Keiko Fukuda Judo Foundation

Shi­han Keiko Fukuda

April 12, 1913 — Feb­ru­ary 9, 2013

Sen­sei Keiko Fukuda,now called Shi­han Grand Mas­ter 10th Dan, was one of the most impor­tant mas­ters in the art of judo. Fukuda Shi­han has ded­i­cated her whole life to Judo, for over 77 years, from her first years in the Women’s Sec­tion of the Kodokan, invited to study there by Jig­oro Kano, founder of Judo, in the 1930s, till the present day. Her grand­fa­ther, Hachi­nosuke Fukuda was the first of the three Ju-​Jitsu mas­ters who taught Kano Shi­han. Kano Shi­han sent her out into the world to spread the teach­ing tenets, and phi­los­o­phy of Kodokan Judo. Only three other peo­ple in the world, all men liv­ing in Japan, have ever reached that mark.

Com­ing from the very his­tory of Judo, born in 1913 in Japan, sen­sei Fukuda was the last liv­ing stu­dent of Jig­oro Kano. The con­nec­tion between them was inter­me­di­ated by her grand­fa­ther and this rela­tion­ship mate­ri­al­ized through his life­time belief in Sen­sei Fukuda to accom­plish that mission.

In 1964 sen­sei Fukuda per­formed one of the most impres­sive Kata demon­stra­tions, on the occa­sion of the Open­ing Cer­e­mony of the Tokyo Olympic Games, when judo was first launched on the Olympic orbit. Her human­ist vision on judo derivers from study­ing Japan­ese lit­er­a­ture at the Showa Uni­ver­sity and also some tra­di­tional Japan­ese arts as Sho Do– cal­lig­ra­phy, Cha Do– the tea cer­e­mony and Ike­bana flower arrangements.

Later, after she moved in 1966 to the United States, in 1974, sen­sei orga­nized the first judo train­ing camp ded­i­cated exclu­sively to women. This event has become tra­di­tional under the name of Keiko Fukuda Joshi Judo Camp. She was also the ini­tia­tor of the Keiko Fukuda Inter­na­tional Kata Cham­pi­onship, in 1998.

In 1990, as a recog­ni­tion of her high mer­its in the progress of Kodokan Joshi Judo, sen­sei Fukuda was pre­sented by the Japan­ese Gov­ern­ment with the “Order of the Sacred Trea­sure”. Fur­ther to all these impres­sive bio­graphic moments, among the spir­i­tual her­itage left by sen­sei Fukuda are two of the most pro­found intro­spec­tions in the world of judo, namely two books that she wrote:“Born for the mat” (1973) and “Ju no Kata”(2004).

She gave up mar­riage and left her home­land to ded­i­cate her life to judo, fight­ing gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion that kept her at lower belt lev­els decades longer than men less skilled than she. PAWMA hon­ored Fukuda Shi­han with its Life­time Achieve­ment Award in 1997. Then, in 2011 Fukuda Shi­han was granted 10th dan in Judo by USA Judo and US Judo Fed­er­a­tion, the first woman ever to be hon­ored in this way and the last sur­viv­ing stu­dent of the founder of Judo. Fukuda Shi­han taught classes, includ­ing one con­sist­ing of all women, three days a week at Joshi Judo Club in San Fran­cisco up until her death.

We and the world of Judo have lost a won­der­ful, strong, gen­tle and beau­ti­ful lady; who lived her life by her motto that guided her entire life “Be strong, Be gen­tle, Be beau­ti­ful, essen­tial words to live by not only in Judo but in life. She will be missed, all her stu­dents, per­sonal friends and the rest of the Judo world, but espe­cially by her con­stant com­pan­ion and pro­tec­tor Dr. Shel­ley Fer­nan­dez, PHD.

Please donate to the Keiko Fukuda & Shel­ley Fer­nan­dez Girls and Women Judo Foun­da­tion to keep judo alive.