Kristoffer Brown is by all accounts a perfectly normal nine year old boy. He does homework, quarrels with his big sister and goes on vacations with his family. But this isn’t a story about what makes him ordinary, but rather what makes him extraordinary.
Kristoffer Brown’s pursuit of a green belt in karate has resulted in a personal project involving 100 acts of kindness. The project was successful beyond his dreams. To date, his project log shows more than 242 acts of kindness performed for others around the globe. / Photo courtesy of Chris Piper Photography
Fourteen months ago, Kristoffer began taking karate at Zen Martial Arts in Sacramento. Five months ago, he completed his orange belt test by sparring and showing comprehension of a 400 year old fighting style. That in itself is a great accomplishment, but it pales in comparison to what he is undertaking on his way to the green belt.
In order for the children to take their green belt exam, they first must complete a community service project. It can be one of the child’s choosing, or if a little inspiration is needed, instructor Mike Oliver can help with the brainstorming process. Kristoffer looked to his instructor for help, and together they came up with something truly revolutionary; Kristoffer would set out on a quest to do 100 acts of kindness.
He is the first to accept this challenge, and he started with a bang. He chose 10 acts of kindness to do by himself then asked family members to do 10 acts of their own and report back with what they chose to do. According to Oliver, the acts can range from very small to very big. Kristoffer chose to do things like sweep the driveway for his dad and fix an overturned potted plant for a neighbor. Before long, he was done with his list. Little did he know that his project would spread all over Sacramento.
By Aug. 31, Kristoffer and associates had demolished the goal of 100 acts of kindness more than twice over. With an astounding 242 acts of kindness recorded as of that date, results continue to pour in from all over with tales of their own community service.
“We want to show people that self-defense is more than just punching and kicking,” Oliver said of the Zen Martial Arts approach. “We talk a lot about bullying in our dojo (school) and it’s not enough to just not be a bully. Kindness is the opposite of bullying and that is what we are trying to teach our students.”
“It has been really fun doing the acts of kindness,” Kristoffer said. “It’s a really good feeling doing things for other people.”
Kristoffer is a child capable of great kindness to be sure, but he’s no slouch when it comes to the performance aspect of karate. If he is to earn his green belt, he will have to prove that he has learned the proper history of karate as well as demonstrate proficiency in two forms of the martial art. It sounds daunting, but Oliver has faith in his pupil.
“There are times both in and out of class where he looks and sounds like a black belt,” Oliver said. “He has shown the commitment and skill needed to one day become one.”
That is high praise indeed from Oliver, who is a black belt himself in the art of Isshinryu Karate.
“I like knowing that if a bad person comes up to me that I can handle the situation,” Kristoffer said.
Zen Martial Arts operates under the slogan “Creating Futures with the Wisdom of the Past.” Their goal is to teach the children how to avoid confrontation when possible as well as offer tips on how to eat healthy and how to manage their anger.
If the first year or so of training is any indication, Kristoffer is on his way to becoming a well rounded young man.
“He’s a typical nine year old,” said Kristoffer’s mother Carmel. “He’s very boisterous, but since he started karate he has a better attention span, better discipline and it has really helped bring out his passion.”
“We are so pleased with what (Oliver) does with the kids,” added Kristoffer’s father Steffan.
The 100 acts of kindness project has made such an impact that its effects have gone international. Kristoffer’s uncle recently traveled to Uganda to work in an orphanage. While there, he documented his 10 acts of kindness to contribute to the cause.
“Kristoffer really gravitated towards this idea,” Carmel said. “He told me that he thought he could get way more than 100.”
How right he was.
For more information about Zen Martial Arts, visit www.zenmartial.com. There you can click on the “digital dojo” link where you can follow Kristoffer’s journal entries through his 100 acts of kindness campaign.
Zen Martial Arts holds its classes at the Coloma Community Center at 4623 T St. in Sacramento.