Kelly Oliver is a pleasant Yadkinville citizen with a wife and young daughter.
He works in vascular surgery at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. What sets him apart from other Yadkin County citizens is his martial arts training which has earned him a black belt and martial arts competition across the globe.
Oliver was born in Winston-Salem and raised in Yadkinville. He attended Yadkinville Elementary School and Forbush High School where he played football. He was much like his classmates but one thing took hold of Oliver’s interest at a young age; martial arts.
“Growing up I would always watch martial arts movies on Saturdays,” Oliver said. “Every time I would see one on television I would go outside and try to emulate all the moves in the backyard. At about age 12 I really got involved with it.”
Oliver said that he isn’t sure what fascinated him about the sport because he didn’t have family or friends that were active in it.
“At that early age I think it was the mystique of it that drew me to it but after I really got involved with it the discipline, the exercise and philosophies really kept me attracted to it,” Oliver said.
Oliver said that he trained with other Yadkin County residents off and on before he graduated high school and then started a formal class nearby. After his instructor moved away, Oliver finished earning his black belt and started teaching in Yadkinville.
He said that he started out teaching classes at the Yadkin County Senior Center but then moved on to open Silent Mountain Martial Arts on Reavis Road in Yadkinville. He’s been teaching locally for about 15 years. He teaches adult and children’s classes four times a week.
“Kids are exciting and they are always a challenge; no two nights are the same,” Oliver said. “They keep me on my toes with the questions they ask. I get a lot of satisfaction when I teach them something and get to see them perform it correctly. A lot of kids and adults come in with a low self-esteem so to see the confidence build and see how it carries over into their lives as a whole is gratifying.”
Oliver said that martial arts has afforded him several opportunities to travel the country and the world to compete and train with some of the world’s best competitors. He says he’s traveled to Ireland, Scotland, Paris, London, Tokyo and several other states in the country.
“My first martial arts instructor taught me that if you have the opportunity to do something then grab life by the horns and take every opportunity that you can to experience everything you can,” Oliver said. “I’ve learned to appreciate every opportunity in my travels. All of it makes me who I am today. It makes me appreciate being able to go places like I’ve been to but still live in a great town like Yadkinville.”
Oliver said that his martial arts training also led him to pursue a degree in religious education.
“One night I was teaching a self-defense class at a local church and a gentleman came in and after class we had a long discussion,” Oliver said. “He started talking about his biblical views and I had gone to church all of my life and I was a professed Christian but a lot of questions he was posing to me I didn’t feel like I could answer. It seemed like I needed to study my Bible more and I needed some higher education on how to help out others with questions about the Bible so I fulfilled a bachelor’s degree in religious education.”
Oliver graduated from Covington Theological Seminary and is an ordained preacher but has chosen not to take the pulpit to share his knowledge. Oliver feels that his wisdom is best shared through his passion for martial arts.
“I’m a biblical counselor through the martial arts organization that I belong to out of Florida,” Oliver said. “I don’t feel like I’ve been led to preach or lead a church. I feel like my calling is more helping people in the ways I’m doing now.”
Oliver decided to travel a different route when it came to his career. He studied medicine at East Carolina University. He said that he knew he wanted to work somewhere in the medical field but he didn’t know where until he realized that he could pair his career goal with another lifelong passion.
“I always loved having a camera with me all the time when I was a kid and taking pictures,” Oliver said. “When I grew up I decided I wanted to work in healthcare and when I realized that you could work in healthcare and take pictures at the same time in radiology it was kind of a win-win situation.”
Oliver began work with Baptist Hospital after graduation and floated through various areas of radiology before landing in vascular. It was through his career that he would meet his wife of 19 years as well.
“We met at work; I stalked her,” Oliver said with a laugh. “I had met her while she was a staff nurse and I was working in diagnostic radiology. If she was ever in a room that needed x-ray I would find out and make sure that I was available to come do it so I could see her.
“Her nursing coordinator would tell me when she was having good days so I could talk to her,” Oliver said. “Eventually after enough of that I finally got up the nerve to ask her out and she said yes. We dated for less than six months before we were engaged and knew each other for less than a year before we were married.”
Today the couple has a six year old daughter named Kaley, a sugar glider, two dogs and two fish. He says his house is always filled with furry, feathered and scaled creatures because his daughter is an avid animal lover. Oliver says that all of his time not dedicated to work or martial arts is spent with his daughter and wife.
“I’ve learned that you can buy your kids everything they want but what they remember and what matters is the time you spend with them,” Oliver said. “I try to do as much as possible with my daughter.”
Oliver said that his daughter and wife haven’t shown an interest in training in martial arts with him. He says that his wife appreciates it because of the travel it has afforded them but has no desire to train personally. He has to trick his daughter into learning it.
“I teach her at home and I turn it into a game so she doesn’t realize she’s learning something until she’s actually doing it,” Oliver said. “She does come to class with me sometimes. I’m hoping later down the road she will decide that she wants to start coming consistently.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.