With more and more problems and restrictions concerning firearms coming to light, and even if we live in a free state, we may be forced to travel to places not free where we are no less in need of a means of defense. My list of ideas isn't definitive, but it is based on experience and use of my skills to defend myself from attack(s). I have been a practicing martial artist for 20 years, and through my investigation of martial arts which was fairly extensive and exhaustive I have made some conclusions to share with you. Regardless of the "style" you choose, train in a system that places an emphasis on full contact fighting. Beautiful movements and techniques against an imaginary bad guy look amazing to bystanders and in the mirror, but if you are unable to deal with a person standing infront of you it was all for nothing. Some schools do not allow strikes to the face, some force their students to learn words in the language the art originated in. One of the first things that will happen in a fight is a person will attempt or succeed to strike you in the face, and there are more effecient ways to learn a foreign language than near meaningless korean phrases. "Reality based" is a buzzword to be attracted to. But does not mean what that school teaches really is. Do not be afraid to test the instructors knowledge, if he has a problem with your questions you are training with the wrong people. If possible avoid the belt system and traditional martial art insanity. For historical context, a martial artist's Gi or common karate style outfit kept together with a colored belt was a traditional working garment for people in asia a few hundred years ago! The colored belts however are relatively new, and it is part of marketing and ranking. It is the "carrot" that @twp so often eludes to. It is purely social plumage, it will not improve your ability to fight no matter how progressively darker shade they become. But they will effect you in court, should you need to defend yourself. And you will be fingerprinted once you receive your "first dan" or "first degree" of black. Originally a farmer would wipe his hands on his belt, and after lots of sweat and blood accumulated on it the belt would naturally turn a darkened color. The traditional weapons like sai were for accurate depth for planting seeds, nunchucks for turning grain into flour...it would be no different than me opening up "hypnos's deadly martial arts academy " in my garage with assorted tools on the walls like hammers and chizels and wearing my coveralls to teach you about defense. The only thing ludicrous is that it would make more sense. No shoes, and fighting with agricultural tools became a staple of poor farmers teaching lessons in their homes and barns to avoid being detected. Swords and martial arts were outlawed in places like Japan during those times. Just as firearms have evolved in the last 200 years, so has our hand to hand fighting, dont subcribe to the madness. You will be wearing street clothes and shoes unless you are attacked while sunbathing or taking a shower, consider asking your instructor why the b.s. continues, if they say anything outside of safety concerns i would consider that a red flag. On my shortlist of martial arts brands to consider: Krav maga. Any full contact kickboxing school like muay thai or similar. Western Boxing. Jiu jitsu/Judo Catch wrestling Vale tudo Jeet kune do (my personal favorite) If you wish to train at home, and keep as grey man as humanly possible, i would highly recommend following Paul Vunak, of progressive fighting systems, and his video series the "Enigma".