Right on the money James, this is what I was thinking.
Atemi is VERY important, just not the ONLY thing of importance as far as effective technique goes. Without the support of other elements its results can be very limited.
Following your point, knowing how to break a joint may actually be good knowledge when you need to really crank it on in a self defence situation as well. Iow, make 'em THINK you wanna break it to make 'em submit.
A guy I trained with in Aikikai had this approach to his techs, would always use pain of joint manipulation to get a good kuzushi going. I guess it came from his jujutsu background as well.
Nick: I like your idea with the kick. Recently I was playing with the concept of applying a front kick in a similar way to shomen ate as far as body alignment and timing went - interesting results on that one.