Literally "striking the body". Strike directed at the attacker for purposes of unbalancing, distraction or provoking a desired response. Atemi is often vital for bypassing or "short-circuiting" an attacker's natural responses to aikido techniques. The first thing most people will do when they feel their body being manipulated in an unfamiliar way is to retract their limbs and drop their center of mass down and away from the person performing the technique. By judicious application of atemi, it is possible to create a "window of opportunity" in the attacker's natural defenses, facilitating the application of an aikido technique.
In Japanese martial arts, atemi designate blows to the body, as opposed to twisting of joints , strangleholds, holding technique and throws. Atemi can be delivered by any part of the body to any part of the opponents body. They can be percussive or use 'soft' power.