as an avid breakdancer I know many martial arts people and have seen and tried several styles... there are a ton of options available for you, great for a beginner.
Tai-chi- VERY deadly martial art, it is one of the few chinese disciplines that teaches death touches similair to what was shown in the recent jet lie movie kiss of the dragon. THis is a style that uses little strength and emphasises using your opponents energy against him while using as little as tour own as possible by alligning your bones to balance your body instead of using muscles.
Northern sryle kung-fu: The guy who taught me breakdancing practises this style. It has some beautiful forms such as mantis style
Tae-kwon-do: the ballete of the martial arts world..very over-used, very common, kinda boring. Originally developed to fight opponents that were riding on horses, it uses a lot of kicks and arial attacks.
Karate: generic word used to describe tae-kwon-do and some other common forms. The exception is the fighting style developed on the island of okinawa in japan.
My favirote: CAPOEIRA!!!!!
This is an amazing african-brasilian martial art developed about 300 years ago when the african slaves were brought to brasil by the portoguese. It is made to look like a dance, since the slave owners forbade the slaves from practising self-defense. The styls is very beautiful, very graceful and is the style the modern dance of breakdancing is based off of.
It's not difficult for a beginner, especially angola style capoeira. Angola is slow, low to the ground and requires little power. Regional style is the more powerful, difficult form.
In general, I highly reccomend any style of chinese kung fu. Id stay away from the japanese styles like akido, jujitsu and others. The israli's have a very very lethal style, I forgot the name but the israli army trains in it and its very viscious. The fillipinos have some great styles also.
joel bear, the ironic thing you will find is the more adept you become at killing another human being with your bare hands in less than 5 seconds, the more likely it is you will never have to fight. Its more than a physical discipline its a mental and spiritual one, steeped in eastern philiosophy (or in the case of capoeira some afro-native south american ideals) and history. have fun!
Capoeira from Brasil