I know there are a lot of questions about this posted, and I've read through four of them here.
I understand that more important than any style is that the instructor is "good." I don't have a rigorous definition for what "good" is, unfortunately, and would like some insight.
I'll preface with my background and goals. I'm 20 now, and live in NYC. I did TKD since I was 5 for 10 years. I got up to second degree black belt and then stopped. After entering college, I did Krav Maga for a year, up to 4x/week. I had to stop because my knee took too much damage: from a young age I've had knee issues, and TKD combined with fencing, track, and dance only hurt the issue. I then took a break and switched to Muay Thai for a very short stint of time (6 months). I have mild wearing down of the cartilage (osteoarthritis) and patellar tracking disorder which has been largely fixed through a year of physical therapy. I can't say my knee is completely better, but so long as I continue my exercises and take care of it doctors say I should be just fine. Just no crazy Krav drills. :P
I want to get back into martial arts and especially want to study a Chinese martial art. I am of Chinese heritage and love kung fu films, so part of it is how cool I think kung fu is, and part of it is wanting to explore my heritage. I'm also Buddhist, so Shaolin is pretty awesome in that way.
Here are my specific goals, in order of importance (especially top 3):
- Find an art that isn't going to massively destroy my knee.
- Improve competitive mindset/avoid anger and mental blocks in competition.
- Improve balance and awareness.
- Eventually do cool stuff.
- Improve self-defense ability in real-life scenarios.
Regarding (2.), I compete at a professional level in a fighting game. My largest problem is my mindset during tournament play, and even anger during practice if I can't beat opponents I feel I should beat, am playing poorly at a given time, play nervous during tournament matches, etc. I'm hoping learning a martial art will help. I've begun Tai Chi classes (and am starting to meditate again as I used to do), but there's always something more.
So in sum, what should I look for when I go to the class? What do I ask the instructor, or the other students (I'm really shy with strangers and don't think I'd be able to approach other students, actually)?