Why police officers should consider the path of the samurai
By embracing your inner creativity, you can find balance in an imbalanced life
The samurai were knights and keepers of the peace for 700 years in Japan. To achieve their ends as peacekeepers they spent their whole lives honing their skills.
They realized that if they spent 100% of their time training for, thinking about, or partaking in combat, no matter how honorable their intentions, it would create an imbalance in their lives.
Therefore, as one of the samurai disciplines, these Japanese knights were expected to discover and develop in themselves their individual innate talent in art, music, crafts, gardening, or poetry. In this way, they could find a balance between experiencing the destabilizing ugliness of violence and the calming beauty that comes from creating music, images, crafts, flowers, or poems.
It is interesting to note that without having any intention of doing so, many police officers walk the same path toward achieving the balance sought by the samurai. Here are a few examples.
Sgt. Robert Riechel served 32 years as a patrol officer, SWAT officer, defensive tactics Instructor and firearms instructor, devoting nearly his entire adult life to serving and protecting. He always had a love of art, which initially showed itself during his career when he would make personalized cartoons for his fellow officers based on their experiences. It was an effort to make them laugh, at which he succeeded.
Eventually, he was drawn to oil painting when he decided to make a special gift for his wife. He loved it so much that he honed his skills over the years by transforming many a blank canvas into a work of art.
On one such canvas, he immortalized, quite dramatically, a local riot, which hangs in the office of an officer who was in the line depicted in the painting. One of his works graces the main office of his sheriff’s department as well. Sergeant Riechel has also graciously offered up paintings for auction at fundraisers for police officers and their families who suffer from serious health issues.
John Demand is a law enforcement veteran who has protected not only his community but also high-level executives, celebrities and public figures. John has trained police officers internationally to develop and enhance their survival observation skills for everything from patrol to counter-terrorism response.
John has discovered over the years that no matter what kind of day he has had the tension melts away when he sits down at his piano and plays. After contemplating it momentarily he revealed that it brings him “solace.”
John always shared his music with friends and family, but now he finds great personal satisfaction, even joy, playing his music in memory care units. It allows those, whose memories of friends and family are gradually slipping away, to awaken again, even if it is just for a few moments.
I was heartened when I discovered the samurai approach to achieving balance for my secret was that this street-cop-swat-operating-martial-artist loved to write poems. Secretly I wrote poems for my wife and created personalized poems for my children and grandchildren. I would sometimes put them to the music of already existing songs. Sadly, my grandson will someday discover the music for his very own song actually belongs to Davy Crockett.
Eventually, I discovered I could round the edges of the pain from loss for police officers and their families, with my poems:
Two officers, like many others, have found artistry in reshaping the elements into things of beauty, as well as items that are functional.
K-9 Officer Aaron Hintz (whose story of survival is told here) re-cycles metals into knives and axes for family and friends. He also transforms wood quite magnificently.
As a firearms instructor, Aaron has created unique wooden target configurations for his firearms training and furniture for his family.
Artistically he makes blue line flags for police officers and departments. I proudly display one of his Spartan helmets etched with my radio call number in my office. Displayed next to the helmet and my katana is a ceremonial First Nations arrow fashioned in a traditional manner by Jeffrey Noe.
Officer Jeffrey Noe was a police officer/trainer who taught all disciplines in the tactical arena while he developed a parallel career as a master “bowyer.” He uses traditional First Nations techniques to construct bows and arrows out of traditional materials. He has so finely developed his considerable talents that his work is sought after by individuals, re-enactors and museums.
What do these officers have in common?
One thing these officers have in common is they all discovered that they had a talent that over time and through patient repetition they developed into a mastery. Anyone who looks at (or listens to) their creations would say, “It seems like a lot of work,” except it was not like work to any of them. As John Demand said, it brings me “solace.” This solace turns into great satisfaction when the music, poem, painting, or woodcraft brings joy to someone else.
Bob Riechel simply states, “Painting truly relaxes me.”
Jeff Noe explains that during the difficult days as a police officer and trainer his extra-curricular activity as a Bowyer was “almost like therapy.” He adds, “It has always helped keep me centered.”
I must add that this same kind of solace, relaxation and balance can be achieved while fishing, hunting, running, swimming or working out in a weight room. It depends on an individual's preference and aptitudes.
In conclusion, I would like to observe that when you decide to create something you not only get the opportunity to give others an inner piece of yourself as a gift, but you also give yourself the gift of inner peace.
Now that’s priceless.