There are many martial arts clubs in our modern age that cater for all different kinds of people. They cater for children, women only, men only, over 50’s. You name it; someone now seems to do it. But there has always been that approach of the strict martial arts school which means you have to adhere to strict guidelines such as calling your instructor Sir or Madam, and where if your uniform is not on straight you have to go and sit in the corner, (maybe not sit in the corner, but some other form of punishment) while you can get the laid-back approach which is what it says on the tin. They can be a relaxed environment with no pressure.
It all comes down I believe to what you are trying to achieve. Only you know if you are a laid-back individual or someone who likes the more formal approach. I personally believe that if you are serious about martial arts then you should adopt the formal attitude as martial arts are known as a traditional method of self-defence, I believe if you want the more laid-back approach go and practice tai-chi or something similar. But this is only my opinion, everyone is different.
The best way to gauge what is best for you if you have no previous experience of martial arts is to look at the clubs in your local area. Speak to the instructors and ask them what their form of teaching is all about, if they bite your head of then you can probably safely say that they adopt the more formal approach. But on a serious note, take heed of the students, do they bow to the instructor and senior students? Are their children allowed in the session? If so are they allowed to run around and talk, or do they sit quiet and practice quietly? These are all questions you should ask yourself when you are doing the rounds of the different martial arts clubs available.
Once you have done your research you need to analyze it. For instance if you visited a club that does not allow students to ask questions until the end, then this would be deemed as a formal environment. If you are still not sure after your research then ask the most suitable clubs if you can partake in an introductory lesson. Many schools allow you to do this so you can get a feel of the club and if you like it. Make sure though that you are happy with your choice as martial arts is a great way to keep fit and defend yourself, I never like people to give up because they cannot find the right class to suit them.