In police training and violence theory there is this idea that in order for someone to violently aggress against you they must have these three things:
- the ability to hurt you
- the opportunity to hurt you
- the intent to hurt you
It seems to me (and this may just be my perception or mis-perception) that most martial arts these days are overly focused on removing the opponent’s ability to hurt you as rapidly as possible. You can’t go to a martial arts class without hearing the old axe, “if they can’t see they can't fight, if they can’t walk they can’t fight, if they can't breathe they can’t fight.” There is this emphasis on disabling or killing by producing maximum damage as rapidly as possible.
And that is certainly a valid, though maybe overzealous, method of dealing with violent people.
But what about the other two legs of the violence tripod – intent and opportunity? We need to be working more on making ourselves the kind of people that other folks have no reason to intend to hurt (Romans 12:18), and we need to learn to disrupt the opponents’ opportunities to harm us. If people have no intent nor opportunity to harm us then it is not necessary to disable them. In fact, if you are very good at removing any one of these three prerequisites to violence then you are much safer and better off.
Aikido seems to me mostly about dealing with opportunity. We are constantly shifting our position relative to the attacker to remove his opportunities to attack. We keep our distance, evade, brush-off, cover or clench to dampen his potential, push him away so he can’t reach us. Of course, while the student is learning to evade, avoid, and brush-off, he is learning all the old jujitsu tricks to create leverage to disable the opponent (remove his ability to do harm). Aikido, as a form of jujitsu, has the potential to seriously hurt someone, but typically that potential is held in reserve in case we are not able to stop the opponent’s intent or opportunity.