I've been studying martial arts since I was very young. I hold a 6th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do / Mu Duk Kwan and a 4th degree black belt in American Aikido. I've owned and operated a martial arts school since 1999. While In recent years I have intentionally downsized my school because of the time my career path consumes, it used to be one of the largest in my area.
Martial Arts taught me how to defend myself in a physical confrontation, but it served me much better in teaching me how to compete not against others, but against myself. The world tends to gravitate towards "being better" than those around you. It wants you to respect those who have similar opinions as your own, but to disregard and even ridicule those who are significantly different.
Martial arts may teach you to fight, but more importantly, it teaches you respect for others. There are a variety of studies on the subject that are unfortunately not particularly well-documented, but evidence strongly suggests that those who earn at least a 1st degree black belt at a traditional martial arts school (generally one that takes at least 4-5 years to earn) are
significantly less likely to be aggressive, get in fights, or be arrested. This may seem like a strange characteristic for someone who has become proficient at fighting, but if you think about it, it makes sense. A black belt is someone who has learned to meet and achieve their goals, and those goals are internal. The student alone is responsible for the success or failure of their journey to earn a black belt. While there are certainly some outside influences, ultimately it is the student who decides if they are going to succeed or not. And that success is not measured on a yardstick that considers how others are performing. That yardstick does not measure race, color, creed, gender, orientation, or any of the other ways that the world labels people. In the words of the 80s band Survivor:
"Deep in our soul
A quiet ember
Knows it's you against you
It's the paradox
That drives us on
The victory is yours alone"