Kevin I understand what your are saying, the best way to find out what you can do or not is to suit up and try to approch the real thing even if possible with the emotions unleached during a real attack . I just would want to see some video where the instructor prones the role of atemi during the first seconds of the encounter, a punch to the nose, a kick to the knee... anything and see what would happen not just do a technique supposed to work.
Even in a suit up exercise you cannot do the real thing because the suit up guy will not really feel the hits or almost not so he will not stop attacking, pain or shock not being present to stop him.
Spear suits are not too bad for doing this kinda training. Redman suits are too padded as you mention, and you will not get an appropriate response. The Spear Suits (we also called them Blauer suits), transmit force and pain fairly well and you get decent responses without much risk to serious injury.
Here is a video of a training segment I did with some of my guys in Afghanistan a few years back. It is not weapons, but we were training the ground fighting aspect of a fight. You can pretty much go all out, but we limit full on kicks to the head from standing because they are simply too dangerous. The idea is to keep your feet between your opponent and your head, which the guy on the ground does a good job of doing. Keep in mind that he is not simply laying there trying to pull guard, but stand back up if he can. The guy standing doesn't want him back up so engages to keep him on the ground.
I don't have any video of knife work, but we would do the same type of training with a knife and they are a game changer when introduced into the fight.