Good thoughts kevin. No doubt if I was to actually hit him with atemi he would move. A quick open palm strike would keep him on his toes.
When I said, "does not respond to atemi," I was basically saying, he doesn't consider the "friendly" atemi we practice like it is actually going to hit him, which of course, it doesn't.
Your right, words are what he needs to hear. I will try to emphasisize those strikes, and tell him, nicely, that I could be breaking his head like a melon.
Thanks for the thoughts.