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Intro to Martial Arts

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The best Martial Art is the one you are doing. Most people when they first start are way too concerned with the style and how effective it's perceived as being. Do what ever martial art that you enjoy both what you are doing and the instruction.

For example, BJJ (Brazilian Ju-Justsu) is very effective ground fighting in 1 on 1 situation. It's effective it's awesome, and I have absolutely no interest in practicing it. Muay Thai is a fantastic striking art that teaches strong attacks that I found to be more toe-to-toe than I tend to enjoy in terms of philosophy.

I do Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu and love it, therefore it's the best martial art for me to do. Well that and MJER Iaijutsu.

Others are going to love Muay Thai, or BJJ or a mix of both. Don't worry about style/effectiveness, just pick the class that you'll go to regularly.

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Do what you find fun, as your goals are mainly fitness it's not such a big deal what style you do. You should, however, not allow yourself to be fooled by where ever you are going. Some will claim ancient traditions that are... made up, some may claim "street" effectiveness, some may even claim to imbue their students with a mystical power that can make them fly or shoot energy balls or something. All these and more are common in many places to train and not restricted to a certain style either.

Whatever you do be careful, do your homework, don't take the teacher's word as God's Absolute Truth and don't get a blown ego as can happen a lot. Also: Your wrestling experience is probably some of the best martial arts training you could have done (I've lost to so many wrestlers who shifted to Judo after HS....) so use that to compare it to what you end up learning.

Oh, and if you liked wrestling DO JUDO, it's everywhere, it's cheap (usually VERY) and your skills will transfer well and you'll learn a whole new way to move and do things in the same situations. Judo, since it has decent governing bodies to ensure the quality of their schools and competes often to prove it, is one of the bullshit-free-est of the martial arts as a style.

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As far as real world actual fighting, the strinking arts are better for dealing with an untrained/unexperienced foe, the grappling arts for dealing with a trained or experienced fighter. For a kid getting bullied, striking arts make it go away real fast (first hand experience).

I personally enjoy the acrobatic elements of some of the marginally practical striking arts (fancy jump kicks are pretty useless in a fight, but fun to practice). However most striking arts should make blocking instinctive, an extremely useful skill. It has been a good 18 years since I last took a class (black belt in Tae Kwon Do), the one thing that still remains quite strongly is my blocking instinct, I'm still very fast and almost never miss a block, without thinking about it at all. (not that I've tested my offensive prowess, but my wife's occasional pokes and prods are almost always blocked, then again, I was always much better on defense than offense when sparring, usually relying on my opponent tiring or offensive defense).

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Indeed, Parkour is quite hard to begin safely, but when done well, it's the ultimate escape.

If you have someone else to teach you its incredibly safe.

I wouldn't call it a marial art. More like a "cival" art. The idea is to avoid confrontation by not being there, not to defend yourself.

Also Krav Maga. Intense. Crazy. Real. The end.

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