John Riggs wrote:
‘To me, however, the use of aiki would involve blending with the energy of the attack and redirecting it in a relaxed and purposeful fashion. A strike or atemi here would have to involve timing in such a fashion to not disrupt the energy which is necessary for the smooth blend while still causing the pain compliance. This requires timing and appropriate direction to keep from stopping the energy. Hard to explain but not too bad to do.
I think this is part of it... but if an atemi works because of it's pain component it will not be effctive against someone who is skilled enough to close the opening by blocking the atemi.
If the idea of an atemi is expanded to include a strike which touches or grabs the "attention" of the attacker, allowing some other movement or action to take place in that instant, then I think we are getting somewhere.
For example, take what I would call katatetori sumiotoshi
... I think that most people are in agreement that on the ura version in which we turn, lead the partner out, then turn again to stretch the partner's arm out so that we can drop our weight on it in his balance point, we need an atemi just before we place our hand on his elbow to throw. With no atemi, you can be struck every time. However, the normal Aikido response by uke is usually simply to protect their face against the strike and then take the fall.
If you ask your partner to take a more martially real response by deflecting the atemi and then entering and striking you, it becomes a different kettle of fish. Then you find that what most Aikido folks were doing with their atemi was simply holding their arm out, pointed at the uke's center until he protected his face and then they executed the throw. The uke will be able to deflect this and counterstrike every time. This isn't a real atemi and has no hope of ever striking a partner who doesn't wish to be struck. A real atemi is an explosive outward movement to the focus point and then an equally rapid return to the starting place (making it ready to fire again if necessary).
If you execute you atemi in this fashion you find that by placing the focus point of the blow just in front of the actual target, say the attacker's nose, it is impossible for the attacker to discern the difference between an atemi which is going to make contact and one that will not. So the attacker is forced to make a defensive move to deal with that atemi. In that instant you can execute the throw without being struck by the uke. This is true even if the uke tried to deflect the atemi and launch a counterstrike.
I am a very large guy. I don't move very quickly compared to the lighter, smaller folks on the mat. By uilizing atemi in this fashion I can redirect my partner's attention to create the temporal gap that I require to move into position for the throw without him tracking me and striking me.
So there is no pain component in this instance as it is not actually designed to physically hit but is rather designed to "catch the attacker's attention".