This quote was redacted from a quote by Patrick Parker Sensei as to what Kano Sensei envisioned for Judo. I felt it spoke volumes on how things are today for martial systems or actually martially sportive systems.
Fighting, self defense, self protection, etc. are merely byproducts of its practice while self improvement should be of primary concern. Or, so goes the current sound bite for following the way via the singular practice of a martial system.
I would like to submit that in reality self improvement should be of primary concern when taking up a martial system. I believe this is so simply because instructing someone in the mere technical leaves to much room for abuse in its application. If we don't set some sort of moral standard and simply go for what works quickly then how it is applied in real life may not be beneficial to anyone, you, your attacker, your practitioners, etc.
Although I will readily admit that originally the practice of karate came about on Okinawa as a self protective measure due to the removal of weaponry it did take on additional meaning that we tend to call the "way." Theoretically speaking maybe those luminaries of karate found that the brutality of it needed to be tempered with some moral compass to rein it back under control. Then again, due to no historical documenting we may never know yet I would like to let myself believe it is so.