I'll have been practicing for 10 years next month, but in many ways, I'm still an extreme newbie.
But, is it actually a generative, creative thing to do at this point? Or is it a martial art for people who can't admit they are practicing ways of hurting and killing people? (I know there are aikidoists who make no bones about that, and I respect their position, but its not something I want to do).
I don't think this is an either/or situation. Aikido as an art has a broad continuum from controlling pins to potentially killing moves -- often all in the same waza. My instructor talks about "nice guy" ways to do technique and "mean" ways to do technique.
I've always figured that it's better to know the killing technique and then be able to choose not to use it then to not know it and need it.
Having said that, the two times when I really needed my training, I used it to control somebody who was under the influence and a danger to himself. I didn't hit, kick, or harm the person in any way.
I am curious, what does the life-giving sword really mean? is there a discussion of it you can point me to?
You can read it yourself:
The Life-Giving Sword: The Secret Teachings From the House of the Shogun (Hardcover)
by Yagyu Munenori (Author), William Scott Wilson (Translator)
Here's the book's description:
This is a translation of an important classic on Zen swordfighting. Yagyu Munenori was so widely renowned that he was appointed official sword instructor to two Tokugawa shoguns. (The position was always coveted by Miyamoto Musashi, but he never succeeded in gaining the post). Yagyu's style is known as the Shinkage-ryu style, for centuries the official style of the Tokugawa dynasty. His spiritual mentor was Zen priest Takuan. Here, Yagyu's Buddhist spirituality is clearly reflected in his central idea of the "life-giving sword" - the notion of controlling an opponent by the spiritual readiness to fight, rather than during the fight. His mastery of restraint and diplomacy made him a trusted political and military advisor to the shoguns. This book is a look into a master swordsman's thoughts on nonattachment and even non-violence.