Karate kids get best of UFC's St-Pierre

Jose Rodriguez, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:29 PM ET

TOKYO - You could say he’s big in Japan.

A full three-feet-bigger than many of his most energetic fans here on this day.

UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre — a devoted karate student and lover of all things Japanese — spent the day taking a beating from kindergarten students before running a local karate class through its paces.

“I can’t believe I just got beat up by a bunch of five-year-old Samurais,” St-Pierre told the Calgary Sun after finishing a game of foam-sword fighting with the not-so-stealth ninjas at the Kawai preschool. “That was amazing. I wish they had that game around when I was a kid.”

A willing St-Pierre donned foam head gear and let the youngsters tee off on him.

And they did.

To the point where one of the toughest men on the planet was curled up in the fetal position taking blow-after-blow from the class.

Along the walls of the sparse classroom, the children’s mothers snapped up photos of the international star covering their mouths to hide the admiring giggles.

The visit was part of GSP’s tour of Saitama, the host city for

UFC 144 on the outskirts of Tokyo.

St-Pierre is in Japan to host the fighter Q-and-A session at Saturday’s weigh-ins for UFC 144 — the fight club’s first card in Japan in nearly a dozen years.

The fights will begin Sunday morning in Japan but will air at normal pay-per-view times in Canada Saturday night.

Following a brief stop by Saitama city hall with UFC president Dana White to greet the mayor and exchange gifts, it was back to battle.

This time, in a more familiar setting.

At a kyokushin karate class, GSP was presented with a gi and black belt.

Then it was time to work.

The devoted karate student

— who began studying the discipline at age 10 — helped lead the class in an hour-long drill.

“I love kyokushin karate. It was the first martial art I was ever introduced to,” said the 30-year-old.

“My father would teach me when I was boy. It has always held a special place in my heart.”

Following a small display of contact combat from some of the youngsters, St-Pierre was presented with gifts and well wishes for future success and a speedy recovery from December knee surgery that has sidelined him from title defences.

A gracious St-Pierre was clearly moved by the admiring pupils.

“I am so honoured that you would welcome me like this,” he told the class through an interpreter.

“I will carry your good wishes to give me strength when I fight. And I can see from the dedication here in this room that there may be some future champs here.”

As he left the class, he was followed outside by 70 gi-clad youngsters all trying to hug and pat him on the back.

As he boarded his bus, the crowd erupted into spontaneous chants of ‘GSP, GSP!’

It wasn’t exactly Ali Boom-ba-yay — but I’ll bet it felt great.


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