Lech Walesa opens Dojo in Poland

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 12 2009 08:47 AM | Updated as of Oct 12 2009 04:47 PM

WARSAW - Poland's anti-communist icon and 1983 Nobel Peace laureate Lech Walesa symbolically wielded a Samurai sword at ceremonies opening Europe's largest Japanese martial arts centre, or Dojo, on Sunday.

"During the second day of the August (1980) strike, reporters asked me what we were up to. Then I said, 'We're building a second Japan'. A Dojo in Stara Wies is proof that this idea is coming true," Walesa joked at the ceremonies, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency.

Japan's ambassador to Poland Yuichi Kusumoto, the president of the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF) Richard Jorgensen, ITKF director in Los Angeles Nami Nishiyama, and the head of Poland's Traditional Karate Union Wlodzimierz Kwicinski, also attended the opening in the central Poland city.

Walesa, who served as Poland's first democratically elected president after the fall of communism, also planted a tree and was presented a karate black belt by the ITKF president.

The Dojo, a traditional Japanese martial arts centre, was opened as Poland and Japan mark the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

"The size of this centre is impressive not only for Poland but also for all of Europe," Japanese Ambassador Kusumoto said.

Construction of the centre began in 2003, funded mainly by Poland's sports ministry with the support of the Japanese government.

Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 as the head of Poland's freedom fighting Solidarity trade union, the only independent trade union ever to exist in the entire communist bloc.

Under his leadership Solidarity undertook talks with Poland's communist regime to negotiate a peaceful, bloodless end to communism in 1989, a move which had a domino effect across the Soviet bloc, ending in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.