Five Books That Will Give You a Deeper Understanding of Martial Arts


The martial arts are unlike many other sports in that honing your mind is just as important, if not even more important, than training your body. You’ll never master the movements of martial arts if you don’t commit to understanding the art as a whole and realize the vital role your mind plays. If you want to truly master the martial arts and make progress by moving up belt levels, then training doesn’t stop when class ends. When you have some down time, be sure to pick up one of these books to further your studies. You won’t regret it!

1. The Anatomy of Martial Arts: An Illustrated Guide to the Muscles Used for Each Strike, Kick, and Throw by Dr. Norman Link and Lily Chou

This is a great book for beginners to the martial arts that want a better understanding of the muscles used in key movements. The martial arts involve so many precise movements that one can assume they deliver great health benefits, but this book actually illustrates with colorful drawings and photos the specific muscles that are being exercised. By knowing which muscles go into the key movements, you can tailor your training to focus on those muscles for maximum strength and accuracy.

2. The Unfettered Mind: Takuan Soho

Written by zen master Takuan Soho in seventeenth century Japan, this classic samurai guide is definitely the oldest on the list-probably one of the oldest continuously-circulated martial arts texts in existence, actually. Despite its age, this is a timeless read that is not the least bit archaic. Soho wrote the book as a swordsmanship guide for the samurai Yagyu Munenori and its lessons are just as applicable to the modern martial arts students. The Unfettered Mind teaches the valuable lesson of how to connect the body with the mind, and the lessons it teaches were so valuable that his work inspired other classic martial arts works such as Miyamoto Mushashi’s Book of Five Rings and Yagyu Munenori’s Life-Giving Sword.

3. Zen in the Martial Arts: Joe Hyams

This 1979 memoir from martial artist and Hollywood columnist Joe Hyams, who trained under legends like Bruce Lee and Ed Parker, is “about life and philosophy, and how to turn a negative into a positive, how to defuse a situation by the way you handle it” and less about martial arts. It’s about how practicing the martial arts gave Hyams a greater appreciation for and deeper understanding of life. By reading this book you too will learn the value of martial arts- how it is so much more than just a sport and rather a way of life.

4. Research of Martial Arts: Jonathan Bluestein

This book professes to be a study of the true essence of martial arts. One can practice the movements of martial arts and its origins without ever arriving at the true meaning of the subject. The goal of this book, published in 2014, was to surpass all other martial arts literary offerings in the market and offer readers a unique experience. The aim, according to Goodreads, is to “present the reader a coherent, clear-cut, and in-depth view of some of the most perplexing and controversial subjects in the world of martial arts, as well as providing a healthy dose of philosophical outlook on these subjects (from various individuals).” Based on the book’s 5-star rating and rave reviews, I think it’s safe to say it delivers on that promise.

5. 25 Principles of Martial Arts: Kambiz Mostofizadeh

The 25 main principles outlined in this book will teach you how to succeed not only in the martial arts, but in life. Some of the key principles crucial to the martial arts, such as The Principle of Apprenticeship and The Principle of Shifting Power, translate just as easily to business and relationships. If you commit yourself to studying and applying these principles, you will undoubtedly become a better martial artist, and if you expand your mind and weave these principles into the rest of your life, you could become a better person as well.