Someone stated, " ... you've pretty much nailed it when you discuss intent as being the factor which differentiates the two." The two being self defense vs. fighting. Another comment was, "it made me think about how many schools of 'self defense' refuse the acknowledge that the defense may have to be aggressive and injurious in nature."
Both make me feel as if they don't truly know the difference. I am not an expert in self defense yet I am studying it diligently as to law and fighting, which is against the law here in California. Intent has nothing to do with the two but does have lots to do with your training and practice. It is also incorrect that defense is both aggressive and injurious in nature. It is going to be injurious to both parties regardless yet if one becomes aggressive then the tendency to be perceived as an aggressor, which is not self defense, and an attacker, which is not self defense, then we have trouble.
Another quote, "Effective self defense is anything but. It can be quite brutal if all other avenues have been exhausted." Effective self defense has two sides, one you use to not get hit and stop the fight and the other regards how others perceive what you did as either defensive or aggressive, i.e. defense vs. fighting.
If you don't get anything from this post you MUST understand just because your karate dojo says, "one should use karate only in self defense," and then teaches you self defense techniques you may be misunderstanding what defense, offense, fighting, violence, and violent attacks are really all about and that this subject is illusive and chaotic and so complex it takes a long time to understand it and then apply it in your training and practice.
I also perceive confusion, unconscious, of the differences between the sport aspect and self defense on the street. The two are so totally different and to think they are the same and applied universally you may find yourself in deep doo doo.
It is so complex I stopped teaching and posting on it, mostly, so would further stress emphatically that everyone do the research for you may find it enlightening.
In closing I would also mention that this is running rampant in todays martial systems simply because of the 90-9-1 Model. Ninety percent of people will never have to deal with fighting or violence in their entire lives, nine percent because they live in environments where fighting may occur and the one percent who work in the field, i.e. police, prison guards, military, etc.
Another view of the model, "The gist is that for the typical citizen, 90 percent of potentially violent scenarios can be dealt with using awareness and avoidance, and a further nine percent through verbal de-escalation. The final one percent were the scenarios where some level of force is called for." - Craig Willits
This is good because we can continue living in fantasy land but if you ever, ever have to deal with violent physical altercations you should be aware of it in its entirety.
Do the research, find the answers, and find that there is no "one" right answer.
p.s. read this one and had to comment, "modern martial arts and ways as our culture define them are indeed systems of self-defense. If you're learning fighting arts/martial arts with the intention to protect yourself, well, that's self-defense." Just because someone who may or may not have all the details and facts defines something does not mean it is that something. Modern martial arts and ways as our culture define them are indeed sports, not self defense.