While I don't think style is important, I think schools are different. Some schools focus on primarily on physical fitness. Many others focus on competition or sport. And still others are preoccupied with street fighting. Etc. So, I think it's very important to make sure that your instructor(s) are after the same thing you are.
Beyond that? Well, my personal (almost naive) opinion is that no style is well-roundedly perfect. Most styles I've come across focuses on a specific type of strategy, and fights in such a way that it would allow a good practioner to dictate how the fight will progress. A good practioner should also be good enough to prevent others from forcing them to fight in ways they don't specialize in.
The general concensus seems that cross-training in martial arts is the key. Of course, focusing on any one specific art is demanding enough as it is IMO. So realistically, cross-training just isn't feasible for most. Still, if it's at all possible, this is the way to go.
Fortunately, I don't think it's that demanding for firearm retention. To me, it's no different than fighting normally, but minus one hand. Naturally, the firearm can be used, if need be, as part of the fighting tactics. Or perhaps I'm delusional.
For chuckles, I would like to comment about the five basic types of practioners I've run across:
1. The Beginners. The irony about beginners is that many have no illusions about their lack of ability, and often take very realistic defensive measures to ensure safety. And it's because of this, I tend to listen a little bit more closely when they speak. Their valuable advice can easily get lost in a vast sea of so-called experts with their advices.
2. The Novice. People who have learned enough to be effective offensively, but not enough to know any better. Often times, a Novice falls through the cracks and end up with a overly-inflated ego. This is a very dangerous time for them.
3. The Intermediate. Folks who have been around long enough to be able to realize the depth of what's really involved here. The pitfall here is that the practitioner may become disheartened, overwhelmed, or realize that this somehow does not live up to their expectations, and thus, fade away.
4. The Expert. There are those who are capable of all that is required from the school and perhaps the art itself. They possess both the mental and physical capability to be exceptional. The pitfall here is that many actually do not know how to apply their skills open-endedly (ie think for themselves.. you'd be surprised). The greatest pitfall is that they are bad teachers that produces bad students.
5. The Master. There's the saying, "It takes a thief to catch a thief." The Master is the same. And unfortunately, that is why they are also often so easily overlooked. A true Master have grasped their art to such depth and scope that they have transcended themselves beyond their art. Of what little I can tell, a Master is no different from a Beginner on the outside (the only two groups who are really in touch with reality). Except that a Master succeeds though deep understanding and delibrate will whereas a Beginner may have to rely on luck.
A Master is also hard to distinguish from the rest of the crowd because progress can't be easily defined the five basic categories as mentioned above. A more accurate picture is that we are at different levels of progess with all aspects of our lives. A Master, it seems, renews the cycle again by taking on the role of the Beginner, ready to repeat the process. And so it goes....
[This message has been edited by SB (edited 12-02-98).]