View Full Version : Recommended Reference Books in English

25th May 2000, 04:30

I think this forum could use an accepted list of English language reference works on the history of Japanese Karate, Korean Karate, Judo, Aikido, and other arts.

I envision each interested E-Budo member submitting a list of the 10 best books on each area they are familiar with. I believe that enough of the best books will tend to appear on many lists and then one could cull their own list from those submitted. What about it?


Tommy K. Militello

25th May 2000, 05:33
Iím sure our one or two books are acceptable as long as we promise we have read them at least half way through.


[This message has been edited by Walker (edited 05-25-2000).]

25th May 2000, 09:48
Hi Tommy,
I think that would be nice, but do you really think most of us have read ten martial art books?

Mark F. Feigenbaum

Ron Tisdale
25th May 2000, 20:44
Fighting arts of indonesia
Vols. one and
two of Japanese Martial arts
Dynamic Aikido
I forget the name of his other one
Inoue S. Dojo Cho Yoshinkan Hombu
Yoshinkan training manual
Stanley Pranin
Aikido Masters
Dave Lowry
Persimmon Wind
Diane Skoss
Sword and Spirit
Dr. Karl Friday
Legacies of the Sword

Ron Tisdale

[This message has been edited by Ron Tisdale (edited 05-25-2000).]

26th May 2000, 02:26

Thanks for taking me seriously! I really think this thread can be an asset to those looking for good reference books on technique and history. I study Korean Karate and Self-Defense so I just limited myself to the following recommendations (in no particular order!):

"Aikido Masters" Vol.I by S. Pranin (The best I've seen on Aikido History)

"Total Aikido,the Master Course" by G. Shioda (The earlier work "Dynamic Aikido" is also worthwhile, as is the "Yoshinkan Training Manual")

"Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere" by A.Westbrook and O. Ratti (If nothing else you HAVE TO LOVE the illustrations!)

"Kodokan Judo" by J. Kano (There is better, but...)

"Best Judo" by I. Inokumo and N. Sato (I find it clear and concise)

"Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People" by Corcoran and Farkas (Hey, we all have to start somewhere, and for a 1st shot, it is adequate, though one must be aware of the mistakes as one delves deeper into any aspect of martial art history!)

"Korean Karate: Free Fighting Techniques" by S. Henry Cho

"Korean Karate" and "Black Korean Karate" by Duk Sung Son

Any Book by G.Funakoshi

Any Book by Mas Oyama

Almost any Book by Donn Draeger (I have trouble with the Ninja stuff, but I still respect the memory of the man as warrior and scholar)

I especially liked "The Lives of Master Swordman" and "The Ancient Samurai" by Makoto Sugawara. But, I have no idea as to the validity of the sources and stories in both books.

I welcome, any and all comments, replies and suggestions for other books!


Tommy K. Militello

Neil Hawkins
26th May 2000, 08:27
I would add these to most of the above:

Diety and the Sword (vol 1,2 & 3); Ritsuke Otake
Japanese Swordsmanship; Dreager and Warner
This Is Kendo; (Sorry can't remember the author)
Fighting Spirit of Japan; E.J. Harrison
The Martial Spirit; Herman Kauz
The Samurai; Steven Turnbull
Kodo - Ancient Traditions; (Again can't remember the author)

I know there's some I've forgoten, must check the shelf when I get home tonight.


The one thing that must be learnt, but cannot be taught is understanding.

26th May 2000, 09:57
Ron Tisdale
Junior Member
Posts: 2
Registered: May 2000
posted 05-25-2000 03:44 PM
Fighting arts of indonesia
Vols. one and
two of Japanese Martial arts

To Ron Tisdale,

Just wondering why you didn't include Vol.3?

I know it's a bit of a rant but...

I would like to add Diane Skoss's other book,
as well as the Yagyu Shinkage-ryu heiho kadensho. There are some interesting aspects of that book that can be applied to all martial arts.



[This message has been edited by CKohalyk (edited 05-26-2000).]

Ron Tisdale
26th May 2000, 20:29
I can't remember for sure: one of the three I havent read yet....can you name the titles? Then I should know which two I've read. I obviously can't comment on the one I haven't read....
Ron Tisdale (I remembered everything else, why can't I remember those stinkin titles?)

[This message has been edited by Ron Tisdale (edited 05-26-2000).]

26th May 2000, 20:41
OK - no more cheeky posts...
I would recommend a look as M. Skossí article on what to read over at Koryu.com. I think it would be hard to do a top 10 because your area of interest may not include kyudo, or kempo, or aiki, etc..


27th May 2000, 00:31

I possess and have read a number of books. Some worth owning and some not worth the paper they're printed on.

I've studied Shotokan karate and Aikido ... so, that's probably where most of my favorite technical / general books lie (but there are a few others outside of these two areas that I love).

Anyway ... I'll probably leave out several excellent books ... forgive me ... . Here's my list (not ordered by favorites):

General Interest --
1. Koryu Bujutsu - This is the first of two books put out by Diane Skoss. I really enjoyed this (more so that Draegers books).

Historical Fiction --
2. Musashi - Eiji Yoshikawa; just a good read.

Historical Interest --
3. Heiho Kadensho - Yagyu Munenori (?); Felt like I needed to read this (same with Book of Five Rings). Not really a technical book, just an interesting book.

Karate --
4. Karatedo Kyohan - Gichin Funakoshi; Great book!

5. Karatedo Nyumon - Gichin Funakoshi;
or, Karatedo: My way of life - Gichin Funakoshi; These two books influenced me early in my MA career. Help put things into perspective when all I knew (thought I knew) about MA was from movies and legend.

6. Best Karate (series) - Masatoshi Nakayama (?); Well worth the money.

Aikido --
7. Budo - Morihei Ueshiba; Good resource. The book you hear about Saito Sensei constantly referring to (I wish I had the Japanese version).

8. The Spirit of Aikido - Kisshomaru Ueshiba; Regardless of affiliation, this is an interesting book.

9. Aikido - Kisshomaru Ueshiba; I actually like the photos and writings in the back the most.

10. Traditional Aikido (series) - Morihiro Saito; I often refer back to these books. When I bought the series, these books brought alot of perspective on Aikido to me. Made me think that Aikido truly can be a Martial Art that can work for anyone (Not just for "so and so" sensei who has practiced and taught for a zillion years in order to make what he/she does actually work - [solely my opinion ... not intent on offending anyone]). Sorry off subject ... .

11. Takemusu Aikido (series) - Morhiro Saito; Nice technical reference and ditto for 10. above.

Oops ... I went over the limit of 10. Just want to mention I also like the Gozo Shioda books: Aikido-Master course (?) and Dynamic Aikido. I always find myself referring to these at times. I find it interesting how the Gozo Shioda's kamae always looks different than the other folks in the books (especially Aikido - Master ...). Seems more natural. Off track again.

Anyway ... this is long enough!



will szlemko
27th May 2000, 09:37
Hi all,

Excellent thread. In random order. (order on my bookshelf currently)

1-budo & bujutsu series by Draeger

2-mastery by Leonard

3-Karate Do my way of life by Funakoshi

4-Kodokan Judo by Kano

5-Budo by Ueshiba

6-Unfettered mind by Soho

7-Staying supple by Jerome

8-Both books by Diane Skoss and contributers

9-Kodo by Furuya (sp)

10-Any by Lowry (Autumn lighting, Moving toward stillness, etc)

**not a reference but an excellent series with good story line and philosphy
11-Kensho series by Schmidt

Jeff Cook
28th May 2000, 06:46
I highly recommend a book by Ratti and Westbrook titled "Secrets of the Samurai." This book is totally dedicated to the history of Japanese bujitsu.

Others (I am going to try not to repeat the excellent books mentioned above, most of which I have read also):

Manual of Karate (E.J. Harrison)

Training with the Master - Lessons with Morihei Ueshiba (Stevens and Krenner): LOTS of photos and personal impressions.

Japan's Ultimate Martial Art (Darrell Max Craig)

Okinawan Karate (Mark Bishop)

Budoshoshinshu - The Warrior Primer of Daidoji Yuzan (translated by William Scott Wilson)

Secrets of Judo (can't remember the author, have loaned the book out and haven't got it back yet!)

Jeff Cook

28th May 2000, 07:23
this is just my opinion but the best MA book out there is "Kyudo" by Onuma and DeProspero. even if you have no interest in kyudo it is a great book. probably the next best thing to a sensei. its a shame other sensei couldn't produce books like this in English. other books:

"Angry White Pyjamas" by Robert Twigger all about Yoshinkan's police training

of course books like "Budo" by Ueshiba (the new Aiki News edition) and "Kodokan Judo" by Kano.

"Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Conversations" edited by Stan Pranin, is a great book for history and has good pictures.

"The Craft of the Japanese Sword" by Kapp and Yoshihara is a must for anyone who has the most remote interest in kendo and related arts.

the Draeger trilogy "Classical Bujutsu", "Classical Budo" and "Modern Bujutsu and Budo" are wonderful books.

finally any Ashida Kim book. why do you ask? because it's just to funny not to. after all, with all the budo traiing we do we should have some time to sit down and have a good laugh

Chris Covington
Daito-ryu study group
Kodokan judo

28th May 2000, 11:26
Most of these have been listed aready, but here is my list in no particular order (which will actually probably number more than ten)...

Koryu Bujutsu: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan Vol. 1- Skoss, Diane, Editor.
Koryu Books, 1997

Sword and Spirit: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan Vol. 2- Skoss, Diane, Editor.
Koryu Books, 1999

Legacies of the Sword, The Kashima-ShinRyu and Samurai Martial Culture- Friday, Karl F. with
Seki Humitake
University of Hawaii Press, 1997

Armed Martial Arts of Japan: Swordsmanship and Archery- Hurst, G. Cameron III
Yale University Press, 1998

Persimmon Wind: A Martial Artist's Journey in Japan- Lowry, Dave
Tuttle Pub., 1997

The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan. 3 volumes-
Draeger, Donn F. Weatherhill Inc.
Volume 1- Classical Bujutsu, 1973
Volume 2- Classical Budo, 1973
Volume 3- Modern Bujutsu and Budo, 1974

Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts- Draeger, Donn F. and Smith, Robert W.
Kodansha, 1969

Warriors of Japan: as Portrayed in the War Tales- Varley, Paul
University of Hawaii Press, 1994

Japanese Swordsmanship: Technique and Practice- Warner, Gordon and Draeger, Donn F.
Weartherhill Inc., 1982

Kodo, Ancient Ways: Lessons in the Spiritual Life of the Warrior/Martial Artist- Furuya, Kensho.
Ohara Pub., 1996

Autumn Lighting: The Education of an American Samurai- Lowry, Dave
Shambhala, 1985

Kyudo: The Essence and Practice of Japanese Archery- Onuma Hideharu w/ DeProspero, Dan and Jackie
Kodansha, 1993
Don't let the title fool you, anyone can learn from this great book. Probably the best martial arts book ever written.

And probably my favorite two translations of old Japanese texts would be...

Heiho Okugisho- Yamamoto Kansuke, trans. by Obata Toshishiro
Hawley Publications, 1994

The Way of the Sword: the Tengu-Geijutsu-Ron of Chozan Shissai- trans Kammer, Reinhard
Arkana, 19??

Of course there are others I'd like to include as well but...., perhaps ten is too narrow, maybe we should expand to "ten best Aikido related books" "Ten best historical overview type books", etc... and then pull a best ten overall from with in those lists...

Rennis Buchner

Ron Tisdale
30th May 2000, 20:42
Mr Buchner,
Sounds good to me....how else to get enough in. What really amazes me is that just from the responses so far, we might might ten good books in more than one or two categories. It didnt seem to always be this easy to get the names of the texts, let alone the texts themselves.
Ron Tisdale

31st May 2000, 01:46
Greetings to all on this thread,

I appreciate the effort put forth so far.

However, I am a little disappointed in that , with one or two exceptions, I either own, or have read every book mentioned so far.

I was hoping to glean more esoteric works, which may be out of print and considered benchmark classics in the various arts. Of course, my admitted preferences lie in Aikido, Judo and Korean karate (Shodokan 'lite' Tae Kwon Do).

So, please, if there are serious practioners out there 'lurking', respond with any works, in English, that can supplement what we do have so far.

I also must admit the Koryu series of books and a couple of Mr. Pranin's works should have been listed on my initial lists!

Thanks to all,

Tommy K. Militello

Gil Gillespie
31st May 2000, 07:16
You are all serious budo people & I've enjoyed many of your posts before & since TBC (The Big Crash). That said------not one mention above of Musashi's Go Rin No Sho (Book Of Five Rings) by ANYONE???? Is that because it's a given & assumed we all dig it? I hope so. . .

I heartily concur with the Draeger series, Saito Sensei's series, Japanese Swordsmanship & The Craft Of the Japanese Sword. Takuan Soho's Unfettered Mind is a tiny gem, too, as are any of Steven Turnbull's fine illustrated works on the Samurai. Others referred to these. Memorable & impressive is Daisetz Suzuki's seminal Zen and Japanese Culture, a great work, as well as Trever Leggett's Zen And The Ways.

Mitsugi Saotome's first book, Aikido And The Harmony of Nature is kept here in a constant state of rereading, along with Musashi.

Shimabukuro Sensei's Flashing Steel is a manual for MJERI swordsmanship, yet the powerful section on budo philosphy is as deep and worthwhile as any I've come across.

Gil Gillespie

31st May 2000, 23:27
Hi all,

nice list of books here... , all the Draeger's, Skoss and so... I think this is pretty good stuff... and the Go Rin no Sho, i read it about six or seven times over ...eehh... maybe 12 or 15 years or so, but i think i am stupid, i did not understand what this old man really means in his book


Ruediger Meier

[This message has been edited by Ruediger (edited 05-31-2000).]

Joseph Svinth
1st June 2000, 16:01
For some recommended reading lists, try:

Big Sky Taekwondo and Judo: http://www.bstkd.com/
Commandant of the Marine Corps: http://www.mca-marines.org/BookService/bkrdlist.html
International Hoplological Society: http://www.hoplology.com/RecReading.htm
Koryu Books: http://koryu.com/books/bookreviews.html

For a list of some of what I've read over the past decade or so that might be relevant to book searches -- it's not annotated -- try http://ejmas.com/kronos/index.html . If you're also interested in Pacific Northwest judo, drop me a line and I'll e-mail you a separate bibliography.