In other words, I've been reading. No, you can't learn martial arts from a book, but that doesn't mean books can't help a martial artist (especially an injured one) develop. Here are some of my five favorite martial arts books:
- The Book of Martial Power, by Steven Pearlman
- Living the Martial Way, by Forrest E. Morgan
- Anything by Dave Lowry
- Understand, Good, Play, by Masaaki Hatsumi
- The Secrets of Judo, by Jiichi Watanabe and Lindy Avakian
You'll notice that only one of these a Bujinkan book, and more importantly none of them are catalogs of technique.
You might also note that none of the typical philosophical texts are mentioned: The Art of War, The Book of Five Rings, Hagajure, The Unfettered Mind... I've read those too. Obviously those have their place too. Generations have read them. I can't claim to fully understand the traditional philosophical texts. Even so, I think the Hagakure is over-rated and often misunderstood. The Unfettered Mind is more about Zen than martial arts. The Book of Five Rings is good; but it must be read and re-read, and then the reader needs to find ways to experience what Musashi described. It's a workbook. By the way, the book may be fine, but it is likely that Musashi is over-rated and misunderstood (at least in the West). Among these usual suspects, The Art of War is the most clear and concise. Again, though, be prepared to revisit this again and again.
There are a number of other traditional texts worth looking at, for example: The 36 Strategies, The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts, The Life-Giving Sword, The Bubushi... But these were are not to be read without some grounding in the history and culture of Japan, in addition to some extensive training in Budo.