Judo trailblazer Keiko Fukuda, 99, passes away

British Judo is deeply saddened to hear that Sensei Fukuda Sensei, 99, who was widely reported to be the last surviving student of judo founder Jigoro Kano, passed away on Saturday.

Fukuda, who was born in Tokyo in 1913, started training judo in 1935 and went on to be an instructor at the Kodokan and become a 5th Dan by the time she decided to move to American in 1953.

Fukuda started Soko Joshi Judo Club in San Francisco and become a US citizen. Dan grade promotions followed and there were honours off the tatami as she was awarded Japan’s Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1990.

The judo trailblazer served as a technical adviser for US Women’s Judo and the USJI Kata Judges’ Certification Sub-committee as well as a National Kata Judge among a host of services she provided the sport in the America.

In 2006 the Kodokan awarded Fukuda her 9th Dan, the first time they had awarded the rank to a woman.

In 2011 USA Judo promoted Fukuda to the 10th Dan, the highest grade in the sport.

British Judo Chief Executive Officer Andrew Scoular said: “We would like to express our condolences to USA Judo and the family and friends of Sensei Keiko Fukuda.” 

Fukuda broke down barriers in the sport and paved the way for women to receive the same recognition and competitive platform as their male counterparts.

Our thoughts are with Sensei Fukuda’s family, friends and the judo community in San Francisco at this time.