The 98-year-old judo master
April 25, 2011 10:01 AM   Subscribe

After nearly a century, Keiko Fukuda still lives for judo [video]. Earlier this month, Fukuda turned 98. The last surviving student of Judo founder Jigoro Kano, she teaches classes in the Bay Area despite having lived nearly a century. Fukuda, at 9th degree black belt, is the highest-ranking woman in judo history.

See her demonstrate a technique here -- and talk immediately after about how she was frozen at 5th degree black belt for 30 years due to sexism in the Judo establishment. Fukuda authored a major early work about women and judo, the rare and out-of-print "Born For The Mat." She is also the subject of a forthcoming documentary film, "Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful."

More at:
A very good Wikipedia entry
Photos from the "Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful" press kit
A photo of a young Fukuda demonstrating defense against a sword attack
posted by jeffmshaw (22 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Look as good when you are 98, you will not.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:38 AM on April 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow. Amazing video; here is living proof that an active life is the best life.
posted by vorfeed at 10:41 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's heartbreaking when she's being interviewed and she has a realization that "judo was my marriage." It must be something she's thought about before, but perhaps not quite in that way; it looks like she's really thinking it for the first time.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:49 AM on April 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just started Judo a couple of months ago, it is really surprising how much of it is made up of older people. I highly recommend it. If I ever get a chance to take a class from this woman I would in a heartbeat.
posted by The Power Nap at 10:52 AM on April 25, 2011


Wow, that sample clip was already moving. Thanks for sharing, it's pretty inspiring.
posted by xtine at 10:54 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beautiful and inspiring, thanks.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:58 AM on April 25, 2011


Amazing. She's a living link to both Kano and Kyuzo Mifune.
posted by the cuban at 11:00 AM on April 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


If there are no older people taking your favorite martial art, that might tell you something about how it affects your joints.
posted by benzenedream at 11:12 AM on April 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


"It's heartbreaking when she's being interviewed and she has a realization that "judo was my marriage." "

I know! So sad. I wish she'd gotten the chance to do both, if that's what she wanted.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:14 AM on April 25, 2011


Aw, man. This reminds me that I never did do a post for Rusty Kanokogi, who was another pioneer for women in judo in the US, and who died just a few months after she was re-awarded the NY State YMCA gold medal that she won in 1959, but was denied because she was a girl. She went on to have a pretty kickass career in judo (and life, in general), though.

I only had time to view the technique demonstration clip, and it's great. I'm looking forward to watching the full video later. Thanks, jeffmshaw.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:28 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


She is amazing, my 95 year old Father-In-Law can hardly walk and when he stands, he is bent over somewhat, no more straighten his old back. We will forget about describing taking stairs, as these comments are limited to a thousand words.
posted by taxpayer at 12:23 PM on April 25, 2011


Wonderful, thank you.
posted by safetyfork at 2:00 PM on April 25, 2011


That was a fucking awesome video, and she is a fucking awesome person.

Also, having been a dabbler in three martial arts (Judo, Karate, Aikido) I think Judo is the most useful in a real fight. Not that that has anything to do with how awesome Keiko Fukuda is.
posted by Decani at 2:01 PM on April 25, 2011


Awesome post.
I think Judo is the most useful in a real fight
of those three yes. But it is not the best for a fight though this depends on the circumstances.
posted by clavdivs at 2:21 PM on April 25, 2011


What a great video. I can't wait for the documentary to be released. Truly inspirational.

I was thinking of trying out Krav Maga, but I think I'll look into Judo as well.
posted by dorkydancer at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2011


of those three yes. But it is not the best for a fight though this depends on the circumstances.

Judo may not be the best for winning a fight via incapacitation/surrender a la MMA, but I think it is very well suited for surviving a real fight -- that is to say, one where the main goal is to keep yourself in one piece and GTFO as soon as possible. Dunno if that makes judo "the best for a fight", but it does make it a practical self-defense art... and since most people aren't out looking for a fight to begin with, that's probably enough.
posted by vorfeed at 5:19 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wonderful, thanks.

My sensei does a lot of kata competition these days, and was invited to the first international Kodokan tournament; his (female) uke recieved an invitation from Fukuda-sensei to go to the States and train with her, which was just amazing.
posted by rodgerd at 12:43 AM on April 26, 2011


If there are no older people taking your favorite martial art, that might tell you something about how it affects your joints.
posted by benzenedream at 2:12 PM on April 25 [8 favorites +] [!]


I started Judo many years ago in South Florida, where old people go to retire. My club had former US Marine Corps medalists, ancient international competitors, and two people who would go on to become kata world champions. They were still playing Judo.

But after hearing that I'd studied bioengineering, a lot of them would tell me things like, "You know what they should make is a shot that would give you your knees and shoulders back for just thirty minutes ... then you'd see some real Judo ..."
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:06 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


here is living proof that an active life is the best life.

Not to take anything away from Kieko Fukuda, but you're engaging in selection bias there.

Take any 98yo, and ask them what their secret is, and it might be anything from being vegan to eating only red meat to practicing judo to drinking a litre of red wine a day.

The fact that they are 98 gives their 'secret' credibility on face value, but it ignores all the people who were vegans or carnivores or judoistas or shiraz tipplers who died much younger.

The only way your point could amount to 'proof' would be if all active people lived to 98. Short of that, she's basically just the lucky one who survived long enough to tell the tale.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:48 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was very moving. Thanks for the post.
posted by dejah420 at 9:19 AM on April 26, 2011


The fact that they are 98 gives their 'secret' credibility on face value, but it ignores all the people who were vegans or carnivores or judoistas or shiraz tipplers who died much younger.

The only way your point could amount to 'proof' would be if all active people lived to 98. Short of that, she's basically just the lucky one who survived long enough to tell the tale.


I wasn't talking about length of life; it is indeed largely chance which determines when we die. I was talking about quality of life, and there's plenty of research which suggests that this is directly related to physical activity, especially as we age.
posted by vorfeed at 11:09 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Judo may not be the best for winning a fight via incapacitation/surrender a la MMA, but I think it is very well suited for surviving a real fight -- that is to say, one where the main goal is to keep yourself in one piece and GTFO as soon as possible.
posted by vorfeed at 1:19 AM on April 26


This is exactly what I meant. Judo has served me best in every fight I've ever had. And it served me by allowing me to throw my attacker to the ground and get out of the situation. I will admit I may have delivered the odd not-at-all-Judo kick before taking to my heels, on occasion. But it was Judo's masterful techniques of unbalancing and overturning an opponent that gave me the upper hand. Aikido gave me some refinements, but the down'to'earth gritty grappling element of Judo was what really counted.
posted by Decani at 11:53 AM on April 26, 2011


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