Traditional Chinese martial arts are good for self defense but you really have to understand them in order to apply them in real life situations. My Jow Ga training consists of learning how to throw Jow Ga punches and Kicks, Conditioning the body, mind, and reflexes, Learning the forms and the applications and sparring. When I say sparring I mean actually trying to use the kung fu that I've been training with. Your first attempt will make it seem like kung fu is a waste, but that's only because you haven't understood how to apply it in a real fight simulation (sparring). The only way to understand it is to try and use it, and when it doesn't work, figure out what you need to to adjust in order to make it work.Thanks for all the replies so far. I forgot to mention in the OP that I also want to do a traditional MA as I am half Chinese and would like to be more engaged in chinese culture. I understand that a sport MA might be more practical but self-defense, although a large factor, is not my main reason for learning a MA. I mentioned Sanda simply as a possibility in the future, if after training I want to take my MA training further. Sorry for causing any misunderstandings.
I think I'm going to rule out Shaolin kung fu as it won't be as practical as the others styles. I'll definitely visit the FWC and WC to check them out though.
Another possibility that came to mind is Tai Chi, as it has the added health benefits. I know that there are many instructors who don't teach the self defense side of it but I was wondering what everyone thought of this website: Tai Ji Circle Chen taijiquan and qigong classes
This is true. It's not the quickest way to learn how to fight. The good thing is that the exercises will help to improve a person's ability to sense your opponents moves and intention. It's a good balance for anyone that practices a hard style.I'd also jump at a chance to learn Taiji from a teacher who focuses on the martial side of it. But if I understand correctly, it might be quite a while before you're able to really become proficient in taiji.
Out of all of the Chinese martial art schools in the U.S. The schools that claim to be "Shaolin" worry me the most. Many of them don't have a lineage so right off the back you don't know what you are getting.I'd be skeptical of any so called "Shaolin" style/school.
I wish it was that way here.Honestly, most of the Shaolin schools that I've run into, do have lineages in and around the temple. My experience has mainly been on the West Coast of the U.S., however. You do have to distinguish between the modern wushu actively taught now at the temple and the older systems. Modern wushu is great for strength, balance, and flexibility but it is not a combative art.