Martial arts, or karate as it is known, is a great way to learn how to defend yourself, how to condition your body and gain great discipline on how you move. Some of the earliest beginnings of these arts can be traced to countries such as China and Japan and Korea. The word karate actually means empty hands. Usually the traditional training sequence of martial arts begins with the healing arts, the conditioning arts or exercise and finally martial arts the military part of the training.
Karate in the Orient is usually practiced as a lifetime endeavor. Practitioners begin very young practice well into their old age. We have all heard the term black belt, however in the Orient a black belt is usually a belt that has been warned so long that it has turned black from use and age. The build system or ranking system was developed within the last hundred years or so and seems to been designed for the impatient as well as a way to gauge your progress.
Self defense systems usually will it include a system of basic moves such as punching moves, blocking moves, and stepping or stances. Next you would have techniques which involve two or more basic moves like a step with the block and the punch. And finally you have what is called the forms or Katas.
You could look at martial arts systems like a book you have the basics which would be the letters, then you have sentences which would be like techniques, and finally you have paragraphs which would put together multiple techniques into a sort of dance routine called forms or Katas.