There is a wealth of martial art books, DVDs, i-phone applications etc available on the market, but which ones are really worth buying? Most resources have some value, but on a limited budget with limited time, it is prudent to choose carefully. The worst resources can actually be counter-productive, teaching bad habits and sprouting baseless ‘facts’. Here is my list of books that will guide you well for years to come.
These books are written by the best in their respective fields and are resources that ‘keep giving’. Each time you read them, you will learn something new. They all hold information relevant to your stage of learning, whatever stage that is. I suggest re-reading these books each at least once a year, as you will make new discoveries each time, and lessons that you were previously not ready for, will reveal themselves to you.
Here is the Sobukan hitsudoku (required reading) list:
Kodokan Judo (Jigoro Kano)
This text is a great manual for judo, not sports judo, but real judo, as intended by the founder Jigoro Kano. It teaches the entire judo syllabus, including breakfalls, the 40 gokyo throws, new shinmeisho throws, newaza (ground techniques), strikes, kata and the history and philosophy of the art. Despite the old grainy photographs, this book is easy to read and is a handy companion through a life time of judo learning. If Bubishi is the bible of karate, then Kodokan Judo must certainly be the bible of judo.
Bubishi, the classical manual of combat. (Patrick McCarthy)
This book is the essential text of any karate-ka. The origins are unclear, but we know that the Bubishi migrated to Okinawa from Southern China several centuries ago. Okinawan martial art masters would hand-copy this book from their own masters, adding and adapting the content with each copy. Translated by the esteemed karate historian Hanshi Patrick McCarthy (9th dan), and available from the International Ryukyu Karate Jutsu Research Society, this book may bewilder the beginner, but will open up a new world to the advanced practitioner.
Jiu-jitsu University (Saulo Ribeiro)
Rather than a random collection of techniques, Professor Saulo has divided this BJJ tome into belts with a distinctive theme:
White belt – survival
Blue belt – escapes
Purple belt – the guard
Brown belt – guard passing
Black belt – submissions
This approach is logical, systematic and easy to follow. Again, this book is perfect for structuring learning to suit your current needs. Out of the dozens of BJJ books I have read, I consider this the best.
Tao of Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee)
This might be the surprise choice, considering that Jeet Kune Do is not taught at Sobukan. However, MANY of the methodologies, techniques and ideas taught in this book are common of all of the best martial arts. Also, Bruce Lee’s approach to learning and cross-training is reflected in the Sobukan syllabus. This book was truly ahead of its time.
The collection of Hakkoryu Jujutsu and Koho Shiatsubooks are worth far more than their weight in gold. They are only available for purchase by Hakkoryu Jujutsu students, and are expensive, but are worth far more than their cost. While only useful to students of Hakkoryu, they are a precious resource for any Hakkoryu Jujutsu student or teacher. Some of these books are also available in English.
Sun Zi’s Art of War (Ping Fa), and Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings (Go Rin no Sho) are timeless cannons of strategy that are read by business men as much as martial artists. These books certainly warrant a blog of their own, not just a shared sentence. Like the books above, these texts should be read on a regular basis. All of these books are available in English and Japanese.
Literature is important when learning a martial art, just like any other topic. Visual learners will learn lessons effectively. Students should never rely on one source of information, even if that sole source is all they feel they need. You will never exceed your teacher’s skills if learning from them only. Diversifying your source of learning allows you to develop more critical thinking and balanced opinions. Books are a constant reference that preserves historical information and traditions, without demanding that you follow out-dated practices. Read up and learn!