The martial arts sometimes attract the kind of people who enjoy doing harm to others. They want to be “ass-kickers”, and they want to make sure that if they are attacked by someone, that they can “take them out”. Often, without proper discipline, this annihilate -your-opponent idea gets these people into trouble. They attack and destroy on little provocation, and wind themselves up in legal battles or in jail. For this reason, instructors must select worthy students to learn power comes with responsibility.
At the other end of the spectrum, the majority of martial artists enjoy the self-development aspect of training, and do not like the idea that they may cause harm to attackers. It is not that the attacker “deserves” to have mercy upon him/her, it simply is about what kind of person the martial arts student wants to be. Most of us do not want to be the kind of person that inflict injuries on others, provoked or not. Yet, how can we learn to protect ourselves at the same time? It would seem like we cannot do both.
Aikido is a martial art that lends itself well to those who wish to not harm others, as it is purely a defensive art. But I tell my students at Aikido of Nebraska, with a surprisingly small amount of training, you can readily hurt someone, even in Aikido. Hopefully a good instructor will also teach you to use only the amount of force required to control the opponent. Even in striking arts such as taekwondo, or karate, students can be taught to “pull” their punches, so that they can deliver varying amounts of force. That is why true martial artists learn their art over years; it takes this long to have the control required to use only the minimum force necessary.
There will be rare times when martial arts students will have to use destructive techniques to control a situation, namely when someone’s life is at risk. But for most, this will happen rarely, if ever, in their lifetimes. So, it is possible to learn the martial arts and specifically learn to not harm others. Don’t let “I don’t want to hurt anyone.” as an excuse not to learn Aikido, or any other martial art for that matter.