5 Most Important Martial Arts Books

5 Most Important Martial Arts Books

I was listening to Jim Rohn and he spoke about knowing a person by the books in their library. Examining how our reality is constructed by our thoughts.

What we read, see, and digest create who we are.

If we are consuming positive knowledge and reading books of importance, this can greatly shape who we are. On the other end of the spectrum. If we are consuming garbage and fast food for our brain, what can we expect to have as a result?

There will be a future article digging deeper and exploring this concept. The purpose of this article however, is to think about our martial arts library.

What are we allowing to enter our subliminal thoughts and shape our reality regarding martial arts?


Stop and think about what martial arts books you own.

If you feel that you are a martial artist, what information have you digested to make this truth?

Look back on your path and understand where you received the knowledge that shaped you into the “martial artist” you are today. In other words, where we received the knowledge from, can be more important than the knowledge itself.

What martial arts books have you read?

My hope in this article is not to throw dirt on anyone’s martial art beliefs. Hopefully, someone reading this can have the same realization I had. Knowledge that we consume shape our thoughts.

Our thoughts shape our reality and who we are, as a person and as a martial artist.


After writing this I decided the best way to help is by compiling a list of martial arts books that had the most impact on me. Almost all of us seem to have an Amazon account now and with Kindle and Prime many of these books may be free or very inexpensive. Where I could find an audiobook that was free on Youtube I embedded it for you.

I figured this was the easiest and most affordable way for most of the readers to access these books. Luckily, all of these martial arts books are on Amazon.



The Art of War

By Sun Tzu

Written over 2,500 years ago, perhaps the most famous martial arts book known. Quotes and practical knowledge from this book have been used by world leaders, teachers, inventors, and countless others for centuries.

I previously wrote a detailed, chapter by chapter account of this book. You can read the article here, The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

By Yamamoto Tsunetomo

martial arts books

I have very few tattoos on my body and the Hagakure symbol is one of them.

Originally a secret text, The Hagakure remained that way for many years. It was a code of honor or way of living and dying for samurais, Bushido. As it is a recording of thoughts over several years and not set in a particular sequence, it will read as such.

The movie Ghost Dog I think portrays this excellently. It’s not a martial arts movie per se, but I enjoyed how they interweaved quotes from Hagakure within the story. Definitely a good movie to check out if you haven’t seen it yet.

This book was written after an uncommon and lengthy time of peace in Japan. This knowledge led to one of the biggest takeaways I had from this book. The concept of a samurai living during a time of peace.

What is his purpose?

Wubei Zhi AKA Bubishi: The Bible of Karate

By Mao Yuanyi

martial arts books

The Wubei Zhi, is more commonly known by the name Bubishi. This classic work was compiled in the early 1600s by Mao Yuanyi, an officer during the Ming Dynasty.

A collection of fighting techniques and strategy, katas, medicine, philosophy, and rare maps and weapons. Wubei Zhi or Bubishi is an encyclopedia of martial art techniques and practices and provides an insight to ancient Chinese military theories.

As the literature moved from China to Okinawa it became the most influential book in regard to the creation of Karate. For any martial artist, especially a Karate practitioner this is a must read book.


Tao of Jeet Kune Do

By Bruce Lee

martial arts books

I believe the first serious martial arts literature I read when I was younger. Bruce is obviously an iconic figure whose legend seems to grow decades after his death.  He was a pioneer in his thoughts and questioning of some long-standing traditions. Before MMA and most of the public viewed martial arts as high flying kicks and what they saw on TV, Bruce was searching for what was real.

This book is a collection of notes and thoughts from Bruce on his philosophy surrounding martial art techniques and strategy.


The Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

By Miyamoto Musashi

martial arts books

Perhaps the most important book for the individual soldier, Musashi’s defining literature needs to be studied by every martial artist. Musashi states, his writings are absorbed, not read or learned. No martial artist should be without this book. Consequently, The Book of Five Rings I consider mandatory reading as a martial artist.

I previously did a detailed review on this book you can read here.  This was last on my list of the five most important martial arts books on Amazon. In addition, I personally feel this is the most important book a martial artist can own, read, and absorb.

Have you read any of these books?
What book not listed do you feel is a mandatory read for any martial artist?


  1. “If we are consuming positive knowledge and reading books of importance, this can greatly shape who we are.” Agreed!

    I too think that martial arts literature is essential to the development of a martial artist. I have met people who have trained in certain styles/systems of martial arts for years. If i recall, one or two of these people may have been at it for as long as 30-40 years, and yet in conversing with them I found that their knowledge seemed to have been extremely limited when it came to the history and evolution of the martial art that they themselves practiced.

    At first i was perplexed at this and thought that I was in the twilight zone, or perhaps misled by the books and documentaries which I had taken my information from, but in the end I realized that the problem was not with my sources of information but with practitioners of martial arts who train for years without taking time to further enlighten themselves from books and other sources outside of those which they originally learned from.

    Such people tend to become set in their ways and develop a “know it all attitude” despite being limited. In my opinion enlightening oneself through literature is as important to developing as a martial artist as constant practical training.

    Thanks for the reviews, I have only read three of these five books and will definitely make an effort to check out Tao of Jeet Kune do and Hagakure.

    1. Thanks for reading the article and the great response.
      I agree, I’ve always been slightly perplexed by lifelong martial artists I’ve met who know very little about the roots of their art and how it’s been shaped over time.
      The masters of the past emphasized literature and a deeper understanding of their art and the world around them. Why some modern practitioners don’t, I don’t know.

      The Hagakure is great, I mention it in the article but it was written during an unusual time of peace and I think it speaks to a modern martial artist in everyday life.
      Most of us (I hope at least) don’t want to get into a violent confrontation and probably avoid them. Yet, we practice martial skill and continue to attempt to hone skills we hope we never use.
      The Tao of Jeet Kune Do is the only modern book I have on that list. It of course has a place in my heart being the first martial arts literature I remember reading. It also has great philosophy and a collection of thoughts from Bruce Lee, who himself was influenced by the other older books that are listed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *