I'm in below-average shape and thinking about taking up the study of a martial art for a handful of reasons:
- I want to get in shape but need external "guilt factors" to motivate me not to skip sessions (other people expecting me to show, money spent, etc.)
- I want more to show for time spent getting in shape than just a flat stomach or other vanities.
- Most importantly I'm drawn to the sense of self-awareness and focus that martial arts seems to impart.
Basically I'm looking for a work out regimen that is interesting, challenging, and teaches me about my mind as much as about my body. I have very little interest in competitive sparring or progressing quickly through the levels just to be able to say "I'm a black belt". Learning how to defend myself is an added bonus.
Based on these factors what should I focus on while researching the various schools of training to find the one that might be the right fit for me? I know that individual instructors will all have their own teaching styles and specific dojos (pardon my generic use of the term) will have their own cultures, but right now I'm more concerned with the martial art itself as it relates to my goals.
Suggestions are more than welcome.
Edit: I am overwhelmed at the response I've gotten here from you all, both in terms of quantity and thoughtfulness. But despite the wealth of advice in your answers and comments (which I will absolutely put to good use while I'm auditing schools) I still don't really have an answer that addressees why I originally posted this question.
What I was trying to get at was this:
How do I determine which kind of martial art will suit me best?
It isn't practical for me to check out every single school in town to see who has the best teachers so I want to narrow my search by deciding on a few styles that I'm interested in.
For example, based on JohnP's comment I know I'm probably not interested in TKD because of the general focus on competitive sparring which holds almost no interest for me. I've done some reading on a few different styles and I think Tai Chi and Jeet Kune Do seem conducive to my personality and my goals, but I'd obviously need to audit classes to really get a proper feel.
I guess another way to ask what I really want to know is: is there a common pattern to the kinds of people who practice certain kinds of martial arts, and how do I determine what kind of person I am to find the right match?