Sabrina L. Baker Author/Photographer
Empowering Dreams: A Journey through the Visionary Path of Coach Kevin Pyles
The world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu holds stories of dedication, triumphs, and transformative experiences. Although many have followed its path, one figure stands out as an example of inspiration and innovation—Coach Kevin Pyles. His commitment to the sport has rewritten the narrative and opened doors to unexplored horizons. His story is marked by passion, perseverance, and an unyielding dedication to nurturing young athletes through the New Professional Athlete Program. As an athlete myself, I have been fortunate to witness parts of Coach Pyles’ journey, and I’d like to share his story with you.
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” —Pelé
The Genesis: A Glimpse of the UFC and Royce Gracie
The year was 1993, a defining moment in the realm of martial arts. As Kevin tells it, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ignited his journey. In this event, the legendary Royce Gracie showcased the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with his strategic and technical mastery. Kevin did not know that moment would set the stage for his future.
Kevin’s journey led him to Torrance, California, Gracie’s home base. Under the tutelage of Gracie himself, Kevin embraced learning and self-discovery with determination. Gracie’s teachings were about more than technique. They were about values—discipline, respect, and the pursuit of excellence.
American Martial Arts Academy: A Dream Realized
The combination of years of training and a deep-rooted passion for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu led to a notable chapter in Coach Kevin’s journey. In 1998, he stood before his mentor, receiving his first Jiu-Jitsu belt. This wasn’t just a material symbol but a testament to the hours of work and a commitment to share the art with his community. With this inspiration, Kevin opened the doors of the American Martial Arts Academy in Winston Salem.
The academy was among the first of its kind, introducing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the Triad. It was a space where values intersected with technique. A culture of respect, discipline, and hard work soon flourished. With each class, each interaction, Kevin was shaping more than just skilled athletes—he was nurturing individuals of character.
A Journey of Growth: Achieving the Black Belt and Beyond
Dedication and commitment marked the following years. Coach Kevin’s journey toward excellence was a testament to the power of perseverance. In 2010, his efforts culminated in a black belt. This achievement was more than a personal milestone. It was a tribute to the journey, to the passion that had driven him, and to the values that had shaped him.
In 2015, Kevin affiliated with Lucas Lepri, a nine-time world champion. This partnership led to the evolution of one of the most competitive Jiu-Jitsu academies on the East Coast. The combination of Lepri’s expertise and Kevin’s dedication forged a new path, one that set the stage for future achievements.
Pyles Jui-Jitsu: A Haven of Love, Respect, and Hard Work
2016 marked a new chapter as Kevin opened Pyles Jui-Jitsu in Mount Airy. For the first time, authentic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was accessible to the local community, bridging the gap between aspiration and reality. The academy became a place to learn martial arts as well as a place where people and their values thrived.
The success of Pyles Jiu-Jitsu was grounded in both the techniques and the culture Kevin had meticulously cultivated. Love, respect, and hard work were the pillars the academy stood upon. These values transcended the mat, seeping into the lives of the athletes who walked through its doors. Those athletes include competitors, teammates, and my myself.
The New Professional Athlete Program: Shaping Futures
The crowning achievement of Coach Kevin’s journey lies in the New Professional Athlete Program—an initiative that reshapes the landscape of sports and home school education. Young athletes can pursue excellence in sports while also receiving a solid academic foundation through classes taught by an experienced educator at the academy. This integration prepares athletes not just for success on the mats but for the challenges that lie beyond. The program is a testament to Kevin’s understanding of the demands placed on athletes and the commitment to their holistic growth.
A Legacy of Champions: Kage and Kaleah’s Inspiring Journey
Coach Kevin’s guidance has produced many success stories, but among them, Kaleah Pyles shines as an example of dedication and her father’s nurturing environment. Beginning her training at age three, Kaleah’s path climbed, placing her as the world’s top-ranked juvenile female featherweight at age sixteen.
The narrative grows richer with Kage Pyles, Kevin’s son, whose dedication mirrors his father’s. The heart that his son displays in every situation is unmatched. Kage and Kaleah also assist the younger children in the program helping them to grow mentally and physically as well as to achieve their goals in Jiu-Jitsu.
Together, they cultivate a culture where excellence is based on commitment and values. In a world where opportunities often seem concentrated in larger cities, the accomplishments of Coach Kevin’s academy and the New Professional Athlete Program serve as a testament to the potential that exists within every community, even small towns.
Looking Ahead: A Vision Fulfilled and Future Unfolded
As I recount my Coach’s journey, from that pivotal UFC event in 1993 to the present day, I remember something Kevin often says, “Don’t doubt yourself, doubt your doubts.”His achievements are a testament to dedication, the pursuit of growth, and the belief that every individual possesses the potential to excel. The impact is felt within the walls of the academy and across the lives of those who have been fortunate enough to be part of this journey.
The New Professional Athlete Program is proof that excellence in sports and academics need not be mutually exclusive. Through his vision, Kevin has shaped the lives of countless athletes. He has also provided a way for a generation of individuals to leave an undeniable mark on the world.
These young athletes set their sights on the next tournament, with each stride a step toward self-improvement. Their dedication is a commitment to becoming the best versions of themselves both on the mats and in their lives. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu acts as a guiding light in a world of turbulence often surrounding teens. It steers them away from the trivialities of day-to-day drama. Instead, they forge connections and friendships with their teammates. This kind of connection can only be born in the experience of shared challenges. Together, they navigate the trenches, cheering as one, united by the courage to put themselves on the line and emerge stronger, united, and fulfilled. Jui-Jitsu brings forth focus, confidence, discipline, and self-defense, but the family it creates is for a lifetime.
For more information about the New Professional Athlete Program, please visit MartialArtsInMtAiry.com.