In the digital world we live in today, books may no longer be the main outlet from which you get knowledge next to learning from an actual instructor, but they are still extremely valuable. The brain processes information differently when reading, and the act gives you time to reflect and reread the essential bits.
In addition, books are a great way to learn and expand your overall jiu-jitsu knowledge and mindset when you are not on the mats or even away from your computer.
But this is not an article about how great it is to read books. I know you already agree, so instead, I will list some of the best BJJ books worth your precious time.
It's important to note there are different genres of BJJ books, and each has value. Some are history books; others deal with principles; others with mindset and motivation; and others detail techniques.
This is why I will split the books into categories so you can choose a book from an area you are currently interested in or, better yet, from all of them.
Best Conceptual BJJ Book
Best Mindset BJJ Book
Best Technique BJJ Book
Best Conceptual BJJ Books
Jiu-jitsu is extremely information-dense, and it can quickly become overwhelming to beginners and even more advanced practitioners.
Recently, I have noticed a significant surge in a conceptual approach to learning, which involves not necessarily learning thousands of techniques in detail but understanding and applying broad concepts and principles.
I firmly believe this is the better way to learn BJJ, so conceptual books are my favorite for learning purposes. I will list a few books, starting with the best in my opinion.
The short read by Ryan Villalobos aims to solve the problem mentioned above- being overwhelmed by information and not retaining the countless details you are shown. The book details the main physical and mental principles you should focus on at each level.
This approach will make progress much faster and will help you discover your own game and style. The book is short, but the information is well structured and will help you immensely throughout your journey. Make sure to reread the book and revisit the sections you need often.
The Complete Guide for Jiu-Jitsu Principles and Concepts
Nic Gregoriades, who is Roger Gracie's first black belt and a well-known BJJ instructor, is the author of The Black Belt Blueprint. The book is a comprehensive guide to BJJ covering most aspects of the art, including chapters on concepts like breath control, angles, and how to do joint locks effectively.
It deals with concepts and provides an excellent structure you can follow to progress consistently regardless of where you train. It also helps you improve your jiu-jitsu off the mats by discovering a complete jiu-jitsu lifestyle. This book has something for everyone.
The Black Belt Blueprint: An Intelligent Approach to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Zen jiu-jitsu is not a single book but a series aimed at different skill levels. Each book encompasses the concepts and principles you will need at the targeted level and deals with little technique, as is the theme in all the books from this category.
Zen Jiu Jitsu
Mindset and Motivation Books
I have always been enthralled with the psychological side of martial arts almost as much as the practical. It's no coincidence so many elite fighters from all styles say a fight is more mental than physical. Traditional martial arts are always complete systems for character development and not simply fighting.
In my opinion, a book is the best outlet to learn because it allows you to contemplate the concepts for as long as you like, take notes, highlight, and return to the things you find the most compelling.
Blackbelt and popular jiu-jitsu author Chris Matakas has a few great books, but my favorite is On Jiu-Jitsu. It is a short read at around 100 pages, but every line contains wisdom, and you can spend significantly more time on the book if you read it as intended.
The topics include using your BJJ training to enhance your life by developing virtues, removing vices, achieving your potential, and developing your character.
On Jiu Jitsu
Rickson Gracie is one of the most mythical figures in jiu-jitsu, and his book is among the most popular BJJ-related books. This is not because the marketing team behind it is good, but because the book is a must-read for anyone into fighting.
The tome is a memoir of Rickson’s incredible life and battles, but also a great motivational piece and a look inside the mind of one of the greatest fighters. The book contains a treasure trove of details each of us can use.
Breathe: A Life in Flow
The book contains interviews and insights from legends in the combat sports world, like trainers Freddie Roach and Greg Jackson, and champion fighters like Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock, Marcelo Garcia, and many others.
This book will be invaluable if you want to know how elite fighters keep their composure, adapt, and project strength when weak.
The Fighter's Mind: Inside the Mental Game
Jiu-Jitsu on the brain is the shortest read at 74 digital pages, but each one is worth it. The book is basically the musings of the author, Mark Johnson, broken down into sections covering all non-technical aspects of jiu-jitsu.
When you look at the contents and see section titles like "Jiu-Jitsu as Mistress" and "If the Bone is Poking Through the Skin, it's Broken," you know you are in for a treat and something different than the rest of the books. But on top of the humor, you will get some unique and invaluable insights.
Jiu-Jitsu on the Brain
Jiu-jitsu competitions are intense and nerve-racking, and mental preparations are as necessary as physical ones. The other books will give you insights from great fighters, but if you need a structured practical routine you can implement today, the 10-minute toughness is excellent.
I can vouch from experience that the method is easy to use and brings almost immediate results once you start using it as prescribed in the book.
Books detailing techniques are outdated in the days of countless instructional and YouTube videos. Still, it doesn't mean they are useless, so here are some great resources diving into the infinite well of BJJ techniques.
The most popular BJJ technique book is Saulo Ribeiro's Jiu-Jitsu University. This textbook has been instrumental in developing many people making instructional videos while they were fresh white and blue belts today.
The book is a comprehensive manual of over 200 techniques and positions, each with detailed photos and written instructions.
Even today, when you can access all of the information in video format, reading the instructions and looking at the pictures still have value.
Eddie Bravo's Jiu-Jitsu Unleashed is another relatively dated book that holds value to this day. This one deals with no-gi jiu-jitsu in the unique style of Bravo's 10th Planet jiu-jitsu and will be a great addition to the library of every BJJ enthusiast, especially those who love a more fighting outlook on jiu-jitsu.
Techniques are illustrated using photos of Eddie demonstrating with famous podcaster and UFC commentator Joe Rogan, which is an excellent little detail for UFC fans.
History BJJ Books
Just like history in general, BJJ's evolution is shrouded in myths, half-truths, and exaggerations, and it's hard to know what exactly happened even though many of the events were fairly recent.
Robert Drysdale, who authored this book, embarked on a journey to uncover the truth about BJJ's history, mainly about the Gracie family.
The book is separated into 4 distinct ears, covering everything from the first days of the art to the present day and detailing many previously unknown facts. It also highlights some not-so-popular figures from the Gracie clan, who were influential nonetheless.
The Rise and Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Choque is a dense 3 tome history of Brazilian jiu-jitsu written by Roberto Pedreira. The series is the most comprehensive and detailed history of the sport.
If you truly want all the details, including fighters, their records, fights, and academies, Pedreira's series will satisfy even the most demanding BJJ nerds and historians.
Choque: The Untold Story of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil
Kids BJJ Books
It's often a great idea to start in jiu-jitsu as early as possible, but this can also be a challenge as kids learn differently than adults. Stories have always been fundamental in teaching children valuable lessons and values, and luckily, there are great BJJ stories geared toward the young ones.
The former Navy Seal and influential motivational figure in jiu-jitsu, Jocko Willink, wrote the book. The story is about a wimpy kid who is terrible at school and sports and is being bullied but turns his life around after being introduced to fitness, healthy eating, and jiu-jitsu.
The stories have strong moral values, and the book is presented with a lot of artwork and written in a great way for kids to enjoy. This isn't a single book but a complete 4 part series.
Way of the Warrior Kid
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Leo, a Shih Tzu breed dog, who learns jiu-jitsu. As expected, the book touches on dealing with bullies through BJJ and building self-confidence.
The Shih Tzu Who Knew Jiu-Jitsu
The ABCs of Jiu-jitsu is designed as a comic book and goes through the fundamentals of BJJ. Adults will also enjoy this, unlike the previous two books, thanks to the dynamic and beautiful artwork and overall presentation.
I love combining technical and conceptual jiu-jitsu knowledge with martial arts values in a format easily enjoyed by kids and adults.
The ABCs of Jiu-Jitsu
I am a big proponent of having a BJJ journal because I use one and have found it immensely helpful.
Jiu-Jitsu Training Diary
Jiu-Jitsu Training Journal: A Study Guide With Prompts And Fields For Notes
There are far more exciting and valuable BJJ books out there, but the ones on the list should be more than enough to keep you occupied for a significant amount of time.
Each book has value, and you can benefit immensely on and off the mats by discovering and implementing the wisdom and knowledge found in books.