Choosing the Best Martial Art
What is the best martial arts style to study is an excellent question and a very common one. Many beginners ask this question hoping to start out in the best martial art and not waste time on one that isn't very effective. Now that we have the question out there let me give you the best answer. There is no "best martial art" because it really depends on what interests you and want you want to focus on. Let me give you some steps to find the right art for you.
Every martial art specializes in something, for instance boxing specializes in hands, grappling specializes in wrestling, tae kwon do specializes in kicking and the list goes on. The first question you need to ask yourself is what interests me the most? Any great art is going to challenge you and make you stretch out of your comfort zone, this is how we learn and grow. When times get tough and you hit plateaus, and you will, it's critical that you love the art your practicing.
Most arts have a self-defense aspect as well as a sport aspect. Do you want to learn strictly self-defense or do you want to compete? Some styles such as Krav-Maga focus on the self-defense aspects and they teach devastating tactics, many of which are illegal in sport. Other styles such as Tae Kwon Do teach you how to develop excellent power in your kicks which is great for self-defense but it's also an Olympic Sport.
Once you have an idea of what style might interest you it's time to search for local schools in your area and make a list. I recommend that you visit each school and watch a class or try a free class for beginners. I don't think you should instantly sign a long-term contract for classes during this part of the process. If a school won't let you try a free class and they push really hard for you to sign a contract, RUN! If there program is great they shouldn't have to force you to sign up on the spot, after you try a class you would love it and want to sign up. High pressure schools are typically high pressure due to a high student turnover rate, that means a lot of people quit. This isn't a good place to start your training.
Another option you have before visiting a school is to do some research online and watch some martial arts videos. This will give you an idea of what each style looks like even though seeing it live taught by an instructor is the best route. Once you have the information you need, you visit a few schools, it might be time for you to make a decision. Once you choose an art I suggest you dedicate yourself for at least one year minimum, preferably 2-3 years. By doing this you will experience success, failure, plateaus, and all of the benefits of a great martial arts program.