I’d like to suggest yet another art for you to consider: Arnis. (often referred to as FMA, or Filipino Martial Arts.) It is also referred to as Escrima or Kali.
It is a predominately stick and knife based art, with open hand techniques following.
Most Eastern arts I have been exposed to stress the empty hand and move towards weapons, Arnis is exactly the opposite, the thought being a stick is easier to defend one’s self with than bare hands, and it is more logical to begin as such.
Another fundamental difference between Arnis and other arts is the assumption your opponent is armed. I’ve seen many techniques taught in my study of ju-jitsu that work well against a punch, but would end very badly if used against a knife. As you may not have the luxury of knowing what you’re being attacked with before hand, I prefer a technique that will work well against either, rather than having to choose.
As Mr. Williamson astutely noted, a walking stick or cane is very acceptable to carry with you everywhere (even places you cannot carry a knife, much less a gun), and the techniques transfer well to other “weapons” (an umbrella or rolled up newspaper, for example) as well as a knife.
FMA has been criticized as being too “complex” (you do this, then I do that, etc), and perhaps correctly. As with any art, the important thing is your choice of instructor is as important if not more so than your choice of art. An instructor who stresses the basics over increasingly fancy techniques is crucial, in my opinion. I specifically study Modern Arnis and Sayoc Kali, I have been very happy with both.
It may be worth mentioning that these arts evolved from a predominately Christian culture, so the Eastern religion components that were of concern to some of your readers would not apply. Best of luck with your search and your studies. – Patrick R.