- Autor Super User
Atemi, literally, means to strike the body. A simple explanation of Atemi is that they are strikes. Some people insist on more rigorous definitions such as only strikes to pressure points. One purpose of Atemi is to distract your partner, so that they focus on your hand, or their pain, rather than their grasp. This can make it easier to move. In this context, you could regard Atemi as a "Ki. disturbance".
Atemi, on some interpretations, need not be an actual strike, since what matters is the effect on uke, that is, the upsetting of uke's physical and psychological balance, facilitating the application of technique. Some claim that the best way to ensure such unbalancing is to deliver a real strike, especially where there is potential for strong resistance.
Still others claim that Atemi involves "projecting Ki." toward uke, where this involves something above and beyond merely provoking a sort of startle reflex or response to the physical strike (or threat thereof).
Some feel Atemi is important in the actual accomplishment of waza rather than being independent waza in and of itself. This is a personal feeling. This distinguishes Aikido (in the opinion of some) from striking arts where the Atemi is the focus.