Drew Ames (jxa127) wrote:
I feel a bit awkward answering if you're right given your experience relative to mine.
Having said that -- I'm not sure. On one hand, of course that's the point of atemi. On the other hand, we can choose not to do the atemi, but maintain the proper body positioning and unbalancing that comes from atemi, thereby (in theory) not harming the attacker more than might occur from the fall.
My instructor, Keith Engle (whom I think you know), also makes the point that a really good attacker will not offer many opportunities for really effective atemi.
For me, right now, the main purpose of atemi is to help me train unbalancing and good body position.
Yes, I am sure Mr Engle is right. In my experience with taking ukemi from top Aikikai shihans like Chiba and Yamaguchi, they expect hard attacks and can/will use atemi at any point—and they expect you to counter as well. That is why they are 'sensei': they have figured it out already.
I think to get to anything near their level, you need advanced 'research training', where the roles of uke and tori can become very blurred. But you also need to have mastered the forms, so that they become virtually automatic.
I always use atemi with my beginner students. My colleagues do not do so as much and the students have figured out that in my classes they'd better be ready...