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Sunday, September 7, 2014

The White Belt's Guide to Good BJJ Books

I’ve always been a believer that putting in the extra time would produce better results—in anything. So, as a newer guy, where do you even start to supplement your training with books? Yes, I said “books.” In today’s modern age, there are a wide variety of media sources to which you can get your information—things like DVDs, YouTube, and athletes own subscription-based websites are all great—and we’ll cover some of those on future posts; but books are always going to be a foundation of supplementing your training with resources outside of class. Books are also, traditionally, going to be more cost effective than some other choices, too—and considering that you might have just dropped a couple hundred bucks on your first gi and membership dues, your BJJ Budget might not be ready for an expensive set of DVDs. But a book is (usually) cheap, and not nearly as cumbersome as loading a DVD or online video.

     Now, I’m not suggesting that books are the be-all-end-all of Jiu Jitsu education; because they’re not. Nothing can replace the training from your instructor or time on the mat. But what’s difficult is that sometimes you learn something in class that plays to your game well and you might not be able to make the next class where the follow-up technique is taught. Or maybe you really want to learn more on developing a good closed guard and how to retain it, but it’s just not being taught at your academy at the moment. That’s where, and why, supplementing your training through books comes in handy.

     There’s been an explosion of books on the sport in recent years. If you were to just Google Search "Jiu Jitsu Book" you’d see there’s enough books to fill an entire bookshelf in your study. So what books are the best ones for beginners? Well, there is no official grading system; but there are some that are always in the conversation. Now, I admit: I have not read every book out there on the subject; but I have looked into the topic enough to know what books are always brought up and suggested by people way smarter than I am on the subject—and for that reason I’m suggesting these four books as starting points to supplement your training.

Recommendation 1: A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu By Stephan Kesting

I’m sure you’ve have to seen Stephan by now. His ubiquitous presence on the Internet has made him one of the main faces of the community for at least as long as I’ve been paying attention. In this FREE online PDF, Stephan gives a detailed introduction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by identifying positions, defines terms, reviews direction to take/look for from each position (hence “Roadmap”) among other things. Sincerely, a printed out version of this PDF should be handed to each new student with their white belt.

Recommendation 2: Mastering Jujitsu By Renzo Gracie and John Danaher

If you’re new to the sport you probably know who Renzo Gracie is—or at least his famous last name is recognizable enough to lend credibility. But you might not be so familiar with John Danaher. John’s a black belt under Master Renzo, and generally considered to have one of the best minds for BJJ, receiving praise from such grappling minds like Greg Jackson and Vinicius “Draculino” Magalhaes. Not good enough? Danaher is Georges St. Pierre’s submission coach. This book will go over fundamentals, principals, techniques, tactics, and strategy. Considering the source, it’s what I consider another ‘must-have’ in any BJJ library.

Recommendation 3: Jiu-Jitsu University By Saulo Ribero

Saulo recently shot back into the spotlight with his match in Metamoris 4, but before all of that, Saulo is one of the best BJJ competitors that the sport has ever seen. He’s a black belt in both BJJ and judo, a 5x Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world champion, and won the ADCC (the biggest/most important submission grappling even in the world) twice. And here, he’s also wrote one hell of a book. The book covers theory for every belt level—ascending from white belt to black belt—speaking to where your focus needs to be at that development stage. In the white belt portion, Saulo speaks to a lot of the simple techniques that often get overlooked in classes (since there’s no day/class dedicated to guys taking their first class) because they might be considered ‘too simple’ or ‘common knowledge.’ But here, Saulo focuses on teaching the white belt how to “survive,” something I find close to my heart—and I hope you do too.

Recommendation 4: The Cauliflower Chronicles: A Grappler’s Tale of Self-Discovery and Island Living By Marshal D. Carper

     This is the leisure-reading portion of this post. You can’t focus entirely on technique or you’ll go mad. In this non-fiction selection, the author breaks up with his long-term girlfriend and moves to Hilo, Hawaii to train with BJ Penn. Not sold on that yet? Consider this: Marshal’s co-authored with Marcelo Garcia, Matt Kirtley, and Neil Melanson; and The Cauliflower Chronicles is on Gracie Barra’s list of Great Books for Jiu Jitsu readerThe book follows Marshal’s exploits and misadventures on and off the mat. He talks about his struggles to overcome injury, his time going head-to-head with BJ—and various local insects—as well as his off the mat time with colorful locals. It’s a fun getaway from life while still staying in the right (BJJ) frame of mind.  

So there you have it; four really great books to get you started. Pick one--or all 4--and get crackin' on your off-the-mat Jedi Mind training. :)


  1. Thank you.

    This is really helpful for me as a beginner.

  2. You're welcome, Greg! I'm glad we could lend a hand and help.
    -jesse, WBS