Great thread, I'm almost afraid to add anything, but anyway here goes. George Ledyard's article is excellent and right to the point.Firstly what I would suggest is that too many Aikido practioners have no experience of delivering or receiving atemi and therefore no realistic idea of what degree of power is required to actually affect someone, especially someone big and strong. A long time ago I practised Chinese boxing and fought in regular competitions. Even taking into account the difference adrenaline/psychology wise between this and real combat, after a match you discvered countless bruise and pains that had no effect whatsoever at the time. I think that, a la Systema, we need to practise on each other safely to gain some understanding of soft targets, depth focus , pain thresholds, and even correct hand and foot tensions. I have seen yondans and godans suggesting kicks with their toes, which in most cases would end their chances of even standing up.
Greetings to Peter, I always enjoy the realistic use of atemi and your analyses of suki in a technique. I have noticed that for beginners (less than 10 Years) the focus on atemi leads away from Aikido to something more like bad karate because of peoples continuing fascination with the destructive power of a strike. I try to teach this as well to my students but it remains an open question. I think Ellis Amdur says it perfectly in duelling with oSensei. Read it if you haven't yet.
greetings Alec corper