Level up your game and learn about the concepts and history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with these books
When you’re not on the mat there are still many ways to improve your jiu jitsu. One way is through a good book. There are plenty of books about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu written by members of the Gracie family and other notable BJJ athletes and teachers. Some of the below books are even free!
Browse our list by category:
- General Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and/or concept-focused books
- Mindset, motivation and journey books
- Technique books
- Mental performance
- Kids BJJ books
General Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and/or concept-focused books
The Black Belt Blueprint: An Intelligent Approach to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
The Black Belt Blueprint was written by Nic Gregoriades, Roger Gracie’s first black belt and a well known BJJ teacher and podcaster. It’s a holistic guide to BJJ, and includes information on most aspects of the art including a full chapter on concepts like breath control, the use of angles and how to attack joints effectively.
There are also chapters covering techniques such as essential movements, defenses and attacks; “invisible” jiu jitsu, how to improve your jiu jitsu off the mat, and the jiu jitsu lifestyle. There’s something for everyone in this book.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Theory and Technique
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Theory and Technique was co-written by BJJ royalty, including Renzo and Royler Gracie, John Danaher and Kid Peligro. It’s an overall written guide to the art, including theory, history, BJJ’s role in MMA and the belt system. The bulk of the book is dedicated to techniques structured according to the belt system.
Mastering The 21 Immutable Principles Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: The Ultimate Handbook for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Students
Mastering The 21 Immutable Principles Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a concise guide covering the main principles of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Some principles are straight forward, like the 7 P’s of Guard Passing and energy management, and others are analogies, like the “Wet Rug” analogy, and the “Big Rock” analogy.
At just over 100 pages, this isn’t a long book. It’s a great weekend read which will teach you lessons about BJJ you’ll appreciate forever.
This free ebook is invaluable for beginners confused by the numerous positions and principles of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s basically a primer for your first months of BJJ, and includes a run-down of the six major positions in BJJ, plus a hierarchy to help you put them into perspective.
It then goes through some concepts and sample illustrations showing what a possible game strategy might look like. It finishes off with more detailed information about each of the six major positions. Overall this book is great for newbies and those looking for some clarity into the basics of BJJ.
This is another free but excellent ebook for those serious about improving their jiu jitsu. It includes tips and tricks for all aspects of BJJ, including diverse topics like guard passing, leg locks, gym etiquette, fitness and wellbeing. All tips are presented in a concise way so there’s no padding or filler.
Choque: The Untold Story of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil Volumes 1, 2 and 3
If you’re looking for an unbiased and comprehensive history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the Choque series by Roberto Pedreira is a great option. The three lengthy books cover the history of BJJ from its adaptation from judo in Brazil, to its inclusion in live fight bouts against capoeira and luta livre practitioners, and its global rise after Royce Gracie won the first UFC. It’s a deep dive into the historical side of the art, so it’s more of a resource rather than an entertaining novel.
Opening Closed-Guard: The Origins of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil
If you’re interested in finding out more about the founding myths and true history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Opening Closed Guard will be an interesting read for you. It includes research and interviews that author and BJJ legend Robert Drysdale conducted in Brazil to respectfully explore the history of jiu jitsu.
5 Rules for White Belt
This book explores five key concepts useful to those starting BJJ. It’s written by Chris Matakas, a black belt jiu jitsu instructor under Ricardo Almeida, and the author of five other books about BJJ. The book is short at just over 100 pages, and the rules include:
- Remember that you’re a work in progress
- Learn how to learn
- Jiu Jitsu is the vehicle for something more
Worth Defending: How Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Saved My Life
Richard Bresler is Rorion Gracie’s first student in the USA. His memoir talks about his time during BJJs first steps in the USA, and his experience training with Rorion and the Gracie family. It also explores the beginning of the UFC, and Bresler’s falling out with Rorion, and subsequent patching up of their relationship.
The book also highlights Bresler’s personal struggle and journey from being in a depressed rut and taking drugs to receiving his black belt and helping to create Krav Maga’s “Krav Ground” system, which is based on Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Zen Jiu Jitsu – White to Blue: From Confused White to Confident Blue Belt
The Zen Jiu Jitsu series consists of five books exploring many facets of jiu jitsu including how to train for 40 year olds, competitive psychology for BJJ and more.
The second book in the series White to Blue, is a book covering important concepts to help white belts understand the concepts that a blue belt would have after a number of years.
Some of the concepts covered include:
- Hip control
- Gradient learning
The information is designed to help white belts get to blue belt as quickly as possible, and so it covers important concepts rather than individual techniques.
The book is written by Oliver Staark, a second degree black belt under the legendary Roger Gracie.
Mindset, motivation and journey
Breathe: A Life in Flow
There are few BJJ and MMA pioneers as well known and respected as Rickson Gracie, son of Helio Gracie.
Breathe: A Life in Flow is Rickson’s memoir, covering not only his early family life and heritage but his career and life in MMA in the USA and Japan. It also covers the birth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
It includes numerous photographs of Rickson and the Gracie family, and even has a foreward written by Jocko Willink, one of the other authors featured in this article.
On Jiu Jitsu
On Jiu Jitsu is another book by blackbelt and author Chris Matakas. It explores how and why jiu jitsu improves and shapes an individual. It’s a concise read at just over 100 pages, so it’s another great book to finish over a weekend.
Jiu-Jitsu on the Brain
Jiu Jitsu on the Brain is a collection of jiu jitsu musings written by Mark “West Side”Johnson, a black belt under the legendary Pedro Sauer. The book is quite short at under 80 pages, and is broken up into five sections which signify the five stages of learning jiu jitsu. It’s irreverent, entertaining, and covers all the real, non-technique based aspects of jiu jitsu.
The topics of the musings are incredibly diverse and down-to-earth, and include farting while sparring, ringworm, gi selection, daydreaming about jiu jitsu, jiu jitsu as a mistress and much more. This is a great book to give to someone starting out in jiu jitsu.
Motivation: Stories on Life and Success from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belts
Ever wondered what drives and motivates someone to obtain a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Author, coach and former police officer Chuck Rylant did, so he interviewed 12 black belts to find out:
- What drives them
- What lessons they learned on their journey
- If their sacrifices were worth the rewards
As with many of the books on this list, it’s short at just over 100 pages but it’s a great read. It goes into the various stories, challenges and rewards associated with obtaining a black belt.
Becoming the Black Belt: A BJJ Journey by Roy Dean
Roy Dean is a well known black belt teacher in the BJJ community with a great online training platform. Becoming the Black Belt is his second book after The Martial Apprentice, and it details his journey learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The book is not only a description of Roy’s journey as a lifelong martial artist, but also describes the lessons he learned along the way.
Master Jiu-Jitsu Master Life: How To Create An Extraordinary Life Through Jiu-Jitsu
Master Jiu-Jitsu Master Life talks about the journeys of many of the big names within BJJ including Roger Gracie, Marcelo Garcia and John Danaher through the lens of self-improvement. It is broken up into 22 chapters, with each one exploring a different success principle, with examples including visualization, ego and discipline.
The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game
The Fighter’s Mind explores the mindset and mental performance of modern martial artists. The book is a collection of interviews with some great grapplers and thinkers like Ricardo Liborio, Marcelo Garcia, Josh Waitzkin, Renzo Gracie, Dan Gable and more.
While technique books are still very useful, many of BJJ’s elite athletes and instructors now publish video technique content on various websites. You can read a full comparison of these sites in our guide to online BJJ training platforms.
Jiu-Jitsu University is a comprehensive technical manual showing the key positions and techniques of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s broken up into five key sections covering survival, escapes, the guard, guard passing and submissions.
Each section has a large number of individual techniques demonstrated with numerous photos and written instructions. Jiu Jitsu University was created by the great competitor and teacher Saulo Ribeiro. It also features the well respected teacher John Danaher as a technical editor. Saulo’s online training library BJJ Library features much of the same content in video form.
Jiu-jitsu Unleashed: A Comprehensive Guide to the World’s Hottest Martial Arts Discipline by Eddie Bravo
Eddie Bravo is one of the great innovators within BJJ, famous for his 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system and techniques, and his innovation of BJJ competition rulesets. His style of no gi jiu jitsu is detailed in this book, including his “rubber guard” system. Techniques are illustrated using photos of Eddie demonstrating with famous podcaster and UFC commentator Joe Rogan.
The Essence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Rigan Machado
Rigan Machado is one of the pioneers of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and has contributed to the development and popularity of BJJ around the world. His book The Essence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a short book which starts with Rigan answering some frequently asked questions such as the difference between gi and no gi. It then goes on to show images of techniques broken up into arm locks, leg locks, chokes and no gi.
Mastering Jujitsu by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher is a comprehensive theoretical and practical guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) perspective. It starts with the history of BJJ and a short history of Japan and martial arts.
It then goes on to explain the core concepts of BJJ during the various stages of a fight including the free movement phase, the clinch, ground fighting, the bottom position and the top position. The concepts are explained and illustrated with core BJJ techniques and positions. These techniques are explained with instructions and photos.
The book also includes chapters on competition and self-defence. There’s something for everyone in this book, and if you’re looking for the reasoning behind the various aspects of BJJ you’ll enjoy this.
The Grappler’s Handbook Gi and No-Gi Techniques
The Grappler’s Handbook is a lengthy technical book by Jean Jacques Machado, a BJJ pioneer. The book mostly includes techniques with high quality photographs and instructions. It’s broken up into chapters which include:
- Attacking from the guard
- Passing the guard
- Attacks from the top
- Pulling guard
The Grappler’s Handbook Vol. 2: Tactics For Defense
Following on from the first Grappler’s Handbook, the second volume by Jean Jacques focuses on defensive techniques. It’s broken up into the following chapters:
- Fundamental concepts and movements
- Defensive concepts and principles
- Defending from the bottom
- Defending from the top
- Defending against back control
- Defending from and against the guard
Non Stop Jiu-Jitsu
Nonstop Jiu-jitsu is a competition-themed book written by Brandon Mullins, a black belt world champion, and Stephan Kesting from the popular website Grapplearts.
The book focuses on giving the reader gameplans to control opponents from open guard, sweep them, pass their guard and establish top position.
It’s organized into three main sections:
- Fundamental movements of BJJ
- Butterfly guard attacks and sequences
- De la Riva guard attacks and sequences
It’s a highly visual book with 256 full color pages showing each technique with full details. There’s also a video version of the course for those who prefer to see their techniques being played out in real time.
BJJ competitions are intense. In addition to refining your physical skills before competing, successful competitors should also refine their mental skills. The books below aren’t specifically for BJJ practitioners, but are still very useful for those looking to upgrade their mental game.
With Winning in Mind
With Winning in Mind was written by Lanny Bassham, an Olympic gold medalist sports shooter. It focuses on helping you perform under pressure through Lanny’s Mental Management system. The system is based on growing three parts of your mind: your conscious mind, your subconscious mind, and your self-image. Some of the strategies include affirmations and rehearsal (mental practice).
Sports Psychology For Dummies
Sports Psychology for Dummies is a highly actionable, clearly written book for those interested in doing their best jiu jitsu under competition pressure. It introduces sports psychology, and then focuses on the most important areas for competitors to improve. This includes mental toughness, motivation, focus, confidence, imagery, self talk and much more. You can also hear Dr Leif H. Smith, one of the authors, talking about some of the book concepts on BJJ teacher Stephen Kesting’s podcast.
10-Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins
If you’re looking for a simple way to increase your mental performance, 10-Minute Toughness is a good book to consider. It guides you through creating your own personalised mental training and performance routine which only takes a total of 10 minutes each time you train or compete.
Kids BJJ books
The Shih Tzu Who Knew Jiu-Jitsu
This is a beautifully illustrated book which tells the story of Leo, a Shih Tzu, who learns jiu jitsu in an effort to combat bullying. It not only touches on BJJ and bullying but also confidence.
Jiu Jitsu and Me
Jiu Jitsu and Me tells the story of Bobby, a boy who learns jiu jitsu after hearing stories about it from his school teacher. Like the other kids’ books on this list, it tells a story not only of jiu jitsu but also trying new things, facing fears and overcoming obstacles.
Way of the Warrior Kid: From Wimpy to Warrior the Navy SEAL Way: A Novel
Way of the Warrior Kid is a children’s book about positive transformation through hard work. It tells the story of Marc, a fifth grade student who isn’t having the best time at school because he finds some subjects difficult and is being bullied. This all changes when his Navy SEAL uncle Jake comes to visit, introducing Marc to fitness, healthy eating and jiu jitsu.
The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter is the real life story of Christian Graugart, the founder of BJJ Globetrotters, an BJJ travel community. This free ebook is Christian’s account of his journey travelling around the world and training BJJ, meeting interesting people, working through injuries and adversity, and much more.
Kodokan Judo: The Essential Guide to Judo by Its Founder Jigoro Kano
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was adapted in part from Kodokan Judo. This book is a deep dive into Kodokan Judo, including basic judo concepts, techniques, forms and health and fitness which may be of interest to some BJJ practitioners.
The books below relate to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but weren’t included in the list above either because they didn’t fit in clearly with the sections above, were too difficult to find or were prohibitively expensive at the time of writing:
- The Gracie Way: An Illustrated History of the World’s Greatest Martial Arts Family
- Marcelo Garcia Advanced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
- Gracie Submission Essentials: Grandmaster and Master Secrets of Finishing a Fight
- Gracie Jiu–Jitsu
- Drill to win by Andre Galvao
- Jiu Jitsu – Teaching Kids: Sharing the Art with the Next Generation
Did we miss a great BJJ book? Let us know below!