Recommended Reading

This page is a collection of books read by our coaches, students and friends alike. They cover a wide array of subjects that don’t just focus on Jujitsu, but other martial arts, their history, the cultures they came from and the works of famous practitioners of those arts.

While we call this a recommended reading list, nothing here is compulsory reading. They are simply books that we liked enough to share with others. If you have any suggestions for this list then feel free to use the contact form at the bottom of this page with the details of the book(s) you’d like to share so we can add it/them to this list. Any books you recommend don’t even have to be directly about martial arts, so long as you feel it helped you develop your own practice and could help others in a similar way.

All books are listed alphabetically by title.

  • Title: A Brief History of the Martial Arts
  • Author(s): Jonathan Clements
  • Publisher: Robinson
  • Year: 2016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-47213-646-6
  • About: Folk tales of the Shaolin Temple depict warrior monks with superhuman abilities. Today, dozens of East Asian fighting styles trace their roots back to the Buddhist brawlers of Shaolin, although any quest for the true story soon wanders into a labyrinth of forgeries, secret texts and modern retellings.
    This new study approaches the martial arts from their origins in military exercises and callisthenics. It examines a rich folklore from old wuxia tales of crime-fighting heroes to modern kung fu movies.
  • Title: A Brief History of the Samurai
  • Author(s): Jonathan Clements
  • Publisher: Robinson
  • Year: 2010
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-84529-947-7
  • About: From a leading expert in Japanese history, this is one of the first full histories of the art and culture of the Samurai warrior. The Samurai emerged as a warrior caste in Medieval Japan and would have a powerful influence on the history and culture of the country from the next 500 years. Clements also looks at the Samurai wars that tore Japan apart in the 17th and 18th centuries and how the caste was finally demolished in the advent of the mechanized world.
  • Title: A History of Japan (Revised edition)
  • Author(s): R.H.P. Mason and J.G. Caiger
  • Publisher: Tuttle
  • Year: 1997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-8048-2097-4
  • About: A classic of Japanese history, this book is the preeminent work on the history of Japan. Newly revised and updated, A History of Japan is a single-volume, complete history of the nation of Japan. Starting in ancient Japan during its early pre-history period A History of Japan covers every important aspect of history and culture through feudal Japan to the post-cold War period and collapse of the Bubble Economy in the early 1990’s.
  • Title: Bubishi: The classic manual of combat
  • Author(s): Patrick McCarthy
  • Publisher: Tuttle
  • Year: 2019
  • ISBN-13: 978-4-8053-1384-8
  • About: reasured for centuries by karate’s top masters, the “Bubishi” is a classic Chinese work on philosophy, strategy, medicine, and technique as they relate to the martial arts.
    Referred to as the “bible of karate” by famous master Chojun Miyagi, for hundreds of years the “Bubishi” was a secret text passed from master to student in China and later in Okinawa.
  • Title: Bushido – A Complete History of British Jujutsu
  • Author(s): Simon Keegan
  • Publisher: Newhaven Publishing
  • Year: 2019
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-912587-30-8
  • About: Bushido: A Complete History of British Jujutsu reveals the untold stories behind the UK’s martial arts. Jujutsu was brought to the UK in the 1890s, the era of Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes. It was adapted by men like EW Barton-Wright for the paranoid streets of London and the violent docks of Liverpool. It was then utilised by men who served in the trenches of the First World War and by the women who defended themselves in the Suffragette movement like Edith Garrud.
  • Title: Bushido – The Way of the Samurai
  • Author(s): Yamamoto Tsunetomo
  • Publisher: Square One Publishers
  • Year: ~1720 / 2001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-7570-0026-3
  • About: In eighteenth-century Japan, Tsunetomo Yamamoto created the Hagakure, a document that served as the basis for samurai warrior behavior. Its guiding principles greatly influenced the Japanese ruling class and shaped the underlying character of the Japanese psyche, from businessmen to soldiers. Bushido is the first English translation of this work. It provides a powerful message aimed at the mind and spirit of the samurai warrior. With Bushido, one can better put into perspective Japan’s historical path.
  • Title: Japan’s Ultimate Martial Art – Jujitsu before 1882
  • Author(s): Darrell Max Craig
  • Publisher: Tuttle
  • Year: 1995
  • ISBN-13: 0-8048-3027-4
  • About: A manual on jujitsu, the predecessor of judo, designed for the serious martial arts student.
  • Title: Jūjutsu no Kigen: The Ancient Samurai Art of Fighting Without Weapons
  • Author(s): Kanō Jigorō (Translated by Bruce R. Bethers, Jose Caracena & Gabriel Garcia)
  • Publisher: Blurp
  • Year: 1888 / 2019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-36-854231-2
  • About: On April 18, 1888, a fascinating document entitled “Jujutsu, the ancient samurai art of fighting without weapons” was held inside the British embassy in Japan. The material author was Professor Jigoro Kano, founder of Kodokan Judo. The Rev. Thomas Lindsay assisted Kano in the translation and described the Kano school in the last pages of the text. This document is of great interest to all researchers in the life of Jigoro Kano and especially to the analysts of the transition between the ancient bujutsu and the current budo. Given the date of the document (only 5 or 6 years after creating the Kodokan) we can clearly see the great work he did to thoroughly study the ancient schools of Jujutsu, including in the text some references to ancient books from China and Japan. Kano analyzes, among other issues, the origin and meaning of Jujutsu, names, describes and provides information about the most important schools at that time, resolves the possible conflict over the date and place of origin of Jujutsu and gives us some stories and anecdotes of famous masters of the koryu Jujutsu.
  • Title: Katana: The Samurai Sword
  • Author(s): Stephan Turnbull
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing
  • Year: 2014
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-84908-151-1
  • About: The Samurai sword of Japan is probably the finest edged weapon ever made. This volume by leading Samurai expert Stephen Turnbull reveals the story of how and why it achieved this distinction. Particular attention is paid to the development of the familiar curved blade from the original straight blades, the associated development of Japan’s famous steel-making techniques and the challenges from contemporary warfare.
  • Title: Musashi’s Dokkodo (The way of Walking Alone)
  • Author(s): Miyamoto Musashi.
  • Publisher: Stickman Publications
  • Year: 1645 / 2015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0692563496
  • About: Miyamoto Musashi (1584 – 1645) was arguably the greatest swordsman who ever lived, a legendary figure whose methods of thought and strategy have been studied and adopted across a wide spectrum of society, from martial artists to military leaders to captains of industry. The iconic sword saint of Japan was clearly a genius, yet he was also a functional psychopath—ruthless, fearless, hyper-focused, and utterly without conscience. Shortly before he died, Musashi wrote down his final thoughts about life for his favorite student Terao Magonojo to whom Go Rin No Sho, his famous Book of Five Rings, had also been dedicated. He called this treatise Dokkodo, which translates as “The Way of Walking Alone.”
  • Title: Jonathan Bluestein’s Research of Martial Arts
  • Author(s): Jonathan Bluestein
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
  • Year: 2014
  • ISBN-13: 978-1499122510
  • About: Jonathan Bluestein’s Research of Martial Arts is a book about the true essence of martial arts. It includes neither instruction on deadly killing techniques, nor mystical tales of so called super-human masters. Rather, it is a vast compilation of seriously thought-out observations made on the subject by the author, as well as many other martial artists and scientists, with a slight touch of history and humour.
  • Title: Samurai: The Last Man
  • Author(s): John Man
  • Publisher: Bantham Books
  • Year: 2011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-553-82528-2
  • About: The name ‘Samurai’ is synonymous with the ultimate warrior. With their elaborate armour, fierce swordsmanship and code of honour, the samurai have become iconic figures whose influence can still be felt today . From Kurosawa’s epic Seven Samurai to the figure of Darth Vader in Star Wars, to Manga comics and video games, the figure of the fighting samurai still inspires us today. In John Man’s new book we discover the truth behind the legend.
  • Title: Tao of Jeet Kune Do
  • Author(s): Bruce Lee / Linda Lee
  • Publisher: Ohara Publications
  • Year: 1975
  • ISBN-13: 1234
  • About: Compiled from Bruce Lee’s notes and essays and originally published in 1975, this iconic volume is one of the seminal martial arts guides of its time. The science and philosophy behind the fighting system Lee pioneered himself–jeet kune do–is explained in detail, depicted through hundreds of Lee’s own illustrations. With the collaboration of Lee’s daughter, Shannon, and Bruce Lee Enterprises, this new edition is expanded, updated, and remastered, covering topics such as Zen and enlightenment, kicking, striking, grappling, and footwork. Featuring an introduction by Linda Lee, this is essential reading for any practitioner, offering a brief glimpse into the mind of one of the world’s greatest martial artists.
  • Title: The Anatomy of Martial Arts – An illustrated guide to the muscles used in key kicks, strikes and throws
  • Author(s): Dr. Norman Link and Lily Chou
  • Publisher: Ulysses Press
  • Year: 2011
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-56975-787-1
  • About: This guide details muscles used during common martial arts moves and how to more effectively prevent injury and gain strength, featuring more than 100 comprehensive illustrations. The perfect training supplement for martial artists, this book’s detailed anatomical drawings show exactly what is happening inside the body while it’s performing a physical movement. The detailed illustrations in “The Anatomy of Martial Arts” highlight how specific muscles stretch and contract to create powerful kicks, throws, strikes, blocks, and holds.
    Designed for those practicing any martial art – including judo, karate, kung fu, tae kwon do, capoeira, jujitsu, muay thai, and hapkido – the book explains the training needs and universal techniques used to strengthen muscle, prevent injury, and improve form and control during each move. It also captions each illustration with the technical terms for every muscle, giving martial artists an in-depth understanding of the inner workings of their body in motion. More than just an anatomy book, each section is accompanied by a series of helpful strength training and stretching exercises to improve the function of vital and vulnerable muscles.
  • Title: The Art Of Peace: Teachings of the Founder of Aikido
  • Author(s): Morihei Ueshiba
  • Publisher: Shambhala
  • Year: 1992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-87773-851-0
  • About: These inspirational teachings show that the real way of the warrior is based on compassion, wisdom, fearlessness, and love of nature. Drawn from the talks and writings of Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the popular Japanese martial art known as Aikido, The Art of Peace, presented here in a pocket-sized edition, offers a nonviolent way to victory and a convincing counterpoint to such classics as Musashi’s Book of Five Rings and Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
  • Title: The Art of War
  • Author(s): Sun Tzu
  • Publisher: Pax Librorum Publishing House
  • Year: ~200 BC / 1910
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-9811626-1-4
  • About: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has been a vastly influential treatise on military strategy in the east from the time of China’s Warring States Period (403-221 BC) onward. Though its first translation into a European language was only in 1782, the book’s significance was quickly recognized and even such towering figures of Western history as Napoleon and General Douglas MacArthur have claimed it a source of inspiration.
  • Title: The Complete Kano Jiu-Jitsu
  • Author(s): H. Irving Hancock and Katsukuma Higashi
  • Publisher: Dover
  • Year: 1905 / 2005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-59030-248-4
  • About: English-speaking readers cannot find a more complete study than this of the authentic form of judo developed in the nineteenth century by Professor Jiguro Kano. It explains and illustrates the entire system of 160 holds and throws and describes every important aspect, including pressure points, balance, and how to fall
  • Title: The Book of Five Rings
  • Author(s): Miyamoto Musashi
  • Publisher: Shambhala
  • Year: 1645 / 1993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-59030-248-4
  • About: The Book of Five Rings is one of the most insightful texts on the subtle arts of confrontation and victory to emerge from Asian culture. Written not only for martial artists but for anyone who wants to apply the timeless principles of this text to their life, the book analyzes the process of struggle and mastery over conflict that underlies every level of human interaction.
    The Book of Five Rings was composed in 1643 by the famed duelist and undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi. Thomas Cleary’s translation is immediately accessible, with an introduction that presents the spiritual background of the warrior tradition. Along with Musashi’s text, Cleary translates here another important Japanese classic on leadership and strategy, The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yagyu Munenori, which highlights the ethical and spiritual insights of Taoism and Zen as they apply to the way of the warrior.
  • Title: The Hagakure
  • Author(s): Yamamoto Tsunetomo
  • Publisher: Writers Club Press
  • Year: ~1720 / 2002
  • ISBN-13: 0-595-25362-8
  • About: Warrior ethics have been studied in famous books and popular movies such as Shogun and The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. The Hagakure was originally written in the early 1700s over a seven year period. Dictated by Yamamoto Tsunetomo to an assistant, the book was never meant to be published, but after Tsunetomo’s death the assistant published it to honor his master. Inside this ancient text are all the deep and mysterious ways of the Samurai.
    Page after page of topics unfold, ranging from the best way to face death to not looking foolish in a rainstorm. The Hagakure is chock full of Zen-like wisdom and maxims, and presents a revealing look at history’s greatest warrior society, Japan in the age of the Samurai. Many use The Hagakure today as a guidebook on ethics, while others are awestruck by this glimpse at the Samurai’s way of thinking.
  • Title: Training the Samurai Mind – A Bushido Sourcebook
  • Author(s): Thomas Cleary
  • Publisher: Shambhala
  • Year: 2008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-59030-721-2
  • About: Through the ages, the samurai have been associated with honor, fearlessness, calm, decisive action, strategic thinking, and martial prowess. Their ethos is known as bushido, the Way of the Warrior-Knight.
    Here, premier translator Thomas Cleary presents a rich collection of writings on bushido by warriors, scholars, political advisors, and educators from the fifteenth century through the nineteenth century that provide a comprehensive, historically rich view of samurai life and philosophy.
  • Title: Zen in the Martial Arts
  • Author(s): Joe Hyams
  • Publisher: Tarcher Penguin
  • Year: 1979
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-87477-101-5
  • About: The martial arts, in their finest form, are much more than a physical contest between two opponents – a means of imposing ones will or inflicting damage upon another. Rather, for the true master, karate, kung fu, aikido, wing-chun and all the other martial arts are essentially avenues through which they can achieve spiritual serenity, mental tranquility and the deepest self-confidence.
    The role of Zen in the martial arts defies easy definition because Zen has no theory; it is an inner knowing for which there is no clearly stated dogma. The Zen of martial arts deemphasizes the power of the intellect and extols that of intuitive action. It’s ultimate aim is to free the individual from anger, illusion and false passion. Hyams emphasizes crucial aspects of the martial arts that have been all but lost since their import into the West: the Zen objectives of serenity of spirit, tranquility of mind, and firmness of will.

Recommend a book
If you have any suggestions for this list then feel free to let us know using this form. Any books you recommend don’t even have to be directly about martial arts, so long as you feel it helped you develop your own practice and could help others in a similar way. All we ask is that you explain why you liked each book and feel others could learn from it.

Please only recommend one book per submission. If you are recommending multiple books, please enter and submit each individually.