One of my non-martial art friends has, a couple times, questioned the idea of why one should spend so much time studying this stuff. It would seem to him that there is a point of diminishing returns: The likelihood of violence where the knowledge might be necessary is one notion -- if you haven't gotten in a fight since junior high, what are the chances you'll get in one tomorrow? Another thought has to do with how much ammo you need. If you have the basics down -- solid punch or two, a few techniques you can do well, maybe the ability to grapple a bit -- then aren't you skying off into the very theoretical realm? You really think three ninjas will drop into the alley, come at you from the points of a triangle flashing tanto blades on a snowy day when your gout is acting up? yadda yadda ...
These are legitimate questions.
I think for most of us dojo rats, the pure self-defense aspect got answered to our satisfaction a ways back. We got the tools needed to deal with the drunk in the local pub, or the soused uncle at the Christmas party, maybe even against somebody sober who could move in balance.
We keep training for other reasons: We like the process for itself. We enjoy the company. We are looking for some kind of depth. We sing the Cheers theme song -- or the Diet Dr. Pepper commercial ...
In Olympic air rifle or pistol competition, the state-of-the-art guns are incredibly accurate.
Lock them into a bench rest, they will put the pellets through the same hole all day long at ten meters. I have an old reciprocating-piston air pistol that came with a three-shot grouping target. When I got it, it was the most accurate handgun you could get. The target shows a single ragged hole.
The guns today put that one to shame.
The idea is that the tool is not the limitation, the shooter is. If you can do your job, you can achieve perfection.
I think that on some level, that's what a serious martial artist is looking for -- that kind of precision.
Will s/he ever get that in real time? Almost certainly not. But that's what you reach for, a perfect game. Not just to win, but to do your absolute best.
Of course, in an adrenaline-soaked dust-up against a strong and violent attacker, your very best might be ugly, and you can't get wedded to the old Jim Kelly notion of being too busy looking good. If you stop and pose for the camera, you aren't living in the moment. And you might not be living at all in the next moment.
Aim for the fish's eye, hit the fish somewhere ...