99-Year-Old "Mrs. Judo" Inspires Campus Crowd

December 3, 2012
Keiko Fukuda greets admirer

The Dilena Takeyama Center for the Study of Japan and Japanese Culture, led by Journalism Prof. Jon Funabiki, brought a 99-year-old female judo star to campus for a private screening of “Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful.”

The touching documentary by Yuriko Gamo Romer tells the inspirational story of Keiko Fukuda, the granddaughter of a samurai, and her single-minded devotion to judo despite persistent discrimination against women in the sport. In 2011, with the help of devoted supporters, Fukuda broke through the glass ceiling and earned her 10th degree black belt, thus becoming the highest-ranking woman in judo history.

Today, the diminutive Fukuda suffers from Parkinson’s, has recovered from a heart attack and undergone triple bypass surgery. Yet she still runs her annual women’s judo summer camp, hosts the Fukuda International Judo Kata (forms) Tournament and teaches judo three times a week in San Francisco.

During a Q&A segment in the Coppola Theater on Nov. 30, Romer said she got the idea for the film after reading a story about Fukuda-sensei in O, the Oprah Magazine. Romer was astonished to discover that Fukuda-sensei’s dojo, or school, was very close to her home. It took Romer four years to complete the documentary, which has been shown at film festivals throughout the U.S.

Among those attending the packed event were San Francisco State’s new president, Leslie E. Wong, and his wife, Phyllis. President Wong gave Fukuda-sensei a commendation, calling her “a living legend and an exemplar to the students, faculty and staff of the university.”