98-Year Old Woman Earns 10th Degree Black Belt

A few years ago, we mentioned that Keiko Fukuda of San Francisco is a judo master, despite advanced age, arthritis, and triple bypass surgery. Now, at the age of 98, she's been awarded the highest rank in that martial art:

Only three people in the world, all men living in Japan, have ever reached that mark.

The martial arts promotion by USA Judo brought 98-year-old Fukuda to tears at the women's dojo where she still teaches in Noe Valley.[...]

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.

Link -via Nag on the Lake | Photo: Lance Iverson/San Francisco Chronicle

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Gauldar, you're correct. Promotions in judo are earn via two avenues: success in competition, and advancement of the art of judo. If I remember correctly, the Kodokan does not promote beyond the 5th dan for competitive achievements, such as earning a medal at the Olympics, World Games, etc. My sensei, a 7th dan, excelled at kata at the international level. In the later part of his life, he has trained judoka to compete at the international level, and acted as a consultant to the International Judo Federation and the International Olympic Committee. Despite his success, he will not likely earn another promotion in his lifetime, because of the sheer difficultly ramp at the highest echelons of the art. Keiko Fukuda's promotion is an acknowledgement of lifetime of dedication to Kodokan Judo, the lives she has touched through her instruction, and wealth of knowledge she represents.
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According to Penn & Teller, anyone can earn a black belt. It's just a matter of paying for the required number of classes at any karate school in any shopping center.
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