Recommended Karate Books

Looking  for a book about karate (particularly Shotokan) but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. The books below cover technique, history and autobiographies and all come recommended by DCU Karate Club (high praise indeed). Click on the title links to go to Amazon or other sites where the books can be purchased. Happy Reading!

  • Bushido: The Soul of Japan
    Inazo Nitobe
    From 1905, this is the first book written in English by a Japanese authority attempting to explain the concept of bushido to a western audience. Although not as well known as other texts on the subject, this book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the role of bushido in Japanese society and how it influences Japanese martial arts.
  • Dynamic Karate
    Masatoshi Nakayama
    Probably the favourite karate book of every serious Shotokan practitioner. This books contains detailed explanations and photographs of all fundamental Shotokan techniques. However the reason for its popularity is the series of action shots it contains of the pioneers of modern Shotokan in their prime. The likes of Hiroshi Shirai, Hideo Ochi, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Hidetaka Nishiyama and their peers are pictured in fantastic, moody, dynamic, black and white photos.Note this book does not cover kata.
  • Karate: The Art of Empty-hand Fighting
    Hidetaka Nishiyama / Richard C Brown
    First published in 1960, this is one of the first books written in English on Shotokan. Provides detailed explanations and photographs of all the fundamental techniques. Also covers kumite and kata (but only heian yondan). Similar to Dynamic Karate in that it contains some nice photos of the pioneers of Shotokan karate.
  • Moving Zen: Karate as a Way to Gentleness
    CW Nicol
    The memoirs of one of the first Westerners to train extensively at the JKA HQ in Tokyo examining how his training impacted on his personal development. Also interesting to see how karate was perceived and practised in the 196o’s and also to see how foreigners were were regarded in 1960’s Japan.
  • Shotokan Karate: Its History and Evolution
    Randall G Hassell
    Covers the history of Shotokan from Okinawa to Japan and its subsequent dissemination internationally, but from an American political perspective.
  • The Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho)
    Miyamoto Musashi
    The strategy and teachings of the legendary Japanese swordsman and warrior born in 1584. Interesting to see how his strategic approach can be applied to everything from business and construction to mass combat and individual combat. A Japanese equivalent of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
  • The Heart of Karate-do
    Shigeru Egami
    Covers, basic technique, kumite and kata (very briefly). The techniques demonstrated and described relate more to Shotokai than Shotokan, but it is interesting to make comparisons.
  • The History of Karate: Okinawan Goju-ryu
    Morio Higaonna
    Written by a living legend of Okinawan karate, this book covers the history and development of Goju-ryu karate on Okinawa and in Japan.
  • To-te Jitsu
    Gichin Funakoshi
    A translation of one of Funakoshi’s first books, published in 1922. Most of the book is given over to the original 15 kata of Shotokan, but basic techniques and kumite are also briefly covered. In addition, there are sections on the history, goals and development of karate. Interesting to compare the techniques and attitudes of the 1920’s with those of today.
  • Bubishi: The bible of karate
    Patrick McCarthy
    A translation and explanation of the classical Chinese martial arts manuscript known as the Bubishi. Also covers the history of karate from China, through Okinawa to Japan.
  • Karate-do: My Way of Life
    Gichin Funakoshi
    The autobiography of Gichin Funakoshi – considered to be the father of Shotokan karate. Interesting to compare his ideals with how Shotokan eventually evolved.
  • Shotokan Karate: A precise history
    Harry Cook
    Covers the history of Shotokan from Okinawa to Japan and its subsequent dissemination internationally.
  • Karate-do Kyohan: The Master Text
    Gichin Funakoshi
    Most of this book is given over to the original 15 kata of Shotokan, but basic techniques and kumite are also covered. Note however that several of the techniques demonstrated are slightly different from JKA influenced Shotokan and relate more to Shotokai karate.
  • Karate-do Nyumon: The Master Introductory Text
    Gichin Funakoshi
    Demonstrates basic techniques and basic kumite. Note however that most of the techniques demonstrated are slightly different from JKA influenced Shotokan and relate more to Shotokai karate (but it is interesting to make a comparison). Also contains historical background and anecdotes.
  • Best Karate, Vols.1-11 
    Masatoshi Nakayama
    Although originally published in the 1970’s, these books are still regarded as the standard of Shotokan technique and kata.

    • Vol 1: Comprehensive
    • Vol 2: Fundamentals
    • Vols 3-4: Kumite
    • Vol 5: Heian and Tekki kata
    • Vols 6-11: Intermediate and advanced kata.
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