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.
Affiliate policy and disclosure
Dragon Spirit Ju-Jitsu is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Some of the books we recommend are listed on Amazon.com, and have links that take you to the Amazon page for that book. These are affiliate links. Affiliate links mean that if you buy something after clicking on that link, we’ll get a small percentage of the sale.
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.
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.
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: A Wise Sensei Once Said In A Dojo Not So Far Away: A Collection Of Quotes from the dojo floor
Author(s): A S Chodha
Publisher: Independently published
About: A Wise Sensei Once Said in A Dojo Not So Far away is a collection of quotes/training tips from a collection of modern and historical martial artists with analysis from the author. some of the quotes/tips featured are from leading industry experts such as Iain Abernethy, Kris Wilder and also historical figures such as Choki Motou, Myomoto Musashi and Bruce Lee. This book is aimed at martial artists of all styles and also types too. The principles can be applied to both training and also life too.
About: Would you take up martial arts to fight anxiety? “Strong and caring people are the pillars of society, and Karate helps to cultivate them.” This is the maxim that Les has developed through his life journey.
The Anxious Black Belt details the transformation of a happy child into a troubled teenager who discovered the benefits of the Japanese art of Karate, and his fight to overcome his anxiety. This is a light, fun and easy to read book that touches on the subject of mental health and how it has impacted the life of a young man who is trying to make sense of his feelings.
About: Reassured 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
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.
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: Fight like a physicist: The Incredible Science Behind Martial Arts
Author(s): Jason Thalken, PHD
Publisher: YMAA Publication Center
About: Thalken explores how physics can be applied to martial arts. More than a body of facts, Thalken sees physics as a practical discipline: an approach that can be applied to any number of pursuits. His chosen pursuit is martial arts. As in physics, the author says, no authority or status can make a martial artist’s technique effective. Testable and reproducible results hold all the power. His thesis is that by understanding the way the human body moves and balances, a martial artist can gain the upper hand on opponents who do not approach their sport scientifically. Thalken outlines the way concepts from physics reveal strategies in fighting–the center of mass is important for leg sweeps and grappling, hits that travel shorter distances will arrive with greater force and speed, etc. He also debunks common misconceptions about equipment.
Title: In The Dojo: A Guide to the Rituals and Etiquette of the Japanese Martial Arts
Author(s): Dave Lowry
Publisher: Shambhala Publications Inc
About: Beginning students in Japanese martial arts, such as karate, judo, aikido, iaido, kyudo, and kendo, learn that when they are in the dojo (the practice space), they must don their practice garb with ritual precision, address their teacher and senior students in a specific way, and follow certain unwritten but deeply held codes of behavior. But very soon they begin to wonder about the meaning behind the traditions, gear, and relationships in the dojo.In this collection of lively, detailed essays, Dave Lowry, one of the most well-known and respected swordsmen in the United States, illuminates the history and meaning behind the rituals, training costumes, objects, and relationships that have such profound significance in Japanese martial arts.
About: The diary of Samuel Pepys has been likened to a spotlight that lit up events of English society in the 17th century. This work by Brian N. Watson, himself a Kodokan judo fourth dan and former special research student, does this also for the philosophy, methods and aims of Jigoro Kano. This book allows us to enter Kano’s mind and review his psychology, methods and goals involved in his creation – judo.
Most people on learning judo or learning of judo regard it, rightly so, as an enjoyable sport, some may have heard it described as a physical, mental, and yes, spiritual study. Few actually realize these latter potentials. This book may redress this.
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)
Year: 1888 / 2019
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: Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence
Author(s): Sgt. Rory Miller
Publisher: YMAA Publication Center
About: Experienced martial artist and veteran correction officer Sgt. Rory Miller distills what he has learned from jailhouse brawls, tactical operations and ambushes to explore the differences between martial arts and the subject martial arts were designed to deal with: Violence.
Sgt. Miller introduces the myths, metaphors and expectations that most martial artists have about what they will ultimately learn in their dojo. This is then compared with the complexity of the reality of violence. Complexity is one of the recurring themes throughout this work.
About: This book is a collection of Kano’s essential teachings, selected and compiled from his wealth of writings and lectures spanning a period of fifty-one years. Today the International Judo Federation has 187 member countries and regions. As an official sport of the Olympic Games, judo has inspired young people of all nationalities, and Kodokan is universally recognized as the Mecca of Judo.
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.
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
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 Revolution: The Dawn of Modern Japan Seen Through the Eyes of the Shogun’s Last Samurai
Author(s): Romulus Hillsborough
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
About: See the dawn of modern Japan through the lens of the power players who helped shape it – as well as those who fought against it – in this exploration of Samurai history. Samurai Revolution tells the fascinating story of Japan’s historic transformation at the end of the nineteenth century from a country of shoguns, feudal lords and samurai to a modern industrialized nation. The book covers the turbulent Meiji Period from 1868 to 1912, widely considered “the dawn of modern Japan,” a time of Samurai history in which those who choose to cling to their traditional bushido way of life engaged in frequent and often deadly clashes with champions of modernization. Knowledge of this period is essential to understand how and why Japan evolved into the nation it is today.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Author(s): H. Irving Hancock and Katsukuma Higashi
Year: 1905 / 2005
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 Jigoro 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 Essence of Budo: A Practitioner’s Guide to Understanding the Japanese Martial Ways
Author(s): Dave Lowry
Publisher: Shambhala Publications Inc
About: The study of budo, or Japanese martial arts for self-cultivation, is a lifelong path toward achieving perfect balance in body, mind, and spirit. Here, Dave Lowry, who has pursued that path for over forty years, addresses the myriad issues, vagaries, and inconsistencies that arise for students of karate-do, judo, kendo, aikido, iaido and other Japanese martial arts–classical and modern–as their training develops.
About: Originally published in 1906, “The Game of Ji-Jitsu” is an accomplished work by two of the great Judoka of the time. In simple, precise and declarative descriptions, the key elements of Ju-Jitsu are explained as well as the many improper applications (faults), that can take place in a common match.
Along with over 90 illustrations and photographs this is a valuable addition to any martial arts library.
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: The Historical Sociology of Japanese Martial Arts
Author(s): Raúl Sánchez García
About: This is the first long-term analysis of the development of Japanese martial arts, connecting ancient martial traditions with the martial arts practised today. The Historical Sociology of Japanese Martial Arts captures the complexity of the emergence and development of martial traditions within the broader Japanese Civilising Process.
The book traces the structured process in which warriors’ practices became systematised and expanded to the Japanese population and the world. Using the theoretical framework of Norbert Elias’s process-sociology and drawing on rich empirical data, the book also compares the development of combat practices in Japan, England, France and Germany, making a new contribution to our understanding of the socio-cultural dynamics of state formation. Throughout this analysis light is shed onto a gender blind spot, taking into account the neglected role of women in martial arts.
Title: The Text-Book of Ju-Jitsu, As Practised in Japan
Author(s): S. K. Uyenishi
Publisher: Maclachan Bell Press
About: Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. We are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork.
Title: The Way of Judo: A Portrait of Jigoro Kano and His Students
Author(s): John Stevens
Publisher: Shambhala Publications Inc
About: This biography shows how Kano saw judo as a vehicle not just for self-defense, but for physical, spiritual, and moral development as well. His teachings clearly emphasize his ideal of judo as a way of self-cultivation that leads to physical health, ethical behavior, and ultimately a better society. Kano was a tireless activist who promoted the practical application of judo’s principles in all realms of life–in one’s personal behavior, for education, in work, for economic benefit, and in both the local and international political arenas.
Kano’s students were a colorful, sometimes notorious bunch, and this book reveals how several went on to become famous–or infamous–in their own right. They include a prime minister of Japan, the leader of the Communist party in China, a famous novelist, a spy, high-level military leaders, and a media mogul, among many others. The author, John Stevens, gives a fascinating account of Kano’s life and times, his teachings, and his interaction with his students.
Title: Training the Samurai Mind – A Bushido Sourcebook
Author(s): Thomas Cleary
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.
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.
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