What are you capable of doing?
Someone knowing I have trained in Aikido for years recently asked me "To what limits would you go if you [and I will add the ones you love] are genuinely threatened?"
As I see it, this depends entirely on the attitude we bring to our conflicts. In this respect I feel one had better know in advance what they are both capable of doing and willing to do if attacked. You can't be figuring this out in the heat of battle. That would cause hesitation and in that moment… well a lot could happen in that moment.
There are many reasons individuals take up Aikido. Obviously, those who stick with it are satisfying their reasons while those that drift away are not. But whatever these reasons are, philosophical, spiritual, exercise, emotional, social, combat related, etc., one inescapable truth applies to all serious students. Aikido is a martial art. As you improve in skill, your ability to seriously injure or kill also increases. This is why I feel that in Aikido and indeed, in my rather limited insight, in all arts, an important aspect of the training is to come to truly know yourself.
I know from experience that I am not prone to over-reacting to violent situations and will apply just enough force to overcome attackers. I also know that I would not hesitate to kill an attacker if I honestly felt my life or my loved ones lives were hinging on the outcome. This is not some flippant phrase I am putting out as rhetoric. It took many years to come to understand myself well enough to know this is true. It was a very personal journey that was sometimes painful and often frightening.
Perhaps Aikido's stressing of respect for all, even attackers, made this so difficult. I don't know. I don't know if others who know the same about themselves, to the very core of their being, arrived at that conclusion without the same type of struggle.
Obviously, from my choice to post this in the "Spiritual" forum, you can see where I feel this issue lies!