Much of the profound wisdom we find in simple sayings is either the clearing of confusion or the clarification of goals. Sometime we forget the point in what we are doing and anything that reminds us of our goal seems insightful. In truth we need to be mindful of both what we aim to achieve and the process we follow to get there.
The goals in Karate vary with the situation.
To win the match/round. The operative word here is competition. The opponent is a fellow competitor; you have no grudge against them, you are respectfully competing for the same prize. The two of you are hopefully an even match.
To get away unscathed. The opponent is probably unknown to you, and they will harm you if they think they can get away with it. Blocking their attack is fundamental. If you can neutralize them without causing serious damage, do so. If you harm them there may be legal problems. The legal defence will accept that you did what you had to do to, but you can never exceed this. You cannot go beyond the perceived threat.
To neutralize the threat. Most of us are not concerned with this; those that are in the military should already have been informed of the situation by their superiors. But unlike most personal self-defence the attacker is a threat to others and not just oneself, so it is not enough to just walk away from the attack; military personal must ensure that the enemy is no further threat to anybody.
One common principle here is to avoid being physically hurt. In self-defence this means avoid attack, and attacking back if you have no other option. In sports this can mean attacking before the opponent can, but the idea is to score points not actually harm them. Military matters are best left up to those who give the orders.
Hopefully most of us will never need karate outside of the training or competition ring. The physical improvement through training and becoming a more balanced individual are often the real results of karate.