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She is old now, and often has to use a wheelchair. But this seemingly frail old Japanese-American woman is a titan in the world of Judo, and can still probably kick your backside with just her hands and elbows. Her name is Keiko Fukuda, and she is the highest-ranking female judo master in history. Ms. Fukuda (she has never been married) is the last surviving student of Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo. She was born in Tokyo in 1913, but has lived San Francisco and taught in the Bay Area since the ‘60s, when she became a U.S. citizen. Fukuda-sensei has been a recognized judo master for decades. But reportedly because of discrimination in the judo world, the progress with which her dan, or rank, has risen has been slow. She was only awarded the 9th dan in judo in 2006, fifty-three years after achieving the 5th dan in Japan. Finally, however, Fukuda’s dedication and skill have received the ultimate recognition, the 10th dan, which was awarded to her last week by USA Judo. The 10th dan is judo’s highest rank, and as the article at the link states, only three other people in the world have ever reached it. Ever. Follow the links to read more about this amazing woman (San Francisco Chronicle – Woman Earns Judo’s Highest Rank) Additional information about Fukuda-sensei’s life in judo can be found here.
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