Born three months early, Vincea was not expected to survive. After she made it through the first nights, doctors predicted she wouldn’t walk normally and that she’d be developmentally delayed.
Now a freshman and A-student at Antioch Christian Academy in Lumberton, North Carolina, Vincea, who is Lumbee, often does 1,000 jumping jacks every day. A martial artist since age 11, she is currently a red belt and holds the title of southeast regional champion in form, weapons, sparring and grappling. The region covers parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
“From a child, she was a fighter,” said Vincea’s mother, Mary Thomas Locklear. “I saw her in the neonatal unit fighting for her life. As she grew, all the things the doctors said never came true. By the grace of God and martial arts, she grew as a person physically and spiritually.”
Although Vincea was born to a former college football player and a former bodybuilder, even her parents were surprised when she showed a natural aptitude for martial arts. Her mother took her to a dojo in Lumberton, but never expected Vincea to excel so quickly.
“I thought this was something she could grow in and do well in,” Mary Locklear said. “When she was born, she was very critical, not breathing on her own. She almost died several times. Now she’s my hero.”
At five feet, seven inches tall and 130 pounds, Vincea also surprises many of her opponents on the mat. In events like grappling, which is much like wrestling, Vincea often faces off against boys—even two or three years older than she is.
“My master at the dojo believes it depends on how good your technique is and your skill level,” Vincea said. “He believes it doesn’t matter whether you’re fighting a boy or a girl.”
Despite the differences in age and gender, Vincea wins first place most of the time, beating 17- or 18-year-old boys by putting them in choke holds.
“That’s really unusual for a girl,” Mary Locklear said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a female or male in front of her. She always wins.”
Vincea said she is inspired by the likes of Bruce Lee and George St. Pierre, a renowned UFC fighter. She thinks of them when the training gets tough—and it often does. Vincea spends about 20 hours a week at the dojo, and her master and other students push her to do better.
It’s not unusual for the young athletes to do 1,000 jumping jacks during a workout, said Master Timothy Bryant, who coaches Vincea at Dojo Knights. They also do as many as 600 sit-ups and 600 crunches, he said.
“One person will push the rest of the class,” he said. “When you get a certain pace going, you can do that many.”
Bryant said Vincea is especially focused and dedicated to martial arts.
“If the doors of the dojo are open, she’s there,” he said of Vincea. “She’s a special type of martial artist you don’t run across every day.”
When she’s not doing jumping jacks, training or competing, Vincea is busy writing poetry, studying history or volunteering with her church. She has aspirations of being a history teacher, but she also wants to achieve her black belt and teach martial arts.
The physical demands and Vincea’s growing strength are enough to inspire—or scare—her father, James Locklear.
“I tried doing the workouts, but I couldn’t handle them,” James Locklear said. “The physical demands are astronomical. They’re unreal.”
Calling his daughter the “spiritual glue” that holds the family together, James said watching her fight—given her illnesses at birth—is a miracle in itself. It’s also intimidating to watch her put submission holds on boys who are older and heavier than she is, he said.
“I came home late one day this summer and when I opened the door, there was a foot in my face,” he said. “It used to be she greeted me with hugs. Now it’s side-kicks, reverse punches, jabs to the rib cage.”