges they may face.
Thanks for reading.