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.
From what I read here, we are kindred spirits, you and I. I also practice martial arts for spiritual development. I choose martial arts as my spiritual practice because I get the side benefit of learning to physically protect myself and those around me. So, just like you, my martial arts need to be, "martial".
It's just that I don't believe unarmed fighting is all that martial. Unarmed fighting has taught me a lot about myself. Unarmed fighting has been a wonderful spiritual practice for me (making me face my fears on many occasions). Unarmed fighitng is an interesting pass time. But as far as being martially effective goes, unarmed fighting is very limited.
Modern American culture tricked me with, movies, video games, and fantasies. For a very long time I believed that unarmed fighting was fighting. This myopic view made me chase my tail for years. Made me think that Aikido didn't offer much as a martial art. It made me waste a lot of my time.
When I gained a larger understanding of physical conflict, I realized how important the lessons of Aikido are, martially. Important things in physical conflict are: surprise, weapons, numbers, and environment. Aikido addresses these important factors constantly, western boxing doesn't work on any of them. Wester boxing is the best way to learn about punching (in my opinion) Aikido is about worthless. But how martial is punching, really?