When we do feature articles, it is with practitioners of jiu jitsu who are in some way remarkable. I recently had an opportunity to chat with Peter Straklevski. Peter and his wife Sue are not a world championship winning black belts, in fact I’m pretty sure they are not black belts at all, but rather are the parents of two ambitious young jiu jitsu athletes.
Peter’s children, Cleea and Julius, (ages 9 and 7) have already competed on many big stages. They are both active jiu jitsu and judo practitioners, and Peter has gone to great lengths to help them reach for their goals in the sport.
How does a parent get their young children into BJJ?
“About 3 years ago we started looking for an exotic martial art for self defense. We chose Muay Thai and the same gym offered Japanese jujitsu and we thought what a great idea; strikes for stand up and jujitsu for on the ground. My wife and I are fans of the UFC so we had heard of Royce Gracie and BJJ. After a year we started BJJ also.”
Peter and Sue eventually stopped practicing but both children actively train “They are at Ajax Budokan (judo) and Mamute Martial Arts Academy (BJJ) with rare visits to Kumo Jujitsu (Japanese jujitsu.) Cleea is a solid grey belt in BJJ, Green 3 stripe in jujitsu, and yellow in judo at end of February. Julius is a grey and white belt in BJJ, Yellow 3 stripe in jujitsu and yellow-white in judo.”
Both children have won and medaled in many tournaments including a recent bronze for Cleea at kids Pans. I thought it would be interesting to explore the experience of a jiu jitsu parent with Peter. For starters, very often children will get involved in something simply because their parents are forcing them to, I was curious about Peter’s approach with his kids.
“Cleea won her first in house tournament 2 months after starting jujitsu. She was hooked right after. Loved applying and testing what she learned. She has won awards for sportsmanship. Takes competition as an opportunity to learn more, meet people and make new friends. My son had to be pushed and encouraged. He didn’t care what happened or about placing in competitions. Then that changed during one car ride home from a GTA Classic tournament. His sister got gold and he got a participation medal, the difference was so big. He made a statement to his mom ‘I don’t want these bronze medals anymore’ with tears in his eyes. That was the turning point and he has been a very good competitor since.”
Jiu jitsu is very important to every individual who actively trains it, but in this case Peter views jiu jitsu as a sort of parenting tool
“We feel that once involved, you should be the best you can be at whatever you are involved in. We had humble upbringings with no opportunity to pursue sports. We hope that they can have a greater balance for healthy lifestyle and learn that hard work pays off. Among jiu jitsu’s benefits are: healthy mind and body and learning self control. Having a very structured routine has forced school marks to increase. They train 7 days a week and don’t have much time for TV, video games and other non productive distractions. Also they’re learning how to be humble and courteous. They do have time for other activities though; my daughter is on the chess team, choir, wrestling team, cross country running, and Swimming for both. They love learning to skateboard and bike and want to learn how to ski.”
Given that jiu jitsu is a combat sport, I was curious about Peter’s thoughts on the aggression that is required to win matches and what his approach is when it comes to raising competition winners.
“Our approach may be controversial… 2 sometimes 3 different sources of knowledge with a great emphasis on strength and agility. For example BJJ from a professor that likes guard and then from another professor that likes top play. Judo wrestling and Japanese jujitsu all provide added dimensions. We feel this makes a person well rounded for high level competition and read to enter many tournaments. It helps develop the killer instinct. Training and competition with submissions is key, why train the art just to tell the children not to use it and do position only if submissions are taught then it’s a real test of their skill sets!”
I asked Peter about any shout outs on and thank yous:
“The world of bjj is rewarding and most world champions give back to the children. Cleea has had the opportunity to roll with many, namely Mackenzie Dern last summer and Michelle Nicolini and Karen Antunes March 12th at an all women’s charity event in Ajax. She will be on the main card as a superfight, more details at www.wibjj.com. Cat, the creator of Under the Gi Apparel has been a hugely supporter for my kids from the beginning. Joey Simoes a photographer in the bjj world gives more to the sport than he will ever receive. Submission series pro is another supporter. All the companies that have donated products for the kids to represent much appreciated. In closing to all the training partners, coaches, senseis, professors, sheehans, henshi and masters that have touched our children lives, we appreciate every minute of your time. Variety open doors to exchange the gift of knowledge and is the best policy.”
You can follow Cleea’s progress on her instagram Cleeathesirencole and her Facebook fanpage Cleea “The Siren” Cole.