I have had a devil of a time getting the few "good" Karate guys I have trained with to respond as I'd like to my atemi. Often they will stand dead still and just know that in the dojo I won't clip them. These same guys will usually let me irimi and be in a lovely position to choke, break a kidney, whatever. It has to do more with training mentality that quality of technique. While I know that in a reality situation, the atemi would/should be fully executed, I am not willing to hurt someone else (even an idiot who doesn't realize what that hand at his nose represents), so I've had to adapt even for the sake of training.
I guess what I am/was getting at is, if atemi isn't available or servicing appropriately, movement takes center stage, doesn't/shouldn't it? There are some people who simply will take three to give one in the belief that that one will do what your 3 didn't. I have met such people, and in certain circumstances, I've been one. Mind you I'm not arguing, just a little back and forth, to keep me thinking.