Over the past 35 years, Boyd and I have collected 12 linear feet of martial arts books and videos, with authors ranging from Bruce Teigner to Mas Oyama to Gogen and Gosei Yamaguchi, and Rich Stamper. We have books on dim mak, judo, aikido, tai chi, and many karate styles. We’ve collected videos on attacks with edged weapons, self-defense and most martial arts. Over the years, we’ve read or watched all of them, but there are only a few that we refer to time and time again. Here are our favorites.
Fundamentals and Techniques, GojuRyu Specific
Barrett, Richard and Garry Lever. Essence of GojuRyu, Volumes 1 and 2. London: Lulu, 2011 and 2013. The authors structure their two books upon on the concept that “the art of GojuRyu…is based upon a set of basic truths which allow one to use their body in the most efficient manner…” In their books, they explore strength training, a detailed analysis of Sanchin kata, application of power, and generation of ki. The books are insightful and thought provoking, two of the best that were recently published.
Higaonna, Morio. Traditional Karatedo—Okinawa GojuRyu, Volumes 1-4. Tokyo: Minato Research and Publishing, 1985. These four books cover the GojuRyu system in detail. Volume 1 is about the history, terminology, junbi undo (warm-ups), and supplementary exercises using traditional Okinawan training equipment. It also introduces Sanchin kata. Volumes 2 and 3 cover the remaining kata and include comments on martial training. Volume 3 ends with Gekisaibunkai, and Volume 4 devoted entirely to bunkai. The videos support the books well. We have the original video, which is very inclusive. Later versions split the information so you need to buy more DVDs to get the whole system. All in all, Mr. Higaonna’s works supplement ShihanYamakura’s very well.
Yamakura, Motoo. Goju-Ryu Karate-Do: Fundamentals and Techniques, Volumes I and II. Lambertville, IL: Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Kyokai, 1989 and 1998. These two books cover the essence of our system, from history to philosophy to everything that should be included in training: junbi undo, standing and moving basics, kata and interaction drills. As these are our primary resources, we reread these books every few years, and each time we discover more about karate and the depth of ShihanYamakura’s knowledge. The DVDs produced by the GKK supplement the books and give excellent visual references for performing the kata.
Fundamentals and Techniques, Other Systems
Chuen, Lam Kam. Way of Energy: Mastering the Chinese Art of Internal Strength with Chi Kung Exercise. New York: Gaia, 1991.This book is a good introduction to chi kung, energy work. It includes the eight basic exercises to open energy channels, how to breathe, how to relax, developing energy flow, and specific applications of energy flow. It is well illustrated and easy to read.
Jay, Wally. Small–Circle Jujitsu. Santa Clarita, CA: Ohara, 1989. Through series of photos, Wally Jay demonstrates jujitsu controls and take-downs. Arrows on the photos indicate the direction of movement to clarify how the technique works. The book also covers weak points on the body which should be the focus of the attack, warm-ups, how to fall, and the philosophy. Because of the small-circle concept, this style of jujitsu fits well with GojuRyu for kata analysis and developing bunkai.
Yang, Jwing-Ming.Analysis of Shaolin Chin Na: Instructor’s Manual for All Martial Styles. Jamaica Plain, MA: YMAA Publication Center, 1995. Dr. Jwing-Ming has written more than 30 books on Chin Na (Seizing and Control), Taiqi (Tai Chi) and QiGong (Chi Kung). He also has a series of good videos which supplement his books. We selected this particular book because it explains how to teach the seizing and controlling techniques of joint locks, which are a part of GojuRyu kata. Each chapter of the book covers the techniques related to a portion of the body, such as finger, shoulder and leg. Each technique includes the principle, application and how to escape and counter it. The book concludes with how to use Chin Na in a fight and treating injuries. His VHS and DVD videos of Comprehensive Applications of Shaolin Chin Na, Parts 1 and 2 provide easy to follow demonstrations of the techniques.
Philosophy, Theory, and Reference
DeBecker, Gavin. Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence. New York: Dell, 1997.This book covers the both the use of intuition and a systemic way to assess threats to yourself, your family and your co-workers. It is an unsettling book to read with many accounts of actual attacks, harassment, assaults and murders. However, it does provide a logical method to deal with threats of violence, both in assessing it and defusing it. DeBecker discusses triggers, cues and why fear can be useful. The appendices are useful as is the suggested reading list.
Donohue, John, Editor. Overlook Martial Arts Reader, Volume 2. Woodstock, NY: Overlook, 2004.This second book in the series is also a collection of articles, excerpts and essays, but its sections are Pathways, Guides, and Travelers, Analysis and Inspiration. Some of the authors are more accessible than others—occasionally there is a “publish or perish” article than is more academic than essential, but many of the inclusions are insightful and well-conceived.
Frederic, Louis. Dictionary of the Martial Arts. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle, 1993. This is a comprehensive, illustrated dictionary of martial arts terms. We also use The Overlook Martial Arts Dictionary, but Frederic’s book has much more detail.
Funakoshi, Gichin. Karate-Do: My Way of Life. New York: Kodansha, 1975. This is an important book for understanding karate as self-defense and as a way to improve character. Master Funakoshi’s life is inspiring and gives insight into life in Okinawa and Japan with many stories and details of karate training.
Lovret, Fredrick. Way and the Power: Secrets of Japanese Strategy. Boulder, CO: Paladin, 1987. Mr. Lovret trains in kenjutsu and aikijutsu, both sword-based arts, but the strategies he describes can be used in any martial art and in business relationships. He covers breathing, ki, and techniques, but the bulk of the book is about power, applying strategies and the mindset necessary for victory.
Lowry, Dave. Moving Toward Stillness: Lessons in Daily Life from the Martial Ways of Japan. Boston: Tuttle, 2000. This is a compilation of essays written by Mr. Lowry about how to incorporate budo, the way of the warrior, in our daily lives. Each chapter gives us some simple, but important, aspect of the martial arts to focus on as we go through a normal day.
McCarthy, Patrick. Bubishi: The Bible of Karate. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1995.The Okinawan Bubishi is essential reading for any serious martial artist. Mr. McCarthy discusses the origins of White Crane and Okinawan te before covering Master Zeng’s quan, the principles of movement, advice for engagement, and Master Wang’s Laws of Wisdom. And this is all before page 70. After that, other sections cover Chinese medicine, vital points and fighting techniques. What makes this book especially important is that it covers how to study karate, how to take ownership for your own training.
Nelson, Randy F., Editor. Overlook Martial Arts Reader: Classic Writings on Philosophy and Technique. Woodstock, NY: Overlook, 1989. This is a collection of articles, excerpts and essays covering the histories, masters, philosophies, training and discipline of various martial arts. Each author contributes his or her insight, so it is another book that needs rereading as our understanding of the martial arts changes (and deepens, we hope). Often the excerpts prompt us to read the author’s whole work. This first volume is includes all of the seminal writers on martial arts.
Williams, Tom. Complete Illustrated Guide to Chinese Medicine: a Comprehensive System for Health and Fitness. Rockport, MA: Element, 1996. This is a great introduction to Chinese medicine, its principles, including meridians, the five elements (which relate to the martial arts), yin and yang, and qi (chi, ki). It covers the Chinese approach to diagnosing illness and the various treatments—acupuncture, acupressure, cupping, herbalism and moxibustion—used by Chinese practitioners. If ShihanYamakura tells you about hollow and solid organs, yin and yang, and the 12 meridians, this book will help you understand what he is talking about.