I think this has been a difficult subject for a long time, because people's views of what Atemi is and, in a sense, what Aikido is, differs. If we look at Atemi as just a physical strike, then I personally would say that to rely on it to get one's techniques to work is suspect, for several reasons. I personally don't practice or teach the kind of Aikido where if uke doesn't "take the fall" they will get hit. That to me is sometimes an excuse for people to get away with not understanding how to actually execute technique properly. It will "work" at that level on some people some of the time. I have worked with heavy-duty experienced guys who will never give you an opening for a physical strike. The only time that would happen would be if you are alrady in a position to throw, in which case the strike is not needed. But on the street, the physical strike, or threat of it, can be an important aspect of self-defense. However, it could also create or contribute to a bad outcome too.
This doesn't mean to me that it doesn't have an integral place in Aikido though. I think, like I believe Chuck may have meant, that there are various levels to the word Atemi, and that that's an important and sometimes subtle knowledge.
[Edited by Aiki1 on September 17, 2000 at 09:00am]