Former UFC champion and all-around legend, Georges St-Pierre, more fondly known by fans as “GSP,” is one of the best fighters in the history of mixed martial arts. He is one of the most talented martial artists ever, period.
The list of opponents he’s beaten in the cage reads like a Hall-of-Fame ballot.
Naturally, when it comes to using his fighting skills outside of the cage in necessary self-defense situations, St-Pierre knows the best path to victory, depending on the situation. And while not all volatile situations are alike, St-Pierre says there is one thing that will give you the biggest advantage in a street fight.
“When I talk to you about the element of surprise, it’s important. This is not a technique. A technique is a punch. A technique is something that I will physically use to disable my aggressor,” St-Pierre said in a recent appearance on the Lex Fridman Podcast.
“In a street fight, if someone is looking for trouble…I have to be first. I cannot let him go first. So I have to strike first or do something. Generally speaking, the person who has the first blow, will have a huge advantage. It’s like doing a hundred meter race and having a head start.”
St-Pierre goes on to say that having the preemptive strike could mean anything. It could mean a punch right between the eyes, impairing an attacker’s vision, or a throat strike. Anything to disable an attacker quickly and effectively, so you can take the next course of action, which is to escape the situation unharmed.
It’s important advice, especially for those who find themselves in a situation where they are forced to use their self-defense skills for protection.
St-Pierre also stresses, however, that not every combat situation can be won, especially if you are facing multiple assailants, so pick your battles wisely.
“A street fight is much different than a mixed martial arts fight,” St-Pierre said.
“I believe that self-defense is very important in a way, to understand the situation, to understand those situations that might occur and how to deal with them.”
St-Pierre grew up being bullied as a young boy in Montreal, Canada. Other kids often picked on him because of his small size. One of the most important lessons he learned came from a game of “King of the Mountain” with some kids.
“In Montreal, there was a lot of snow. We used to play ‘King of the Mountain.’ It’s the first combat lesson that I learned in my life,” St-Pierre said.
“There were a lot of kids, but I managed somehow to get on top of the mountain. Another kid got to the top of the mountain, and he was angry that I was there before him. I managed to be first and when he came, he said to me, ‘You want to fight?’ He punched me right in the face.”
Shocked and surprised, St-Pierre recalled falling to the base of the snow pile, face down, harboring a nose injury.
“The snow was red because my nose was bleeding. Now I remember the element of surprise every day,” St-Pierre said.
“My first street fight, I lost. I didn’t get knocked out, but I got dropped. I was like, ‘You got me because I wasn’t expecting it.’ I was not expecting a punch. From there…I always throw first.”
Not long after, St-Pierre picked up martial arts to learn how to properly defend himself and to fend off bullies. He ended up becoming a decorated martial artist, and a mixed martial arts legend — arguably the best to ever step into the cage.
These days, St-Pierre understands his own strength and capabilities and uses his martial arts skills only when absolutely necessary. Instead of fighting, he greets potentially volatile situations with a smile and a big sense of humor. That has allowed him to keep himself out of trouble, the majority of the time.
When needed, however, St-Pierre knows how to use the element of surprise to his advantage.
“It’s important to not be the aggressor, so you have the element of surprise. Always use that in your favor,” St-Pierre said.
“The element of surprise is everything.”
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