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1. The Fighter’s Mind – Sam Sheridan
While many of the books on this list rightfully focus on physical techniques and conditioning for martial artists, Sam Sheridan’s book focuses solely on the mental aspect of fighting and martial arts competition. He tries to uncover what makes fighters tick and through interviews with martial arts royalty like Freddie Roach, Greg Jackson and Dan Gable to name a few, Sheridan attempts to draw a mental roadmap to success.
2. Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense – Jack Dempsey
Despite being published in 1950 by a man who reigned as Heavyweight Boxing Champ from 1914 to 1927, this book is still considered the preeminent guide to Boxing technique. Well-illustrated and thorough, Dempsey starts with the fundamentals of stance and how to throw the different punches and works up to power and combinations. This should be the first stop for a striking beginner.
3. Tao of Jeet Kune Do – Bruce Lee
In the 1970’s, while the rest of the martial arts community was focusing on belts and board breaking Bruce Lee was philosophizing on the genesis of Mixed Martial Arts while he convalesced from a back injury. The result is one of the seminal martial arts guides of all-time.
4. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Theory and Technique – Renzo Gracie
Jiu Jitsu as re-adapted by Grandmasters Helio and Carlos Gracie has proven itself on the world stage to be one of the most effective combat and self-defence systems in the world. This book, written by the grandson of Carlos Gracie shows step-by-step instructions on how to master the techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
5. The Art of War – Sun Tzu
Written over 2000 years ago as a guide to Chinese military strategy this book belongs on most any reading list but is especially valuable to combat athletes and martial artists for strategizing effective offence and defence.