Alright, a bit reactionary William, but I'll bite.
Having a technique or two that can loosely deal with a "punch" does not a punching system make. If you want to compare Judo punch defense to western boxing... You see where I'm going.
Atemi doesn't mean "punch". Atemi means strike. Baseball bats strike things, arrows strike things, hands strike things, many things strike. A punch is an atemi, but atemi is most often not "punching". Aikido is 90% atemi, this discussion has been had many times, but we can cut to the quick here and see, quite decidedly that Aikido isn't 90% punching.
95% of all physical conflict starts with a punch. I couldn't think of a more misleading statement. When wars take place, do we punch at each other? Do you think the Samurai were running around punching people? Do modern "men of action" (LEO, Military) deal with punching a lot? Your 95% of physical conflict represents a very small portion of what physical conflict is. If you envision drunks fighting in the streets, or thugs fighting with police officers who have taken them into custody, perhaps you are correct. However this represents a VERY small portion of "all physical conflicts".
If you would have gone to the James Williams seminar this weekend you could have heard him talking about coming out of the ego macho world where we believe unarmed fighting is somehow "important".
Punching is a pretty good chunk of unarmed conflict. Unarmed conflict is a tiny piece of the whole of physical conflict. In the grand scheme punching isn't really very important.
Seen in your context I would absolutely agree. I am glad you made it to James Williams Seminar. I would be interested in your impression of his practice and meanwhile I'll work on my semantics. Atemi/Strikes/Punches are all the same in my view. The Impact "weapon" is usually some portion of the hand (or elbow in our case) That may also be a question of semantics but make no mistake I am hitting someone when I use Atemi. So I will like you think about your last statement a bit. I agree it's a small portion of the big picture and perhaps unimportant. My purpose for practice is not to learn how to fight but to develop the Martial Spirit of Budo.
My View is there are many methods available to develop Budo and I feel Aikido is technically on par with most of them. That is my view and the reason I asked you for yours. Self Defense occurs on many levels and the Martial Arts for me are a physical expression of my spiritual journey. In our Aikido (and in many others) There is no "Budo" with out "Martial" if you get my drift. And to be considered Martial then an Art must be technically proficient as one. If ones practice includes an effort to make their Art more Martial then I am all for it.