Keiko Fukuda, judo's highest ranked woman, dies at 99

Just got this sad news passed along to me... Keiko Fukuda, the first woman ever awarded the rank of 10th Dan in judo, and the last surviving student of Jigoro Kano -- the founder of judo -- passed away over the weekend in San Francisco. She was 99. Here's the announcement of her passing from USA Judo:

Keiko Fukuda, the first woman awarded the rank of 10th dan in judo, passed away yesterday in San Francisco. She was 99.

"This is a dream come true," Fukuda said in the summer of 2011, shortly after she was awarded judo's highest rank by USA Judo, the national governing body for the Olympic sport in the United States.

Fukuda's first reaction was "total surprise," according to her caretaker, Shelley Fernandez, interviewed at the time. Then came a sense of great pride, "especially knowing that this promotion would help women's judo," Fukuda told Fernandez.

The last surviving student of the founder of judo, Jigoro Kano, Fukuda had separated from tradition as a young woman, choosing to train in judo under Kano rather than marry.

Fukuda eventually followed Kano's wish that she and other students teach judo around the world. She came to the United States to do just that in 1966. She became a leader in women's rights by example and voice, forcing away the ceiling that had prevented her from ascending in rank sooner.
Fukuda is the subject of a recent documentary, Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful. Watch the trailer here. In life and in death, she was badass. Rest in peace, Fukuda Sensei.

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