Rest in Peace Keiko Fukuda. May your Judo spirit be passed on to all judoka. Your teachings be conserved for generations to come, and may your motto be remembered by all.
“Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful.” Sensei Keiko Fukuda, Judan
-from the Loayza Family
Sensei Keiko Fukuda (April 12, 1913 – February 9, 2013) began studying the art of judo in Japan in 1935. She was the last living student of Dr. Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. Her grandfather, Fukuda Hachinosuke, was a samurai master and Dr. Kano’s first jujitsu instructor.
As an instructor and continual student of judo until her passing in San Francisco in 2013, Fukuda Sensei always emphasized proper form to achieve maximum efficiency in executing judo techniques. She also emphasized the life lessons which judo teaches us such as perseverance, determination and dedication; mental and spiritual focus; and thoughtfulness for others (Jita Kyoei meaning mutual welfare and benefit). Her motto was Tsuyoku, Yasashiku, Utsukushiku: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful in Mind, Body, and Spirit.
Fukuda Sensei’s life was dedicated to judo as depicted in the documentary film Mrs. Judo. She performed a judo demonstration in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. She traveled the world teaching judo and moved to the United States in the 1966 and became a U.S. citizen in 1972. She founded Soko Joshi Judo Club circa 1970. In 1974, the first women’s judo camp in the United States was held with Fukuda Sensei as one of the main instructors and continues on annually as Keiko Fukuda Joshi Judo Camp. She also founded the Keiko Fukuda International Kata Championship in 1989.
In 1990, the Japanese government awarded Fukuda Sensei the Order of the Sacred Treasure in recognition of her outstanding dedication to the advancement of Kodokan Joshi Judo. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown officially declared August 19, 2001, “Keiko Fukuda Day” in honor of her 9th degree black belt promotion. Ten years later in 2011, at the age of 98, she achieved 10th degree, the highest rank that can be achieved in judo. This promotion is of historic significance, as she is the first woman to receive this rank in judo history and the first person in the United Stated to be promoted to this rank.