George S. Ledyard
My greatest objection to the way Aikido is generally done, and it's the way I did it for years, is that the nage is attempting to do technique with total relaxation, using very sophisticated principles, against an uke that attacks like he is mentally deficient.
I absolutely agree, but I fear from a completely different perspective. A vast number of Aikidoka jump straight into flowing ki-no-nagare techniques without the faintest idea what it feels like to actually be grabbed like the person means it. So when they are grabbed, even vaguely hard they have nothing, except as you say a sharp atemi to the face or groin. Same as nikkyo, weak uke means weak nage and rubbish nikkyo. Many Aikidoka can't actually put on a strong nikkyo because uke drops to their knees at the first ounce of pain. First go slow, get technically better and stronger at the same time. The fluid stuff can come later.
Atemi is 70% of applied technique, what is harder to master is getting around the power without the need to smack people.
I maintain learning solid technique, ability to relax and sensitivity is helped by a good strong (and flexible) uke.
"There are many paths to the top of mount fujiyama, but there is only one summit"