Keiko Fukuda was a Japanese-born American martial artist. She was the highest-ranked female judoka in history, holding the rank of 9th dan from the Kodokan and the United States Judo Federation (USJF), and 10th dan from USA Judo, and was the last surviving student of Kanō Jigorō, founder of judo. As the granddaughter of a samurai, martial arts was in her blood. She was a renowned pioneer of women’s judo, being the first woman promoted to 6th dan in 1972, and later 9th dan in 2006, by the Kodokan. She is also the first and, so far, only woman to have been promoted to 10th dan in the art. After completing her formal education in Japan, Fukuda visited the United States of America to teach in the 1950s and 1960s, and eventually settled there.
Standing just 4’11″ and weighing less than 100 lbs., Keiko overcame many obstacles in her career, both physically and politically. Keiko fought for women’s equality in all martial arts in Japan and the United States and laid the groundwork for future generations. Her work is a central reason why women are allowed to be promoted and compete on the same level as men around the world in all martial arts. She continued to teach her art in the San Francisco Bay Area until her death at the age of 99 in 2013.
福田 敬子, Keiko Fukuda, April 12, 1913 – February 9, 2013