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

Jessica Ashley
Shine from Yahoo! Canada
August 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

What to Read Next

Delta Reserve Credit Card

Enjoy Complimentary Delta Sky Club® Access. Learn More. Terms Apply.

Walden University - PhD in Psychology

Earn your PhD in Psychology and make a positive impact within your community, organization, and profession. Request free information!

VA Mortgage Rates In 2016

VA Rates as Low as 3.25% (3.405% APR) 30 Year Fixed. Exclusive For Veteran & Military Takes 1 Min!

Earn Your Masters Online with University of Miami

Reach your professional goals sooner with UOnline. Our online masters programs are designed especially for working professionals. Learn more today!

Spacious Townhomes in a Golf Course Community

The Beechtree luxury townhomes in Upper Marlboro, Maryland feature an unparalleled lifestyle and are an incredible value. Priced from the $360s.