Causing no (serious) harm
One can quote the bible for the devil or the lord,, forgive my blatant paraphrasing of Shakespeare but i think it is pertinent. This holds true for O'sensei too. We could quote and counter quote all night. There are quotations that tell us to strike the enemy down and there are quotes telling us to save our partner and to love the world. Are we wrong to dismiss one and follow the other. Which one do we dismiss? The one on striking and attacking because it doesn't follow with our belief system or the one on love because we are seeking a practical martial experience?
I don't know. From my point of view I don't really care for O'sensei's quotes or philosophies. In my mind they are not really very original and one can find similar idea's in the works of Tesshu, Musashi, Yagyu, Bokuden, Innei, Sun tzu, and I am sure everyones parents, the list goes on.
Why is it that aikidoka examine it so closely?
A lot of people within this thread have proposed the idea that aikido is the mental awareness to walk away and to avoid a violent incident. This is very laudable and I agree it is aikido. My only concern is that the beginning of any violent encounter is the so called adrenaline dump. This gives us a number of positive and negative side effects. On the positive side it makes us stronger, faster and dulls our perception of pain. The negative side is not so good for us aikidoka, it shuts down our higher brain functions, which is why monosyllabic sentences from an aggressive person is a good indicator that he is about to attack.
The adrenaline dump also impairs our ability to perform fine motor functions. We lose our peripheral vision and our personal space increases massively.
What has this to do with aikido?
This is my argument, we need to use reasoning to assess the situation and walk away. However our higher brain functions are now impaired and we have lost the ability to see the bigger picture because our peripheral vision has been lost in order to allow us to fully concentrate on the threat to our front.
If we do manage to overcome the above we still have to deal with an individual who is unable to think clearly and perceives us to be in his personal space and therefore a threat. To overcome this we need to move him or ourselves from this space. 30ft is a good rule of thumb.
It is very difficult to achieve all of the above. Once the above symptoms have occurred in someone you perceive as a threat in my opinion it is going to go violent.
I do think it is possible to win by avoiding conflict, Sun Tzu's highest form of warfare/conflict, but only by recognising the threat very early on and for those of us without 100% zanshin this is not always possible.
My position is the same as Maruyama sensei's. We should not enter into a conflict with the idea of injuring. I take this to mean finishing it as quickly as possible. Geoff Thompson makes an interesting comment that any fight that goes beyond 3 seconds is fifty-fifty regardless of skill.
When someone attacks me they must realise that the possibility of injury exists as much for them as for my self and being the nice bloke that I am I will do my best not to damage him too much but I cannot guarantee anything.
He has made the mistake of attacking me before i have attained O'sensei's mastery.