10 Best Karate Books You Need to Read

best karate books

Karate takes a lot of hard work, as well as a lot of practice. While that can come from physical training, reading is important as well. As much as you can learn from going to a dojo or gym, it never hurts to back up your training with some extra knowledge.

I am an athlete who has spent 6 years around karate and those who practice it. That experience, aided by ample research, allowed me to compile the items outlined in the below list.

In this guide, I will look at some of the best karate books ever written. Each one has its own merits and subjects. Looking at that, I will explain what they cover, who each is for, as well as what makes them so special compared to similar works.

Read the following sections to learn more!

10 Best Karate Books

1. Black Belt Karate: The Intensive Course

Best Karate Books | Black Belt Karate: The Intensive Course

While many popular karate books look at the discipline in a unique or roundabout way, Black Belt Karate is a much more straightforward text aimed at helping you improve. Coming straight from Hirokazu Kanazawa, the book offers an intensive training course that all students can use.

Rather than being exclusive or getting too technical, the book provides a breakdown of karate through the philosophy that anyone, regardless of age or situation, can become a master. It does that by covering three main areas: basics, forms, and sparring.

The book is extremely detailed and well-written. All of the moves are broken down through a series of photos and explanations, and each one is extremely useful. Regardless of what level you’re at, going over the book will help take your karate to the next level.

2. Karate-Do: My Way of Life

Best Karate Books | Karate-Do: My Way of Life

As popular as it is today, Karate was once an incredibly secret art. It used to be a hushed practice saved for a select few. That age of silence is expertly combined and compared to the present in Karate-Do, a breakdown of the sport’s history through the eyes of Gichin Funakoshi.

In the book, the master covers his ninety years of life and explains his time from schoolteacher to one of the most well-respected masters on Earth. Not only does he share his various techniques, he covers what exactly karate means to him on a personal and philosophical level.

This karate book is a perfect blend of both story and technical knowledge. Anyone who wants to learn more about karate and be entertained by a truly incredible story will love everything covered in its pages.

3. The Art of Hojo Undo

Best Karate Books | The Art of Hojo Undo

The Art of Hojo Undo is the best karate book for students who want something a bit less conventional. A full breakdown of supplementary training, the book covers karate techniques through a series of training tools explained by both words and detailed pictures.

The novel goes over the Hojo Undo’s history, and looks at the different ways karate came to be in the state it is today. It covers everything from warm up exercises to master techniques, and does so while managing to be both entertaining and informative at the same time.

You won’t just learn the basics in this book, you’ll learn why the basics came to be, as well as how many masters increased their skills through real world training you can apply to your own life.

4. The Shotokan Karate Bible

Best Karate Books | The Shotokan Karate Bible

Filled with extremely detailed photographs that look at both technique and kata, the Shotokan Karate Bible is an excellent source for students just starting out with karate. Not only does the book take you through step-by-step progressions, it comes with detailed instructions too.

It doesn’t get too lost in jargon, nor does it assume the reader knows too much. That approach makes it a great tool for anyone looking to get into karate without being too overwhelmed. 

Shotokan is the most popular form of karate outside of Japan, which makes this book such a great resource. If you want to better prepare for your tests and get a great base for your karate career, look no further than this best shotokan karate book.

5. Moving Zen

Best Karate Books | Moving Zen

Many people who have spent their lives studying and practicing karate will tell you that it is not just a sport, it’s a way of life. That’s certainly the case with C.W. Nicol, a citizen of Wales who left his country in 1962 to study karate across the world in Japan.

His time there, chronicled in the extensive Moving Zen, changed both his physical body as well as his entire outlook on life. He went from a novice to an expert, joining elite karate societies in the country, and learned more about himself than he ever thought possible.

The book, which many students consider to be a modern classic, covers his entire journey through the country and shows how karate can be so much more than a fun activity. It can be a starting point to higher enlightenment.

6. Parting the Clouds

Best Karate Books | Parting the Clouds

If you’re looking for some reading that’s a bit more technical, Parting the Clouds is a great breakdown of different moves. Rather than arguing over specific punches or kicks, the book utilizes sciens to show which techniques are the most effective and why.

That study will help the reader better tailor their own training regiment and provide a better focus on what they should practice. 

This is definitely a denser text than many of the other karate books on this list. However, it’s a great resource for those who are deadly serious about being the best they can possibly be. A perfect manual for anyone who wants to put in the extra work.

7. The Essential Karate Book

Best Karate Books | The Essential Karate Book

As the name suggests, The Essential Karate Book is another tome that provides a much more technical look at karate and karate instruction. More of a reference guide than anything else, the pages are aimed at beginners to intermediates who want to better improve their skills.

The book has 20 chapters that steadily cover each and every aspect of karate in fine detail. It looks at stances, strikes, blocks, kicks, and everything in between. On top of that, you’ll get great conditioning exercises, warm-up routines, as well as stretches and weapon training.

If you want to take a deep dive into the discipline, there’s no better way to go about it than with this book.

8. Karate: The Complete Kata

Best Karate Books | Karate: The Complete Kata

Karate: The Complete Kata is another great technical choice book for karate students of any level. Headed by the master Hirokazu Kanazawa, it’s an exceptionally detailed look at karate from a series of different angles. It goes over moves, techniques, warm-ups, and training regiments.

In addition, it looks at all critical kata in extreme detail and comes outfitted with thousands of photographs that help bring another level of depth to your own workouts. Anyone, from first day beginners to advanced black belts, will be able to learn from Kanazawa’s exceptional teachings.

9. Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do

Best Karate Books | Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do

Bruce Lee is perhaps the most famous martial artist of all time, which is why fans of the sport must read Jeet Kune Do. A great look into Lee’s life, the novel covers his personal martial art techniques and then shows how they can be applied to your personal training.

Lee himself developed Jeet Kune Do as a form of self defense, making it extremely practical for everyday life. The book goes over how he created it, the different disciplines that brought it to life, as well as how to practice it to the best of your abilities.

It’s filled with in-depth pictures, great descriptions, as well as progressive lessons to help you learn at your own pace. If you’re interested in the style or the strategy behind it, there’s no one better to study than the master himself.

10. The Karate Way

Best Karate Books | The Karate Way

Some people consider karate to be a hobby, but other people consider it to be much, much more. In his extensive book on Japanese martial arts, expert Dave Lowry covers it as a disciple, lifestyle, and full study on the perfection of character.

Going through a much deeper look at karate, the book breaks it down on multiple levels rather than looking at it in just one way. To do that, Lowry studies it from a cultural and philosophical standpoint in addition to a more physical one.

That combination creates an extremely compelling read that delves into many themes that go far beyond the sport. If you’re interested in both the minutia of karate, as well as the relationships it creates with others and yourself, The Karate Way is an excellent karate book to read.

Final Words

In the world of karate, it never hurts to read. While students might want to start out in a dojo or do some physical training, opening a great karate book with knowledge from a master will help bring in extra skills or regiments that might have never crossed your mind.

If you’re looking for some karate eBooks to read anywhere, anytime, check out here.

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Span Chen
Span Chen
I have been practicing karate for more than 6 years, and now at the sixth level (green belt) of the Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karatedo Kugekai. Though I haven’t earned my Black Belt yet, I am deeply passionate about my training.