Thursday, November 30, 2006

Allied Ronin: European Tour

November 25-27, 2006

These have been three days of teaching and touring in and around Krakow, Poland. The efforts of Pawel Olesiak and Pawel Bernas to bring the Samurai Game® to their aikido organization, Krokowskie Stowarzyszenie (, have paid off. Twenty people attended from various businesses surrounding the city, plus the main radio station serving this ancient capital of Poland. All as a result of email announcements sent out from the two Pawel’s (pronounced “pah’–vel” … which is Polish for Paul). Both 4th dan's they teach aikido and have formed a training organization for the specific purpose of changing leadership throughout Poland by use of the principles and physical techniques found in this martial art.

Sunday evening following my class a tour of Krakow was arranged which included the Wawel – ancient castle and home of one of Poland’s oldest monarchies. Then on to St’s Peter & Paul church, St Mary’s and St John’s and other point of historic interest. This city is filled with churches … attesting to the ability of a spiritual-base culture to withstand and overcome the old Soviet regime days … now frequently referred to by the locals as “the communist times.” Pawel Olesiak, now 40, told stories of what it was like for him to stand in long lines for something as simple as candy. Poland is different now. In fact, the youth I’ve encountered since then, many not old enough to know or recall “the communist times” only have their parents’ stories to understand what it was like. Prosperity and aliveness that looks to future growth is everywhere.

Monday morning was a different kind of tour. While there is much beauty to see everywhere in Krakow – enough to fill weeks of touring – I decided to view this country through a different lens. As beautiful and inspiring as the ancient capital is, the other end of the spectrum which represents the ugliness of human potentiality can be felt in another town just forty kilometers west – Oswiecim, or as the German Nazis of 1941 renamed it, Auschwitz.

I toured only Auschwitz I, as the other location (Auschwitz II – Berkenau) 3 km away, would have taken more time than schedules allowed. But the short tour of A-I was enough for me. Fortunately, a participant in a course I led November 18-19 in the San Francisco Bay Area had prepared me by suggesting I read Dr. Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz, recounts what it was like from an everyday standpoint of the captive. He then goes on to expand for the reader the brand of psychotherapy he founded – logotherapy – see

No comments: