The martial arts have long been known for their beneficial effects on health, in addition to their application in self-defense. Luckily, Austin is a great place to be if you want to study the martial arts.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu was popularized by the Gracie family in the 90s due to effectiveness in mixed martial arts competition. This martial art, however, is also extremely effective in the street, and it has an incredible impact on your physical fitness.
A typical jiu-jitsu class consists of a warm-up and stretch, possibly some conditioning, drilling techniques, and then sparring. The difference, here, is that there is a heavy emphasis on sparring. Because of this approach, you will not only learn how to defend yourself and apply effective techniques quickly; you will also receive an incredible workout that includes both resistance and cardiovascular training.
Muay thai is arguably the best form of standing self-defense that has ever been developed, mostly because of its devastatingly powerful kicks and knee strikes.
Most muay thai classes are of a similar structure to jiu-jitsu, but because you are not working against the body weight and resistance of your partner in the same way, muay thai works your cardiovascular endurance more than jiu-jitsu. Therefore, it is an excellent way to slim down and get in shape.
There is a great jiu-jitsu school at 183 and Spicewood Springs in Austin called Vandry Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The instructor, William Vandry, is a very decorated competitive grappler, and his teaching methods are effective. There is also more of a welcoming and less-intimidating atmosphere there, in contrast with other schools.
There is also a muay thai program at Vandry, and it meets on Thursday nights. You can find the schedule for both the jiu-jitsu and the muay thai programs here.