I don't believe that today's version of karate, karate-do, or martial system's are oriented toward combat or in particular self-defense. I do believe there are a few out there who have either actually learned a combative system or have reverted or in the process of reverting their system to its original conception as combative but in relation to all the schools, training halls, dojo's, etc. are still very few. Phew, a long statement but then again I am wordy.
Here is the reason I believe this is true. Today's martial arts have been heavily influenced by both the "sport" industry and the "Curriculum" generated so that it would be acceptable to young adults in the school systems.
On the second, the changes and orientation of karate was started late 1800's and/or early 1900's because the Japanese and Okinawan's wanted to incorporate the spirit and training of karate into the school systems to train their youth in preparation of being soldiers, etc. Don't get me wrong they wanted the discipline and moral training it provides to make them better citizens too. In this effort a lot of the combative aspects were removed and kata were adjusted accordingly.
On the first part the sportive aspects, i.e. kata competitions, kumite competitions, weapons competitions, etc. evolved from the original contests between Okinawan villages and when you couple the influences of the Japanese budo systems such as the new "Judo" by Kano Sensei it allowed for a safer sportive orientation that helped promote and expand dojo and student enrollment. Consider that in general humans prefer to avoid combative encounters. It is instinctive we use a sport aspect to decide such things as social standings, etc. because if we truly injured or killed from that regard then the tribe or social group would not survive, etc. It made sense and was far more acceptable, yes?
Think about it, most who go to war don't really want to be there. Most who do have to be trained realistically and then be psychologically influenced to see "others" as something less that can be killed. Even then the psychological ramifications to our veteran's of combat is horrible. So, it makes sense to be more sportive.
The trick is that those who do tend to be the so-called "Sheep Dogs" or "Professionals, i.e soldiers, police, jailers, etc." need to have the combative versions - to a point due to societal views on violence and hurting another human being, etc. Restrictions that can be killers. Anyway, when those folks venture into harm's way to protect and serve must then adjust thinking and training so they will have what is needed to combat violence and win wars.
Todays martial arts are oriented closer to sport and academic curriculum orientations that is acceptable to societal beliefs and views regardless of whether they are realistic or just stories we tell ourselves to feel safe and comfortable.
Make sense? Yes? No? Maybe? Comments ... I do really want to hear comments both "pro and con" on this one.