Train in Aikido for Martial Arts
To add to the discussion, Aikido techniques are usually not designed to be imitated on the "street." Rather, the techniques are simply designed for the purpose of teaching you the martial arts. Depending on which technique is in question, different aspects of the martial arts are practiced. Extension, softness, circles,
and sensitivity are some of the qualities that can be highlighted in any particular technique. When practiced correctly, one will grow beyond simple response techniques, and move to an area beyond simply fighting. Then the atemi that far too many schools swear by becomes a superficial hindrance.
In reality, the essence of the martial arts involves stability in the nage (one executing technique) to create a dramatic change in the uke (attacker/loser). Atemis are used to disrupt the uke long enough to get his/her balance/ki/chi/center, which would then neutralize the attack. Perhaps you will notice that you feel slightly less stable when your arm is extended for a
punch or your leg for a kick. That is why in Aikido it is crucial never to expose yourself, or in other words, give your opponent an opportunity to "take" your center. An atemi will create an undesirable unstability not only in your opponent, but also in yourself.
Every single technique in Aikido requires a spiritual atemi. Every single technique in Aikido requires a ki atemi. And yes, some of the inside moves, which are therefore more dangerous, do in fact require a physical atemi. So, O'Sensei was correct when saying that certain techniques do require atemi. He did not say however, to use atemis to practice Aikido. The purpose
of training with Aikido techniques is to teach you the feeling of budo. "Learn and forget." Using atemis on the mat degrade the nourishment. Similar to frying food.
I'm not saying strikes have no place in budo. Quite to contrary. However, at O'Sensei's skill level his true budo strike would look far beyond our comprehension.
Regardless, learn Aikido, always use it in defense, and your ki will conquer alone!