August 10, 2011
Keiko Fukuda is still vibrant and alert at 98 years old, but simply surviving this long isn't on the top of her list of achievements.
The Sensei is an accomplished martial artist. In fact, she's one of only 16 people to ever earn a 10th-degree black belt in the combat sport of Judo. Last week, she became the first woman to be promoted to Judo's highest ranking. Through hard work and persistence, she's overcome a sexist ranking system in the world of martial arts.
Fukuda first discovered Judo in 1935 and by 1951 she was a fifth-degree black belt. She stayed there until the early '70s.
"The Kodokan was old fashioned and sexist about belts and ranks," Fukuda said (0:50 mark). "They just decided women didn't need any ranks over fifth degree. I was fifth degree for 30 years. This was the Kodokan's sexism."
"All I did was Judo...this was my marriage," Fukudo reflected tearfully. "This is when my life destiny was set. I just never imagined how long this road would be."
Believe it or not, Fukuda worked under Kano Figura, the founder of Judo. Figura, born in 1860, took Fukuda under his wing as the martial art introduced a women's division.
Judo is one of the many bases behind mixed martial arts. Some of the top judokas in MMA include Karo Parisyan (first-degree black belt), Yoshihiro Akiyama (third-degree black belt) and Dong Hyun Kim (fourth-degree black belt)
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