Around 4th grade I started doing American Karate (a mish-mash of Tae Kwan Do and Karate) under Grand Master Pat Worley and eventually earned my advanced brown belt, then stopping just shy of a black belt due to a growth-related knee injury. It was tons of fun and a big confidence-booster.
Throughout my 20s I played with various Kung Fu styles: Southern Mantis in Saint Paul with Master Gin Foon Mark, Wing Chun in San Francisco, and a few others. None of them felt like something portable in the sense of an art I could practice anywhere I lived, nor practical in the sense that they would work in general circumstances.
While living in San Francisco I walked past Ralph Gracie's Jiu Jitsu gym on a regular basis. Jiu Jitsu was always interesting as a ground fighting sport, of which I had no experience, but I recall feeling like I could never be comfortable training in such close quarters.
In Vancouver, BC I decided to try muay thai. I really appreciated its simple strikes: the more Western style of boxing combined with powerful leg kicks. Unfortunately, I found it to be a bit "brute-force". I'd regularly come home with huge bruises all up and down my body after holding pads for fighters much larger than myself. I wasn't confident that the techniques would scale well against larger fighters. While I'm neither a large nor a small guy (6' 0" 178 lbs street weight), I wanted to have a fighting style that was just as effective against people larger than myself. I spent a year training there before taking off for the fertile grounds of New York City.
There are tons of great gyms here in New York. Turns out there's an MMA school just one block from our apartment in Greenpoint: Williamsburg MMA. WMMA teaches judo, muay thai, boxing, Greco-Roman wrestling, and Brazilian jiu jitsu in one place. While I was skeptical at first, learning all of these techniques at once has been revelatory. These new kids just now getting into martial arts have a real treat in that they will learn how to seamlessly transition from the ground to the floor. Learning a holistic collection of fighting styles is fantastic and is a much richer collection of tools to draw from than the classic attitude of "my style is the best!" Jiu Jitsu is an art created to be effective even against opponents larger than yourself. And it mostly succeeds, although extra size still generally confers an advantage. The techniques, though, are more about scientific principles such as leverage and knowledge of the way the body works than they are about strength.
I've been training here for nearly a year and my movement has become much more fluid and stable. I just earned my first degree white belt in jiu jitsu. It only took a couple of weeks for the intimacy of the sport to no longer be uncomfortable. The striking program is less focused on power and more focused on being balanced, accurate, and not getting hit. I'm learning a ton and my body, while sore and bruised most of the time, is healthier than ever. I've been watching my diet and have gained muscle while losing fat. I plan to keep this up as long as I am physically able.