The Best Books On Zen And Martial Arts

The Books I Picked & Why

When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts

By Jeffrey K. Mann

When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts

Why this book?

Geoffrey Mann does a great job of laying out the history of Buddhism and Zen and its links to the martial arts. Thoroughly researched and widely referenced, it’s definitely the place to start, and the hardback edition makes a handsome addition to any martial arts library.


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The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

By Red Pine, Bodhidharma

The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

Why this book?

A succinct insight into the Bodhidharma legend and some of the sutras he may have written or taught. Nothing much about martial arts, but a good insight into the man, and more importantly the thinking behind the study of the Way.


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Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware Right Now, Every Day

By Steve Hagen

Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware Right Now, Every Day

Why this book?

A great place to start to understand Zen. This book has been around for some time but on rereading it recently, I was struck again by how good it is. The essence of Buddhism is simplicity itself but all too often, books on Buddhism can be anything but. Steve Hagen writes succinctly with great verve and manages to make things really clear.


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The Hardest Path: A Journey Outside to Answer the Questions Within

By Matt Jardine

The Hardest Path: A Journey Outside to Answer the Questions Within

Why this book?

Matt offers deeply personal insights into Buddhism, Eastern and Western philosophy, and life, inspired by his pilgrimage around the 88 temples of Shikoku, Japan.

The Hardest Path is a small book that punches well above its weight. It’s not really a travel guide for this famous pilgrimage but rather a series of insights derived from the author’s arduous journey. Matt is a talented writer and a well-read scholar and he delivers snippets of wisdom and astute observation at every turn.


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Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality

By Brad Warner

Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality

Why this book?

Brad Warner is an interesting character, an American Zen master who’s also a punk guitarist and Godzilla fan. Brad studied with Gudo Nishijima Roshi for many years and received Dharma transmission from him. His books are written in a very accessible way that doesn’t take Zen too seriously and get their meaning across all the better for it. Below are the three books I’ve read – I imagine the rest are equally good:


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