98-year-old woman becomes first woman ever to earn Judo's highest-degree black belt

Jessica Ashley
Shine from Yahoo! CanadaAugust 9, 2011




Is earning a black belt on your life list? Then this elderly woman in San Francisco just might be your ultimate hero.

Just two years before her 100th birthday, Sensei Keiko Fukuda has  become the first woman to achieve a tenth-degree black belt—the highest rank in the martial art and combat sport Judo. Fukuda is now one of only four living people who've earned the tenth-degree (or dan) black belt. To put the accomplishment into better perspective, throughout history, only sixteen people have ever achieved this honor.


[Related: 5 ways that food can prevent aging]


Fukuda began practicing Judo in 1935 and is the sole surviving student of its founder, Kano Jiguro. At her teacher's urging, she learned English to help spread Judo internationally.

During a time when getting married, building a family, and becoming a housewife was the norm, Fukudo bucked tradition, opting out of marriage to pursue the martial art.

"All I did was Judo...this was my marriage," Fukudo reflected tearfully to the San Francisco Chronicle. "This is when my life destiny was set. I just never imagined how long this road would be."

She described the Jiguro’s school, known as the Kodokan, as "old-fashioned and sexist about belts and ranks." In fact, an edict that prevented women from achieving any higher than a fifth-degree black belt kept Fukuda at that level for thirty years. She was finally elevated to sixth dan in 1972 when a woman's division was created.

Fukodo said she approached Judo and her life with the intent to "be gentle, kind and beautiful, yet firm and strong, both mentally and physically." Fukuda says this kind of beauty is decidedly not external. "A compassionate soul is inner beauty," she explained to the paper. "I believe this is true beauty...All my life this has been my dream."

Dream realized, the 98-year-old Sensei Keiko Fukuda continues to teach Judo three times a week at a woman's dojo.

Watch incredible footage of Fukuda from 1951 and listen to more of her life story in the video below.

More from Shine on Yahoo! Canada

Exercise wards off aging

Living like a centenarian

What wrinkles say about your health

Checkout the New Prius, Sleek Look Low Price

Your local Toyota dealer has unbelievable savings for you on a new Toyota Prius. Learn more today!

Need renters insurance? Get your quote here.

Amica Insurance offers renters discounts, plus the industry’s best service. Protect your possessions and get 24/7 support. Click for a free quote.

Skirts and Shirts

For Less Than the Cost of a Hamburger Meal

Get Identity Protection - includes 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring, Lost Wallet Protection, and much more! Get tips on protecting your identity and credit.

Discover resort-style living in Warrenton

The Lakes at Brookside offers close-knit hometown living with Lakes, amenities & large yards right next to vibrant Vint Hill. From the $400s

Already Have Your Bachelor's Degree?

Learn more about earning your master's or doctoral degree from Walden University. Study online and further your career. Request free information!

Try This Soup, You Must.

Find Yoda and all your favorite Star Wars characters on Campbell's soup cans in a store near you!

Tour the Most Beautiful Sports Courts in the World