People who are not trained, but unlucky enough to encounter physical assault or threats from another person will frequently regret that they have not learnt martial arts to defend themselves or stand their ground against unreasonable people. That painful regret comes at an instant, and stays there in your memory.
Fighting skills will surely come in handy when you do not have more peaceful options. One of the peaceful options that work very well is an athletic body with movements of martial intent that people can tell that this person is not easy to handle in a physical scuffle. It is the way you look, the way you talk and the way you move that people use to judge if you are a prey. It is often people who look sedentary, or has low confidence in speech or movement who often report being threatened to physical assault.
However, criminals and thugs are not as stupid as to believe that any athletic looking person is not an easy picking. They can tell if a person is really trained in fighting skills or if the person is a bodybuilder or marathon runner. In fact even normal people can tell a martial artist among athletic looking people. In this sense, health and fitness contributes to deterrence for physical safety rather than fighting skills alone. Size also plays a part.
Their fears are real, your years of practice will indeed make you stronger, faster and sharper than martial artists who trained lesser. Martial arts are disciplines of self improvement, arts a person keeps refining as there will always be higher levels of cultivation. A junior martial artist, especially one who has cross trained will tell you this is true, senior martial artists can truly move faster, hit harder with more consistency, have more internal strength and use techniques that leave them puzzled and pummeled.
Especially for Kung Fu, it is effort over time. An early and wise investment followed with investment of dedicated work will bring you to a superior level normal people have problems keeping up with. For others, they will have a chance to successfully protect themselves, for you you will have a high chance of success.
Kung Fu is also a multi-faceted martial art. A martial art usually has a focus, a specialized area such as grappling, punching or kicking. For Chinese martial arts, many styles already have joint emphasis on multiple areas of combat. More recent developments of new martial arts have attempted to fuse different styles together, even individuals are frequently 'creating' their own martial arts from what they have learnt.
Chinese Kung Fu however has many wonderful styles that cover multiple scenarios such as long range open area fighting, closed up confined fighting, striking with knees and elbows, clawing and finger thrusts as well as throws, locks and grappling. And these are not briefly put together by the innovation of one individual from the particular style, they are combined with a structured system that links the function of different moves. The structured system comes from generations of shared experience, practice and refinement, often spanning several centuries.
For Chinese Kung Fu practitioners, as long as the source is legit and the teacher has substance and is sincere, there is little need to learn other arts to compliment. For knowledge and experience it is still helpful to have some interaction with other martial art styles.
Now that we know why doing Kung Fu is a good investment, we should think about
1) how to find good Kung Fu that suits your needs.
2) what to look out for when practicing your craft.
To find a Kung Fu school that is suitable for you, you might want to consider your own needs, interests and circumstances. If you are intending to enrol your child in Kung Fu class, make sure that your child is really interested in it, and most importantly matured enough to start learning.
Why do we want to do so much homework, analyzing, planning and preparing for an investment in Kung Fu? Because Kung Fu involves your personal participation, it involves time. If you conveniently go for cheap lessons and you do not get what you wanted even after a few years, it will be a waste of your time. In this fast moving world, time means money. It is definitely not wise to save money and risk wasting time. Investing for the better is for people who are driven to build a better future, not for people who are programmed to live for the moment.
Once you start this investment, you will be spending at least 2 hours a week learning, and 2 hours revising. Are you ready to fork out the time? You should plan your routine schedule ahead to make time for Kung Fu practice. You will have no room for frequent drinking, late nights and an irregular diet.
For adults, you want to make the right decision for yourself, so first identify your purpose and interest. Are you someone who is interested in self-defense? Are you interested in becoming a formidable martial artist? Are you interested in the culture and history of Chinese martial arts, or are you interested in the health and fitness aspect of learning Kung Fu.