Atemi (当て身, lit. 'strikes to the body') are strikes in Japanese budō and bujutsu intended to startle, stun, induce pain or otherwise disrupt an adversary. Practising atemi is called atemiwaza. In aikidō, atemi are differentiated from techniques which aim to injure in that their principal purpose is to facilitate technique, rather than to be employed as the technique themselves. Atemi are thusly seen as complementary to aikidō techniques.
Philosophy of atemi
The effects of atemi in aikidō are multitudinous: atemi can keep uke off-balance, break uke's posture, stun and create openings for technique. Aikidō functions as the harmonious interaction between uke and tori; in cases where uke is unresponsive, tori may use atemi to elicit a response from uke and use that energy to throw or immobilise him.
The sincerity of atemi is a contested area. Some people advocate atemi as powerful strikes able to singularly end a confrontation, such that a fully executed technique becomes a consideration of the 'worst-case scenario'. Others view atemi as principally a means to distract, capture uke's mind, and achieve kuzushi. In this view, atemi ceases to be striking at all, but may be a palm in the face to obscure vision and prevent uke from standing upright.
It is widely quoted that atemi makes "70%", "80%" or even "95%" of aikidō, but this value appears to change according to whomever is consulted, and it is incongruous that such an apparently fundamental aspect of aikidō is practised so little.
Methods of striking
There are several methods of performing atemi, and these correspond to the target, the power required, and the distance between tori and uke. Atemi can be applied using a fist, the middle knuckles of the hand, the heel of the palm, elbows, the forehead, knees, feet, etc.
There are many available targets for atemi. Some of the common ones are listed below:
- Solar plexus (suigetsu)
- Floating rib
- Nose (hana)
- Eyes (me)
- Kidneys (jinzō)