Personally, I did not choose to go back into martial arts to learn self-defense. In fact, I don't even think shotokan karate is very effective as a self-defense tool until you're well into your shodan, maybe even nidan training. I feel the self-defense part that eventually comes with it is just an added bonus. I suppose it's worth noting that in my style of karate (JKA Shotokan), we only begin semi-free sparring at the brown belt level, and free sparring is only introduced at the black belt shodan level, with some choosing not to start doing it competitively until their nidan level. We begin training for it early on in our lower belts, but only in very controlled settings following rigid timing, always knowing what punch will be thrown at us and when, with surprise punches having a limited number of choices. I went into it mainly to develop my flexibility, agility, precision, stability, overall body strength, and as an outlet to control my emotions and inner self, which I've been struggling to keep in check for some time now. I also love to challenge myself with physical training that isn't just lifting a bunch of iron and/or running from A to B. I chose it for the art side of it as well. I love the fact that it combines physical exertion with beautiful moving shapes that can be perfected over time, all while teaching a new, perhaps more fulfilling way of life. Yep, it's been absolutely great so far. Much better than I expected when I started. I know I've only been doing it for 5 months so far, but I haven't felt this fulfilled by something I do since I picked up the guitar. Sensei was happy that I went to the tournament. She kept telling me how invaluable an experience it is and how lucky as a lower belt I am to be able to hear commentary about the tournament from all of the black belts and world-class fighters I got to meet and exchange ideas with.