Judo Black Belt Can Throw More Than Her Weight Around

5-foot Glen Burnie Resident Is Competitive But Compassionate

August 11, 1991|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff writer

After a late-night college party, a "rather naive" freshman named Pam Hinkle was taking a walk with a friend and fellow student. Suddenly, the gentleman got "rather aggressive."

Hinkle, who stood little more than 5 feet, retaliated the best way she knew how: She grabbed him in a choke-hold.

"He didn't pass out, but he did kind of give me the signal that he'd had enough," said Hinkle, a Glen Burnie resident. "Then we just walked back to the party and that was it. We never talked about the incident again."

Hinkle, now a 32-year-old third-degree black belt in judo, has had other incidents where she's had to defend herself -- but she rarely brings them up, saying that common sense gets her out of most situations.

Hinkle virtually has to be begged to say anything about her personal accomplishments -- like her third-place national ranking in the 145-pound weight class.

Or that in qualifying for her third degree in April, she was crowned the Most Outstanding Competitor.

"She's always going to downplay what she does," said her 62-year-old mentor, Sensei John Anderson, who has trained Hinkle at the Baltimore Judo Club in Catonsville for seven of her 17 years in the sport.

Hinkle, who currently weighs 140 pounds, is trying to sweat down to 134 for this weekend's Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, where she placed first last year at 145.

She competed at 134for the first time last spring in the American-Canada Challenge Cup,also capturing first place.

"I felt real good at 134, and that's where I hope to stay for a while," said Hinkle, whose ultimate goal is to win the U.S. Open in November at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The event attracts competitors from more than 20 countries, including the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Japan, Korea,Australia, France and Brazil.

Hinkle, who was third at 145 in theJuly 14 Olympic Sports Festival in Los Angeles, said, "I've never placed in the U.S. Open at 145. That's something that has eluded me, and I'm hoping to change that (by competing at 134)."

Anderson, a sixth-degree black belt, asked, "Did she tell you that she's placed third in the nationals for the last seven years and second in the QuebecOpen?" The answer, of course, is no. "That's typical of her," he said.

What Hinkle enjoys talking about is the success of her studentsat the Eckerd Youth Challenge Program, a school in Charles County for troubled boys from 14 to 18 years of age.

"It's a six-month program for kids who have been arrested for everything from breaking and entering, drug activity and violating probation," said Hinkle, who began teaching English and social studies at the school four years ago.

"They just need help getting back into the community and regular schools, successfully. Anything I can do to help, I love doing it."

Hinkle started a juniors judo club at the Eckerd school in May 1988. Every day since then, she has driven an hour and 15 minutes from Glen Burnie to get there.

She balances her teaching responsibilitieswith five nights a week of personal judo training at several clubs to expose herself to a variety of styles.

Some of the nation's bestcompetitors frequent clubs she attends, such as in Baltimore, PrinceGeorge's County, Beltsville and Washington.

"I have a hundred answers for why I keep (teaching judo). One is that judo is a great way to get (the Eckerd students) to channel their energy and frustrations," said Hinkle, who earned her undergraduate degree in philosophy from Connecticut College in 1981 and a master's in philosophy from JohnsHopkins in 1986.

"I enjoy working with them and want to give thema positive experience while they are there. And if they at least learn something -- whether they get a green belt, which some have, or just go to college. As long as it's something constructive, then I've helped with just a small link in the whole chain."

Anderson said, "She's a very compassionate person and those young men simply adore her. One of them told me that he loved her in the same way he loves hismother."

Hinkle's kindness doesn't transfer to the judo mat.

"She's so physical, she has to work out with men 30 or 40 pounds heavier than she is because a lot of the women are too frail for her," said Anderson, who founded the Baltimore club in 1950 and is still its chief instructor.

Hinkle's athleticism comes from her family.

Her father, Phillip, 56, ran five miles a day until five years ago and still lifts weights and plays handball. Her mother, Sandra, 55, is anavid swimmer, and her younger sisters all ran cross country.

Hinkle toyed with team sports like field hockey and basketball, but beganparticipating in judo as a 14-year-old living in Westbrook, Conn. She preferred judo's one-on-one contact and continued her participationinto college.

"I enjoyed some early success in tournaments. Then I became a black belt as a senior and started a judo club of beginners with four to six people," said Hinkle. "But after I placed third inthe nationals in 1982, I started training more seriously."

Although Hinkle has placed third in every senior national tournament since,she confesses that meeting Anderson almost eight years ago was like starting from ground zero.

"I have trained a lot of people, but I can't think of any person -- man or woman -- who trains as hard as she does," said Anderson. "The intensity in her training methods would make a marathon runner faint."

At times, Hinkle's enthusiasm has taken its toll on her body. She was out of action for six months in 1986 after a shoulder injury required reconstructive surgery. Before that, she'd broken both arms and been in a neck brace.

Chronic knee problems over the past two years have kept Hinkle from running or jogging, but not from "Randori," the sparring that simulates live tournament action. Hinkle prefers Randori to any other form of training.

"When you train five nights a week, you're going to twist your ankles and knees," said Hinkle. "But if you love what you do, you learn toaccept it. It's a challenge."

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