Dear fellow aikidoka,
This atemi subject is too delicious to ignore. I know that it has been discussed many times... Argggh, I can't resist, my fingers are making me type this...
Trying to apply aikido technique thinking atemi is the Key Success Factor: Wrong
Using atemi as an adjuct to disharmonize the uke while applying a technique. Correct.
To more novice practitioner, I hope you all understand atemi is not merely punching the face, nose etc to cause pain. Take hiji ate for example, it has an atemi built into it, i.e. the hitting of the elbow. Sokumen iriminage, it is an atemi to the chest with your elbow. Irimi Kokyu nage, an atemi to the shoulder joint. They are built in the technique to smooth out the techniques' execution.
Once upon a time, I was roughing it out with a fellow pratcitioner. He got me on the floor and trying to pin him was difficult, because he was moving around like an eel. So I managed to locate the shoulder joint and screw my knuckle into the joint. He was almost in tears. I hope I never get the same treatment, I think that must have been an unpleasant sensation.
Just something on the side (pls take it with humour)... if atemi can be anything used to distract the uke, then maybe some very unconventional techniques like, biting, spitting into the eyes, ramming your forehead against the nose are fairgame too?