I get asked this question a fair bit, and since I just replied to a friend on this topic, thought I would share here:
I started in another art called Kajukenbo which includes jiu jitsu and judo, mainly because it was the martial art offered at the "regular" gym near my office, and I do not keep up with exercise unless it's both competitive and social. Running, swimming, biking-- BLARGH. Soccer, racquetball, flag football, AWESOME. I am very competitive, and very social, so martial arts seemed a good fit.
Then I discovered I hate kata and love sparring. I love training with "aliveness" meaning you are really trying to do the technique and not holding back because you're "just training and don't want to hurt your friend." Jiu jitsu gives you instant feedback as to whether your technique is solid, without the binary of "not hurting them because you haven't connected yet" vs. "hurting them because you punched them."
There is plenty of time to tap before it hurts too much, which gives you plenty of time to think about your counter, your reaction, and (at the time) that seemed plenty of time to act on it, compared to striking/kicking arts. I also grew to love the fact that there is no one set of moves everyone has to learn regardless of size, shape, attributes... instead there are a myriad of techniques and you will craft your own "plan" according to your unique strengths and weaknesses.
I didn't quit kajukenbo until I got my first belt, but as soon as our class did some jiu jitsu and judo, I knew that was where my heart was. Every minute spent striking a pad or doing kata was a minute I could and should have been grappling. To be fair though, even for a yellow belt test, you had to do real rounds of standup and grappling against 3 opponents each, so, I give kajukenbo a lot of credit I don't offer other TMAs.
While still training at the kajukenbo academy, I had the opportunity to do a seminar with Helio Soneca, a Gracie cousin, and I jumped at that like a duck on a junebug. This might be one of the earliest pictures of me related to jiu jitsu. The guy immediately behind me in the blue shorts is a good friend of mine, Ivelin, who is a purple belt in BJJ at Relson Gracie Austin. Helio is sitting to the right of me in this picture and the kaju blackbelt is Tony Morel in a red shirt.
Never pass up a chance to choke a blackbelt :)
Then I told him I dance salsa, and he demonstrated his skillset there too..
Once I quit kajukenbo, I started training around the corner at Relson Gracie Austin. I did my first tournament a month later-- nogi, round robin, co-ed under 155 pounds. These are the two other ladies from that division.
So it's not Thursday, but I don't care, it's Throwback Tuesday for me. Have a good one! I gotta get to work, it's a busy week.