There is something to be said for not just grabbing someone and trying to man-handle them around. And in not tensing up everything at once and making yourself unable to move. However, people don't feel strength, they feel force. It doesn't matter how that force gets there - whether it's ki or body mechanics or what have you. If you're applying the same magnitude of force at the same angle, they're going to feel it the same.
It's like if someone grabs your wrist to stop you moving it forwards - if you hold your wrist straight and just try and push into them it's very hard - if you rotate your wrist it's fairly easy. If they rotate their wrist the other way it's hard again. Nothing to do with ki, just different muscle groups with different degrees of tension being put through them.
I suspect a lot of the problem people have with the idea of strength is that they think it should feel like they're putting a lot of effort in. And of course to feel like you're putting a lot of effort in, frequently, you have to tension opposing muscle groups to get enough resistance to push against - which results in less overall force being generated in the desired direction.
Good point of view. at the same time it does teach us how to blend with the other persons energy as opposed to clashing with it.
The static gripping that is usually thought at the dojo looks like it is has no martial application from another persons persepctive. That is true when looking at what is likely to happen in the real world, however over time these static gripping (or ki exercises as described by my sensei) will help you in all other techniques. With enough Ki cultivated over time, you will be amazed at what you can do later on.