Since I originally compiled this list, I’ve added and removed a few titles. I’ve been doing a lot more training than reading lately (writing too, for that matter), but I wanted to included a quick list of additional books I recommend for Taido students. I do plan to write proper mini-reviews for each of these in the future, but there are no guarantees on when that might happen. Anyway, here’s the list:
- Zen Body Being – Peter Ralston
- Advanced Karate-Do – Elmar Schmeisser
- 10-Minute Toughness – Jason Selk
- The Art of Learning – Josh Waitzkin
Reading is Fundamental
What follows is a necessarily incomplete list of things you should read as a part of your martial arts training. Most of them are pretty fun, too. Just remember that there is an academic portion to any quality training system. It’s your job to decide how much to trust any sources you happen to consult. This includes your instructors.
Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation: Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization– Falconar
I recommend this book in order to save you the pain of reading Count Alfred Korzybski’s Science and Sanity. S+S is an incredibly important work that Korzybski wrote after studying the thinking of Albert Einstein, and it draws out a theory of language use that may allow us to perceive a less abstracted picture of reality. Falconar makes Korzybski’s General Semantics accessible by providing examples of how people routinely confuse the map for the territory and some practices we can try to break our enslavement by the language in which we organize our thoughts. Most people will think this has nothing to do with Taido. Most people are usually wrong.
A classic with which many of you are likely familiar. Stylistically dated, but it has interesting content. This book does to simple geometry what Taido does to karate. Avoid the social commentary (unless you’re into that sort of thing) and focus on the various perspectives on reality. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, 50 ways to leave your lover, and at least three dimensions in which Taido’s technique can be applied.
The Art of War– Sun Tzu
Learn how to talk like a fortune cookie and understand the nuances of relationships. When you think about it, war really is all about understanding and responding to your opponent – just like any great relationship of any other kind. Herein lies the origin of the idea that “all’s fair in war” (the part about love was added later). Perhaps the greatest benefit of reading this book enough times to understand it is the ability to create analogies for almost any circumstance.
The Book of Five Rings– Miyamoto
Like Art of War, a classic of strategy, but with greater emphasis on personal combat. Musashi was not a noble man – he was a mercenary and a murderer, but he was lucky enough to live through a great many life-or-death experiences. This book gives us the benefit of his experience without having to kill anyone or face threat of being killed ourselves. This is a good thing. Sometimes Musashi wants us to take his words literally; sometimes he does not, so reading this book requires more attention than the language seems to demand. Once you get a feel for it, its not too hard though.
Tao of Jeet Kune Do– Lee
Great book. Here’s the problem: because Bruce had a hyped-up image, people think this is some kind of martial arts bible. They are wrong. There is no hidden wisdom in these pages, but this is OK since there is plenty of wisdom written in plain language on each page. Bruce gives us some great ideas about training and a good breakdown of the anatomy of a fight, but don’t try to read too much into what you see here. Bruce was no prophet (Lee, that is – Springsteen is a totally different story…). He was a training maniac and a very good fighter. Take this book for what it’s worth and you’ll learn a lot.
Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere: An Illustrated Introduction– Westbrook, Ratti
Definitely among the best-illustrated martial arts books of all time and a real classic. The authors have clearly outlined the theory and general practice of Aikido in a convincing manner. While Taido includes many of these concepts, we can benefit by looking at them in a different light form time to time. Aikido is good light, and this book offers an easily digestible take on the way it works.
Quantum Consciousness– Wolynski
One of the best books on meditative technique. Wolynski’s methods are easy to get started with right away. They start simply and build incrementally so that everyone can easily get the hang of the exercises. Wolynski’s tone is patient and helpful as well as new-age-crapolla-free.
Ken Wilber is everything I wish I were. He’s smarter and probably a lot more fun to hang out with. He meditates several hours a day and is one of America’s most influential philosophers. In this book, he outlines his integral vision – a vision I believe can be applied to Taido practice in ways that will benefit us all. While not as in-depth as his massive Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality, a Theory of Everything tells you all you need to know to start improving your life now and how this is important for the future of society. Very highly recommended.
These are books every martial artist should read. Learn about fear-reactivity and how it limits your performance. Learn how to reclaim your flow. Learn a systematic methodology for breaking complex movements down into their component parts for practice. Learn how to structure training for maximal effectiveness. There is enough insight in these two thin books to warrant several readings. The body of work which composes the RMAX curriculum can improve your performance in any sport, and these two volumes are the best place to start exploring the system.
This is the stretching theory bible. The tiny photos don’t really show much, but that’s not why you should read this book. You should read this book for the dense info on how to structure a workout and stretch properly. Granted a lot of this is covered in Appleton’s stretching guide and on Kurz’s own web site, but this little book has everything you need in one place. This is information with which every martial arts instructor should have more than a passing acquaintance.