Rob Liberti wrote:
Of course, ideally you want to do no damage. But since we are not ideal, we settle for doing the least amount.
Rob, this is not a rebuttal of your position, but I would like to raise the following issue once again - using your post as a springboard.
This all makes sense, this position; it all makes sense at a "common" level of thinking. However, we should note that all ideals are marked by our distance from them. That is to say, we do not hold ideals up as something we can hold on a regular basis and/or without challenge -- they are not what come to us "naturally" or easily. This is what makes them ideals -- the likely failure to uphold them is what makes the ideal. In the same way then, we should note that what comes to us easily or "naturally" cannot and/or should not be considered ideal. The fact that "we are not ideal" is no reason whatsoever to settle for less. The fact that "we are not ideal" is in no way a basis for making what comes to us naturally or easily the new ideal. If our ideal is non-violence or non-injury then minimum injury and/or minimum violence does not become the next best thing -- and certainly not the moral equivalent of the latter. It forever remains a departure from the ideal -- no matter how difficult that ideal is to achieve.
If I were to pursue this line of reasoning, when I hear the story you mentioned, I do not hear an ideal being met, or even the "next best thing." It is not for me a story of great virtue -- it holds no morale worthy of emulation. Rather, from the point of view of idealizing non-violence and/or non-injury, I have to ask, "What kind of immoral (or un-right) life is a person living that he/she is attacked by multiple people? How seriously is the virtue of non-violence and/or non-injury being taken if one can end up in a multiple attacker situation?" The answer, for me, "Not very seriously." Moreover, if the story happened in Japan, which is place where multiple attacker situations in the modern age are an extremely rare occurrence within a moral lifestyle, then my answer would be, "Not at all." These answers I would hold regardless of the great skill and awareness demonstrated by stopping someone's head from hitting a brick wall. Why? Because of the little skill that is required to stay out of multiple attacker situations. For me, the story would have been more virtuous had it mentioned how the practitioner maneuvered to accelerate the person's head into the wall -- as in that case it would have at least been consistent with itself on many more levels.
Back to the question at hand:
Is it not "strange," or at least worthy of more question, that something that seems to be posited by a couple of shodans, who trained under someone else who probably wasn't all that trained to be a teacher at the time, has played a role in defining Aikido in such a way that it is hard to make sense of things historically and philosophically? Such a view (i.e. minimum damage as a moral principle) probably has more to do with the moral philosophy that was being produced in Ivy League schools at that time than with Budo, Aikido, and/or the teachings of Osensei. Can we not ask today: "Would we all so readily accept characteristics of Aikido that are said to be defining if they were passed along by two shodan level practitioners?" I do not think so. I think the authors of "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere" got in "under the wire" because there was no wire at that time. Since then, the book has gone on to describe what Aikido is and/or should be for a great many people -- perhaps more so than any other book. However, now that there is a wire, and since so many understand so much more, it is time to seriously question what a couple of shodan wrote in a book that was published in a kind of void of "not enough information." For me, the position of minimum damage is not a moral virtue -- it is an economic stance. For modern governments, which gain a lot from the philosophy taught in Ivy League schools, economics and morality have become bedfellows. However, for human beings, I am not so sure we should (so easily) join these things in bed.
Again, just thinking out loud,