Many argue the fact that martial arts is not about fighting but building character and self disciple . Here is how I see it , first All the birth of martial arts was first based on self defence and fighting , hence the history of Kung fu. Kung fu first evolved 4600 yrs ago according to the Choy dynasty book of rites, by a yellow emperor named Huang Dai . It then disappeared with no history until 525ad when Da Mo (Indian Monk) taught it to the monks of Songshan (Shaolin) for discipline and self defence as the temples were often robbed . So in both cases of history it shows martial arts was taught for the purpose of Defense and discipline . With wars and turmoil the martial arts extended to the islands of Okinawa where farmers and fishermen taught to their family’s for protection . Until World War II most Kempo as it was know in Okinawa was full contact and very complex , after the war General Mac Carther made it part of the surrender agreement that karate could only be taught for sport .Many Dojo’s from 1947 onward moved to a more spiritual essence of Kempo and Karate . However In the early 1900’s Kumite was a common practice to perfect ones skills.
To say karate or Kempo is not about fighting, in one essence to me is incorrect and for full contact style to forget the spiritual essence of martial arts or budo is also wrong just as it is wrong to say karate is not about fighting . A good teacher will find and teach the correct balance of both physical and spiritual .
There is a big difference of saying a system does not compete in tournaments as to saying a system is not based on fighting . All systems are base on some form of self defence which is to fight . However some choose not to compete and instead use the skill taught to the to build confidence and perfection of budo , this is their choice, and it too is not wrong . Where as some Dojo’s choice is to compete to perfect skill . This too is not wrong .
In closing to me martial arts is like water in the sea. In one case can be tranquil and peaceful offering a clear reflection of one self , but on the other as a result of wind can become devastating and powerful . As martial artist we must lean to harness both strengths of the water when practising martial arts in both physical and spiritual .