Lori Brown and her husband Matt were shocked when kids as young as five years old joined their martial arts program because they had experienced bullying.
“I couldn’t believe that kids this young were being bullied,” says Lori.
So, the couple decided to do something about it. They co-authored a book series for elementary-aged children starting in 2012, shortly after adopting their daughter from Korea.
They named their daughter Kaia, and the series of books stars a character with Kaia’s given Korean name, which is JeeMin.
The series, called What Would JeeMin Do, includes four books modeling how kids can deal with bullying, and four additional books to help kids learn about “stranger danger.” They are written for kids ages five to nine.
“We felt that if bullying was happening at these young ages,” Lori says, “Kids need to be educated younger, too.”
Matt and Lori completed all eight books in the series and self-published them in November 2015.
“Teaching martial arts is our passion,” explains Matt.
But, a few years ago, they realized there were many kids who would benefit from the lessons being taught in their classes who weren’t walking through their doors. “What we teach in our program, we wanted to also teach outside of our studio in a fun, different way.”
Lori adds, “Martial arts is not for everyone, but bullying is a big issue that everyone needs to learn about.”
They describe the books as tools for both kids and their parents, whether it’s a kid who needs a model of how to deal with a bully, or a parent who’s not sure how to talk with their kids about issues that can be scary for small children.
“The most important message of the books is that kids should feel empowered to stand up for themselves and say, ‘Stop! Leave me alone!,’ if they are bullied,” explains Matt. “Bullies don’t have a right to do what they are doing. The person who is being bullied has a voice they can use to stand up for themselves.”
He says the books urge kids to stand up for others when they see bullying, too, and wants to let kids know they can seek out help if they are bullied, see bullying, or feel uncomfortable when they encounter someone they don’t know.
“We want to give kids encouragement, and also help them to find the courage to get help in these situations,” says Matt.
Martial Arts As A Learning Tool
For 10 years in Billings, MT, Matt and Lori ran a successful martial arts studio full time, teaching 130 students self defense.
They teach a blend of Korean Karate (called Tang Soo Do), Jiu-Jitsu, and Aikido.
The pair moved to Zephyrhills in 2014 to be near family. Both are martial arts Masters (a designation certified through the Eastern USA International Martial Arts Association, Inc.), and both have been inducted into the Eastern USA International Black Belt Hall of Fame.
Matt has earned the rank of 5th Dan (aka “degree”) Black Belt, while Lori has earned the rank of 6th Dan Black Belt.
Matt currently works as the branch administrator at Berkshire Hathaway Florida Properties on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., just south of S.R. 56, in the Shoppes at New Tampa shopping center. He and Lori offer their classes at the Lake Bernadette Community Center off S.R. 54 in Zephyrhills on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
The Browns are looking for a publisher to pick up their books, but Matt concedes publishing is a competitive business and it’s hard work to get published.
“Regardless of if this series is picked up by a major publisher or not,” he says, “we’re just happy to get one of our books into the hands of someone who needs it.”
Matt and Lori are currently working with the Pasco County Library Cooperative to present a community event that would share the books and their authors’ expertise in martial arts to kids through its reading program.