Not Your Average Teenage Girl: Kinaree Adkins' Dreams are Larger Than Life

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins

What does the life of a typical teenage girl look like?

We can think of some usual activities: School, social media, movies, music, socials, sleepovers, and so on.

This is the 'norm,' but at FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts, we also have the privilege of encountering an exceptional case that breaks the stereotype of what 16-year-old girls are like: Kinaree Adkins.

fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins sparring with professor thiago gaspary

If you have been in the scene for a couple of years, you would have heard of this American sweetheart making a significant impact on the competition mats both in Singapore and abroad. Aside from being a very prolific competitor, Kinaree's life is multi-faceted in both breadth and depth.

Though she may be young, she is not one to be underestimated. In her heart are colossal dreams, and she is already on her way to achieving them.

How BJJ Competition Shapes Kinaree’s Life

fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins at abu dhabi jiu jitsu international u18 world championship
Kinaree competing at the Ju Jitsu International Federation U18 World Championship in November 2019.

When Kinaree was 6 years old, she and her father were walking past a martial arts gym when she saw a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class in action. It immediately piqued her interest and prompted her father to enrol her for a trial session. And the rest, they say, is history.

Yet, the real 'magic' of BJJ didn't hit Kinaree immediately. "To be honest, I started BJJ for a pretty superficial reason: I wanted to be cool."

"Other than the merits of physical activity, I don't think I quite understood what else was so special about BJJ," she claimed. "All my friends at the time were doing hip hop classes and ballet, but I wanted to be able to say I could 'submit' someone."

fama singapore bjj brazilian jiu jitsu kinaree adkins with professor robson moura
FaMA Teaching Assistant, Kinaree Adkins, in 2010 and 2019 with Professor Robson Moura.

It was not till about a year later that the potential of BJJ in her life began to be unveiled to her. This took place when she was enrolled in her very first competition at the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) Championship.

Her recollection of the memory is a laughable one.

"I was a bit lost and disoriented at the venue. It was my first time coming across so many hostile and aggressive people in one place. All my opponents were boys with intricate fade designs, dyed hair, Mohawk hairstyles, and a lot of attitude before the matches."

Fortunately, little 7-year-old Kinaree was able to overcome the intimidation and won all her matches by submissions.

"After making it through such an intimidating experience, I felt empowered and was less reluctant to enter future competitions."

fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins at abu dhabi jiu jitsu international u18 world championship
fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins at abu dhabi jiu jitsu international u18 world championship gold medal winner champion
Winning Gold for the second time at the Ju Jitsu International Federation U18 World Championship.

Since then, BJJ competition has become an effective way for Kinaree to learn how to take measured risks, the importance of control, the need to be patient, as well as the benefits of deferred gratification. Of course, it helps to be able to take home countless gold medals and championship titles. But from very early on, Kinaree has learned that the emotional high of winning championships only lasts up to 12 hours. After that, everyone would be looking forward to the next tournament, and the race to gold would repeat itself. By seeking a more grounded and long-term outlook of success, Kinaree has managed to stay committed to the essential things in her life, even at her young age.

"There were prior periods in my life where I've been fearful of failure, suffered from competition anxiety, and questioned my own abilities. I was under pressure from teachers, my dad and coaches with what I felt was the requirement to succeed. I was overburdened and sometimes lacked confidence. I became focused on the outcome, not the activity. This was something that took me a while to overcome. However, with the patient help of my Professors, I was able to regain my sense of self. I've become much more formidable and headstrong in competition, school, and everything else I do."

fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins sparring

Interestingly enough, BJJ was the only activity that Kinaree chose for herself, excelled in, and stuck to. Throughout her childhood, her father exposed her to various other activities, from musical instruments like flute and piano to sports like golf, tennis, and ballet. Yet, nothing was quite as enjoyable!

The Keystone of Each Week: Weekly Sessions with Professor Robyn Goudy

fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins with professor robyn goudy

A typical week for the 16-year-old is no less than exciting and purposeful. BJJ is just one of the many activities that Kinaree strives to excel in. She is also on the school robotics team and a program called Space Lab, where a group of students develop an experiment to put on the International Space Station. At least three hours a week, she spends time with the Boy Scouts of America, where she learns wilderness training. This does not include academic tuition classes on the weekend!

On top of all that, she chooses to make time for her BJJ training. This includes strength and fitness, as well as a dedicated one-on-one session with Professor Robyn Goudy every Sunday morning, which she describes as the "keystone of each week."

In the 60-90 minute session, Professor Robyn conscientiously guides Kinaree through the various aspects of the athletic journey, which includes troubleshooting problems, situational analysis, and technique development.

fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins with professor robyn goudy

"Robyn always breaks things down into simple elements. We discuss them, evaluate them in practice, and develop routines for creating solutions," Kinaree shares. "Everything with Robyn is orderly; he is a copious note-taker. If you don't record and analyse data by establishing key metrics, it is hard to improve performance and outcomes over time meaningfully… He is (also) blunt with his feedback, but always constructive and encouraging."

Robyn has also been a watchful mentor in ensuring that Kinaree translates her discipline for BJJ to the other aspects of her life, which she hopes to excel in. "My schoolwork, activity planning, and goal-setting build off the experience I have with him at FaMA. Robyn expects me to apply my discipline for BJJ to my schoolwork and other extra-curricular activities."

fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins with candy heng
Kinaree with her main training partner, FaMA Assistant Instructor, Candy Heng.

There is also plenty of time for sparring. This is where partners like our very own Assistant Instructor and BJJ Purple Belt Candy Heng come in, helping to create the most realistic competition scenarios for Kinaree.

The Next Decade

fama singapore youth brazilian jiu jitsu bjj kinaree adkins

From training for the next international championship to getting into the college of her dreams, to earning a Private Pilot License; there is much that Kinaree hopes to achieve in the next year.

However, these are merely stepping stones to the long-term ambitions that she has in mind.

"I realised that my 'BJJ Life' actually spanned the past decade, and what I've done so far has helped me as a person, but that's not where it ends."

"For example, purple and brown belts in my BJJ progress are simply colours along the way towards further character development and refinement of my techniques. But receiving my black belt is the goal."

"I also want to become one of the world's first female Eagle Scouts, and I intend to go to graduate school. I want to become a Doctor, or an Officer in the U.S. Navy serving as a Doctor or Naval Aviator Fighter Pilot."

"It's what is ahead that matters… I'm looking at the next decade from now."

It is rare to find another 16-year-old who thinks in decades, but no surprises by now - that’s what Kinaree does!

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FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts Established in 2016, FaMA is a world-class martial arts academy located in the heart of the Central Business District in Singapore. Walking distance from Clarke Quay and Fort Canning MRT stations, FaMA’s main goal is to help people improve their lives through martial arts regardless of age or athletic capability. Our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Muay Thai Kickboxing, Kids Martial Arts and Fitness programs are led by experts in their respective fields. So, whether it is weight loss, a fun workout, camaraderie, competition training, or just to break a sweat, FaMA has something for the whole family.