Re: "Cheating" to survive a real fight
I believe somewhere in Shugyu it also states that to not use atemi is unrealistic but I may be wrong.
Saito asserted the lack of training in atemi strikes to vital points is a widespread modern training deficiency and may cause technique to become incomprehensible and meaningless. He considered it an essential element of basic and advanced technique. Shioda pointed out atemi was essential in actual combat in order to manifest power explosively to decide the fight's outcome. In my opinion, "To fail to use the tools available in a combat situation to ensure a favorable and safe outcome is irresponsible and shows ignorance of the possible implications of violence." (from my upcoming Black Belt magazine article on the topic).
The literature places O'Sensei's emphasis on atemi anywhere from 70 to 99%, depending on the author as John Stevens points out. Is this cheating or does it violate the principles of aikido? I don't think so. Apparently, O'Sensei did not either since he developed the art.