I am joining late on this thread, but I have two suggestions. First, if you can get a CCW, learn to shoot very well, carry a Glock and never look back. Second, look for a school that uses full contact sparring. For example, Demi Barbito at CSPT.com uses redman suits so his students can go full speed and strike full force at any and all targets.
You do need to learn slowly, but you need to practice all of your techniques at full speed and with full contact at some point. It sounds like you have gotten great advice and that you are heading in the right direction.