The Woman Who Threw the Kodokan Dies at Age 99


Keiko Fukuda, the world’s highest-ranking woman judo practitoner died at her home in San Francisco, on Feb. 9, at age 99. Not only did Fukuda-Sensei learn her art directly from the founder, Jigoro Kano, she broke new ground in her lifetime dedication to the art.

The granddaughter of a samurai and jujitsu master, she was personally invited by Kano in the 1930s to join a woman’s class at the Kodokan (the international judo headquarters) when she was 21 years old. Standing less than five feet tall, she would demonstrate her art at the 1964 Olympics. And she travelled to the United States, at Kano’s behest, to teach judo, first in the 1950s and then in 1966, eventually becoming an American citizen.

As a woman judo pioneer, Fukuda-Sensei faced many challenges. She decided against an arranged marriage and instead “married” judo. When she became a fifth dan in the 1950s, she hit a glass ceiling, with the male-dominated Kodokan refusing to promote her further. She stayed at this rank for more than 20 years, until a petition forced the Kodokan to award her her fifth dan, the first woman to ever achieve this level.

By 2006 Fukuda-Sensei had progressed to ninth dan. And in 2011, USA Judo promoted her to her 10th dan, the highest possible judo ranking.

Fukuda-Sensei was the last living pupil of Jigoro Kano. Read the New York Times obit. 


Photo by Lance Iversen/The San Francisco Chronicle, via the New York Times.
Photo by Lance Iversen/The San Francisco Chronicle, via the New York Times.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *