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Attacks in aikido are the source of a lot of discussions in dojos and on web bulleting boards. The major complaints are that (1) the attacks aren't done well (nage feels no threat), and even if done well, (2) they're too stylized (not realistic enough).
If attacks aren't being done well, then that's a problem with the training. The intent of strikes should be to hit nage. The intent of grabs should be to either immobilize nage, or set uke up for a follow-up strike. Strikes should be performed in such a way that they don't track nage's movement (they need to explode), and uke ends up centered after the strike -- unless his or her balance is taken. The strikes can be slowed down so that they don't hurt much) if nage messes up and the strike connects. They can also be done in such a way that they carry a bit of force even if done slowly.
I like to think of the one-handed grabs we do as simple versions of the two-handed grabs. From a technique perspective, there's not a lot of difference between a katatetori kaitenage and a ryotetori kaitenage, but the two-handed grab is more difficult to deal with. Alternately, we have an attack where uke grabs nage's shoulder with one hand and punches his face with the other. They key is learning that the technique is basically the same whether the attack utilizes one hand or two -- if uke does his or her part.
Regarding effectiveness: strikes like shomenuchi and yokomenuchi represent the kind of energy one might get in an attack. Shomenunchi is a lot like an overhead ice pick knife attack (like in the movie Psycho). Yokomenuchi can be like a baseball bat swung at your head. Menutsuki can be like an upper cut. The energy is what's important. Grabs can happen for many reasons. If you're a policeman, the grab might be to keep you from drawing your weapon. The grab may come because you've attempted to strike somebody.
In time, one learns that the principles of movement we practice are valid regardless of the attacks we face. I do see value in practicing against so-called unconventional attacks, but I also feel that doing so too soon can obscure what we're trying to learn.
My own personal goals, practically since I started, included being the best uke I could be. Strong, centered attacks are a vital part of achieving that goal.