Re: Poll: How important a goal do you feel is the "aikido" notion of defending yourself while minimizing or negating damage done to your attacker?
Thanks to Jun for further clarifying by asking how we would apply this answer to "on the mat," because I really DO separate out various elements in pondering my reply:
I agree that there are many family, correctional, mental health, and related situations in which it is critically important that the person who attacks not be killed or injured. Currently, my own life and work don't put me in those situations with any regularity.
I didn't come to aikido, nor do I continue to train in aikido, primarily to learn/become adept at "real world self defense." In my many decades on the planet pre-aikido, I have always managed by verbal and nonverbal presentation to defuse, de-escalate, and otherwise set things up so I could walk away safely from real or potential attacks. I have never been a pacifist, and I continue to be willing to accept that in defending myself I may hurt the one who attacks me. What is more important to me would be aikido's ability to let me practice staying more relaxed, breathing and aware under profound stress such as an attack--and presumably one result would be having more options, including the less-harmful-to-others way we train in the dojo.
But I think the KEY thing for me in terms of everyday training is that I DON'T regard my attacking partner as an enemy or assailant. Never have. So in the dojo I never HAVE wanted to damage or destroy my partner (well except for that one s.o.b...no never mind [big grin]). Some of the training that I most enjoy has been when an instructor sets up takedown situations based on needing to get somebody down who is not an attacker but simply somebody standing in harms way, or if attacking, still is somebody who needs to be held and protected all the way down to the ground. I guess its the nurse in me; I enjoy that a lot more than throwing somebody really hard!