World of Sport

98-year-old woman earns top judo black belt rank

World of Sport

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A 98-year-old woman standing just 4'11" has achieved one of the highest
honours in the world of martial arts after being promoted to tenth dan black
belt in judo.

Keiko Fukuda, a Japanese-born American, is just the fourth person on the planet
who currently holds the distinction, and only the 15th person in history to be
awarded the honours. The other three people who are currently tenth dan 'judoka'
are all men living in Japan.

Fukuda, who
took up the sport in 1935 and still teaches judo three times a week at a
women's dojo in San Francisco, was thrilled with her promotion.

my life this has been my dream," said the woman who is the last surviving
student of judo's founder, Kano Jiguro.

Fukuda is
not exaggerating. She eschewed traditional Japanese arts such as calligraphy
and tea ceremonies - not to mention her marriage - when she took up the sport
in her 20s, she then spent 30 years stuck as a fifth dan black belt due to a
regulation prohibiting women from being promoted beyond that level.

She managed
to break down that rule in 1972 and was the first woman to become a sixth dan
black belt and has since continued to climb the ranks and inspire her students
with her personal motto: "Be gentle, kind and beautiful, yet firm and
strong, both mentally and physically."


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