World Oldest Woman Judo Master, Named Keiko Fukuda from Japan

on 09 18, 2011 (Visited 3131 times, 2 visits today)

Keiko Fukuda, 98, has unashamedly devoted her life to Judo. The San Francisco-based ‘little, bitty woman’ is the first female – and one of only four living judo masters – to earn the highest Judo honour: a tenth degree black belt. A teacher of the martial art, she has been practising since the 1930s and is the last remaining student of the founder of Judo, Kanō Jigorō.


Keiko Fukuda, 98, remembers finding Judo in 1935 and devoting her life to it

‘This was my marriage. This is where my life destiny was set,’ she said crying. ‘I chose to live my life of judo over marriage. I just never imagined how long this road would be.’

4 feet 10, the 98-year-old weighs a mere 100 pounds and now often gets about in a wheelchair. Still, addressed as the honorific sensei, or master, she manages to teach classes three classes a week at the Soko Joshi Judo Club in the Noe Valley area of San Francisco.


Practising Judo now: With her wheelchair behind her, the elderly fighter shows students its mind over matter. She has been teaching Judo for some 51 years

Her progression in the martial arts was not always so simple – ‘The Kodokan was old fashioned and sexist about belts and ranks,’ she said. ‘They decided women didn’t need any better ranks then fifth degree – I was fifth degree for 30 years.’ When she turned 88 in April 2001, followers began to petition for her to be receive 9th dan status.

They were told it was unnecessary – a woman had never before been ninth dan and there was no need to change. It was not until 2006, five years later, when she became the first female to reach such a high level.


With passion comes pain: the sensei cries when she talks about giving up marriage and a family to pursue Judo

‘She has troubles now because she’s so very old,’said one of her passionate followers, Texan Bruno Smith. The power she has now is in her mind, her presence.’ Her grandfather, Hachinosuke Fukuda was one of Japan’s last eminent samurai and a teacher of jiu jutsu. This background meant she was asked early into her career into the women’s section of the Kodokan – an institute for teaching judo masters, according to ABC News.

‘Sensei Fukuda is a living legacy, she’s a direct descendent of the origins of Judo, as well as the longest, and only living student of Kano’s worldwide,’ said Gary Goltz, president of the U.S. Judo Association. A teacher for 51 years, a documentary entitled ‘Be strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful’ is being made to commemorate her life.


Ms Fukuda was a fifth-degree black belt in 1951. She remained at that level for 30 years – a decision she attributes to the Kodokan’s sexism

‘I know, when I travel, not only in the United States, they talk about Sensei Fukuda. She is known all over the world and her devotion to judo is indescribable – she is committed,’ said one of her disciples Eiko Saito-Shepherd. She is also charming, he added.

‘When you see and talk to her, you’re drawn to her… She presents herself as warm, thoughtful, and caring person. That’s people’s first impression of her,’ Mr Saito-Shepherd said. Shelley Fernandez, has lived with her for the last 45 years as a caretaker: shes ‘an amazing person who is very humble and believes that through judo and self discipline, your mind tells your body what to do, how to move forward and put your spirit behind it to live your life in balance… she is a master.’

When she heard of her award: ‘Her first reaction was complete surprise, she just couldn’t believe it!’ ‘She was very happy because this would help women, and then finally, she thought it was a dream come true. She thought it would be impossible,’ Ms Fernandez told ABC.

Let’s see her video from the Youtube, entitled, “Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful”:

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