This practice is usually started around the "Dan" ranks, some even earlier.
Iīm having a little trouble understanding what you mean by atemi being trained in Dan ranks. Atemi is trained from white all the way up too Dans. At least it is everywhere Iīve ever been. Remember, atemi doesnīt only mean "punch". Weīre talking about controlling peoples centers, their balance.
Someone else wrote:
"Atemi is a distraction"... well, if thatīs what you want it to be. It can be a distraction or a bone crushing assault to the attackers face or ribs (not that itīs the best atemi). Itīs what you make of it.
"Aikido is only useful in the higher ranks"... well, sorry chum, I disagree.