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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bow To Your Master

This is 98 year old Keiko Fukuda, and she isn't retired. Sensei Fukuda is a San Francisco judo instructor and the last surviving student of the discipline's founder, Kano Jiguro, who encouraged her to become an ambassador for the sport .

The daughter of a jiu-jitsu great, Sensei Fukuda grew up in Japan in a time where women could have a career or family, but not both. She dedicated her life to her fighting art and became a 5th degree black belt in the 1940's, but her rank was stalled for 30 years because the later overseers of Master Kano's Kodokan dictated that they didn't think that women could achieve a rank higher than 5. In 1972, she was working at Mills College in Oakland when she received her 6th dan designation, a first for all women. Every time fellow judoka pressured the Kodokan to raise the Sensei's rank, they balked and reiterated with their "but no woman has ever achieved this" retort, keeping the woman who went from rookie to 5th dan in well under a decade stagnant record wise. And just like every other time, she pressed on, determined to change the way women were portrayed in the sport.

This month, Sensei Fukuda became Master. She is the first woman and only American to ever hit the judo ceiling. She joins 3 Japanese men as the only 10th degree black belts alive.

She cried upon hearing that she had reached her life's goal and now I may need a Kleenex.

Girls, never let anyone tell you that you can't play with the boys.

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