The last student of Judo’s founding father has died in San Francisco. 99-year old Keiko Fukuda was also the world’s highest-ranking female in that Martial Art, recognized as “9th Dan” in Japan and “10th Dan” in America.
Fukuda was the granddaughter of the Samurai master of Jiu Jitsu who taught Jiguro Kano, who would go on to establish the new Martial Art of Judo. Kano in turn approached Fukuda was she was 21 years old about joining his Dojo. At a time when most Japanese women were expected to learn Ikebana flower arranging and other domestic skills, she traversed the firebombed ruins of Tokyo to get to the Kodokon Dojo to learn and eventually become an instructor.
Female Judo teachers in Japan were not allowed to marry. Fukuda said she chose to marry Judo rather than give it up. She demonstrated Judo at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, but female Judo was not an Olympic event yet so she couldn’t compete. Two years later, she immigrated to America to establish her own school. She practiced regularly into his 90s, but has been confined to a wheelchair in recent years.
Fukuda’s motto was "Be strong, be gentle, be beautiful."