Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fiddling With Politics and Profit While Rome Burns?

The BP oil rig that is gushing tens of thousands of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico is the largest environmental crisis the world has faced in the 21st Century. That’s right, the world has a problem, not just BP, President Obama, or the unfortunate citizens who make (made) their living from the rich Gulf resources. All politics aside, the pathetic non-response to the problem is a tragedy more dire than virtually any governmental or business failure in the last decade.

We are not talking about the clean up, the lost jobs, or the lives lost when the oil rig exploded. Those problems will be dealt with in the way such problems have always been dealt with. The clean up will mobilize gradually and eventually wash away most visible evidence of the oil. The lost jobs will be replaced or compensated for, most likely by yet another giant financial program implemented by President Obama and his political network, at the expense of the free market and the American taxpayer. The lost lives will be paid for by insurance and legal settlements, never, of course, sufficient to ease the enormous personal loss of the surviving families.

But world leaders, including and especially our president, have supremely and repeatedly failed to take the necessary steps to solve the most pressing aspect of this problem – the leak itself. Six weeks after the leak began, a modest redirection of oil is taking place, and tens of thousands of gallons of oil are still gushing into our oceans. Instead of throwing every resource at the problem – and we mean every one, including the National Guard, the Corps of Engineers, the experts from domestic and foreign oil companies, the best engineering minds of academia, and the astute solutions offered by the public – our government and the BP corporate leaders have spent considerable time thinking about the problem, meeting about the problem, making public statements about the problem, and using the problem to leverage their political positions, all while the oil continues to spew into the Gulf.

Our opinion is this: there is one over-riding priority that dwarfs every other aspect of the problem, and it’s so critical that the rest of the issues should be immediately put in the background so that all major effort and resources can be brought to bear on it. Stop the leak now! Stop the leak now! Stop the leak now!

President Obama. BP. World political leaders. The time to take action is now. Put the ten best engineering minds in a room and don’t let them leave until they have outlined not one, but ten, or one hundred, potential solutions to the problem. As soon as they have offered one solution, immediately bring the resources of the world together to implement the solution. DO NOT WAIT to see if that solution proves to be the one that works. Instead, start preparing the know-how and technology for the NEXT solution. Implement number two the SECOND the first fails. Implement number three IMMEDIATELY when the second one fails. Don’t stop, DO NOT STOP, until the problem is solved. The leak MUST be stopped.

When the leak is stopped, and only then, you can go back to your old ways. BP can work to figure out how to generate income from the well. Politicians can talk about how the opposing party contributed to the disaster. Environmentalists can go back to washing pelicans that will ultimately die anyway from the stress and disease of being exposed to oil. World political leaders can talk about the failures of capitalism.

The human spirit is amazing. When we pull together and all work for the same goal, there is no limit to our potential for achievement. We must bring together the best aspects of human nature and solve the oil catastrophe in the Gulf. We CAN solve this crisis, and we can do it NOW.

- Nicklaus Suino Sensei

- Director, Japanese Martial Arts Center

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tatami and Dust Motes

Hyogen's teacher, nearly 90 years old, was a demon when it came to technical swordsmanship. However hard Hyogen tried to master the details of a technique, the old master would find fault.

"Keep your eyes on your opponent," Hyogen would hear, "Keep your back straight," or "Put the other foot forward."

Near the end of a particularly tough training session, Hyogen was performing suburi (repetitive cuts with a heavy bokken). He found himself staring at the tatami in front of him, immersed in the intricate pattern of the woven straw and the dust motes rising in the late afternoon sun. Just then, the wizened teacher looked over to inspect Hyogen's performance. "Perfect!" said the old man.

Nicklaus Suino teaches iaido, judo, and jujutsu at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and at seminars around North America. See the Art of Japanese Swordsmanship website.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mmmmm, Rice

It is too clear and so it is hard to see,
A dunce once searched for a fire with a lighted lantern.
Had he known what fire was,
He could have cooked his rice much sooner.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, ed. Paul Reps, Tuttle.

Commentary: If you cook your rice with a candle, don't
complain about how long it takes to cook!

Nicklaus Suino teaches judo, jujutsu, and iaido at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan. He also offers judo seminars through

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Forgetting the Sword

Those who are carrying a sword as a symbol of their authority or political power, holding on to their positions, tend to forget that one's worth can only be discovered by oneself, by gazing at and examining the soul. Yamauchi Yodo was well aware of this. He possessed two fine swords of the Kamakura period, one forged by Kunitoshi and one by Masamune, which he gave away very easily. He once left his residence incognito and in joke exchanged his swords with a painter who acted for him as a guide, saying he felt more comfortable without the heavy swords. Yodo's retainers, worrying about their lords attitude toward swords finally presented him with a magnificent but light and slender sword according to his fancy. On the following day, Yodo, carrying the new sword through his belt, left his residence alone on his horse to pay an acquaintance a visit. But Yodo, to the shock of his entourage, returned home without his sword. He had already exchanged it with his acquaintance for a hanging scroll made by the Neo-Confucian scholar Rai Sanyo, with which he was particularly pleased. - from Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu: The Iai Forms and Oral Traditions of the Yamauchi Branch. Kyoto: Maruzen. 2004.

Nicklaus Suino teaches iaido and other martial arts at seminars throughout North America. Information about his seminars can be found at He teacher iaido, judo, and jujutsu at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tough Love

Three days before his death Diagu wrote a short poem praising himself as "unique in his generation." At the end of the poem he put the words "three days before." Did he regret having boasted and wish to write a different poem? The following day he requested that his attendant bring him writing paper, and as the latter was about to hand it to his master, Daigu hit him. A day later Daigu died.

- Japanese Death Poems, edited by Yoel Hoffman. Tuttle 1986, pp 93-94.

Every time the Sensei threw him, Yoshi got back up. "Why don't you stay down, Yoshi?" the Sensei asked. As he stood up to be thrown again, Yoshi was enlightened!

Nicklaus Suino teaches iaido and other martial arts at seminars throughout North America. Information about his seminars can be found at He teacher iaido, judo, and jujutsu at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan.