Sensei Keiko Fukuda was born in Japan on the 12th April 1913. Her father died when she was quite young and she was brought up to learn all the usual things young Japanese women were meant to master: of course, the Tea Ceremony, calligraphy and flower arranging.
But Sensei felt close to Judo because of her grandfather. He was a Samurai and had also practiced Judo under an expert.
One day, Sensei and her mother attended a judo training session, and as they say, the rest is history. Sensei told her mother and brother that she was going to train; they were very supportive, unlike her uncle.
In fact, the founder of Judo, Kano Jigura, invited her to train at his school. This was a very unusual gesture, but he did so in respect of Sensei’s grandfather.
She started her journey in 1935, one of only 24 women at the school. It became her life, giving up the idea of marriage to pursue her goal. Sensei mastered English so that she could travel to spread the skills of Judo. She spent time in the USA teaching her skills to willing students.
Before long, Sensei had her 5th degree black belt, but was not allowed to go any further as this was banned to women. She had to wait for nearly 30 years for that ban to be lifted to achieve her 6th Dan in 1972.
But that’s not the end of Sensei’s achievements; she has gone on to her 10th degree black belt, which is the highest rank in the martial arts of Judo. She is only one of four people still alive in the world who has achieved this amazing feat. In fact, only 16 people have ever got this black belt.
Now Sensei is an incredible 98 years old and still teaching three times a week – a truly amazing lady with incredible focus and determination to become the best in her field.
These few words spoken by Sensei sum up her dedication.
“This is when my destiny was set. I just never imagined how long the road would be. I believe this is true beauty…All my life has been my dream.”
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