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Reading Recommendations for Martial Artists

I tried to put a good mix of stuff on here. There are a few of the old classics from history to fill in some of the background mythology of Kung Fu. Then there’s Bruce Lee’s modern classic, describing his style of the Intercepting Fist.

Of course, there are also a few of the mandatory books on Buddhism and meditation. Treat these not as religious texts, but more as handbooks for happiness; how to live a fulfilled existence and stop resisting the flow of life.

Finally, I included Mark Miller’s autobiography about his struggles to overcome addiction and loss and the part that martial arts and pro fighting played in his recovery. It's a very life-affirming read.

I enjoyed each of these books immensely, and I hope that you can find something useful in them as well. Click on the book's cover to go that title's page on Amazon.

I welcome your recommendations to me as well. Send them to:


Sifu Mike

1. The Book of Five Rings

reading list

Miyamoto Musashi Japan's most famous swordsman Musashi gives timeless advice on defeating an adversary, throwing an opponent off-guard, creating confusion, and other techniques for overpowering an assailant that will resonate with both martial artists and everyone else interested in skillfully dealing with conflict.

2. Outlaws of the Marsh - Shi Nai'an

reading list

Shi Nai'an China's great classic novel Outlaws of the Marsh, written in the fourteenth century, is a fictional account of twelfth-century events during the Song Dynasty. One by one, over a hundred men and women are forced by the harsh feudal officialdom to take to the hills. They band together and defeat every attempt of the government troops to crush them.

3. Journey to the West - Wu Cheng'en

reading list

This fantasy relates the adventures of a Tang Dynasty (618-907) priest Sanzang and his three disciples, Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand, as they travel west in search of Buddhist Sutra.

4. Iron Shirt Chi Kung - Mantak Chia

reading list

Long before the advent of firearms, Iron Shirt Chi Kung, a form of Kung Fu, built powerful bodies able to withstand hand-to-hand combat. Even then, however, martial use was only one aspect of Iron Shirt Chi Kung, and today its other aspects remain vitally significant for anyone seeking better health, a sound mind, and spiritual growth. Master Mantak Chia introduces this ancient practice that strengthens the internal organs, establishes roots to the earth’s energy, and unifies physical, mental, and spiritual health.

5. The Tibetan Book of the Dead - Chogyam Trungpa

reading list

In this classic scripture of Tibetan Buddhism—traditionally read aloud to the dying to help them attain liberation—death and rebirth are seen as a process that provides an opportunity to recognize the true nature of mind.

6. Crazy Wisdom - Chogyam Trungpa

reading list

Chögyam Trungpa describes "crazy wisdom" as an innocent state of mind that has the quality of early morning—fresh, sparkling, and completely awake.

7. The Eye Never Sleeps (Striking to the Heart of Zen) - Dennis Genpo Merzel

reading list

American Zen teacher Dennis Genpo Merzel brings new life to this ancient wisdom through his commentaries on a classic Chinese Zen scripture, "Verses on Faith-Mind," by the Third Patriarch of Zen, Sosan Zenji. The author strikes to the heart of Zen with clarity and force, expressing in modern terms, to an American audience, the essential wisdom and compassion of Sosan Zenji's famous poem.

8. Awakening the Buddha Within - Lama Surya Das

reading list

The radical and compelling message of Buddhism tells us that each of us has the wisdom, awareness, love, and power of the Buddha within; yet most of us are too often like sleeping Buddhas. Lama Surya Das shows how we can awaken to who we really are in order to lead a more compassionate, enlightened, and balanced life.

9. The Tao of Jeet Kune Do - Bruce Lee

reading list

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.

10. Pain Don't Hurt - Mark Miller

reading list

The no-holds-barred memoir from the only professional fighter in history to return to the ring after open-heart surgery, kickboxer Mark “Fightshark” Miller—an inspiring story of family, determination, and redemption.

#readinglist #kungfureading #martialartsbooks

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