Blackbelt Reading List

I’ve been working on this project for over ten years. It’s not finished, but I’m sharing this work-in-progress in the hope that it will become a community project.

So, the original idea was to have a list of books that will guide the Blackbelt Candidate and help focus their mind on training. It has expanded, instead, to include books to read after achieving Blackbelt, and before we get to that level as well. I’ve added some of my favorite spiritual books if that is an aspect of your life that is lacking and you would like some direction. The spiritual books are, of course, not required.

Now, two items of full disclosure. First, I haven’t read all of these books yet. When I started this list so many years ago, I asked for suggestions from friends and students. I’ve lost some of those, but I recently came across part of the list, and I’ve added them to my to-read list. Second, I’ve linked these books either to my school store or to Amazon where you can buy them (and I receive a percentage). If you can borrow them or get them from the library, that’s very cool. If you are my student, I usually have copies to lend (except textbooks and handbooks).

Some people have recommended very good books and very good authors that I did not include on this list. The reasons are many and varied, but it boils down to my judgment. I’ve included the ones that I think will benefit my students the most.

All Martial Art Students

Kuk Sool Won Textbook – Volume One ~ In Hyuk Suh, Grandmaster

  • Absolutely essential for beginning students.

Kuk Sool Won Textbook – Volume Two ~ In Hyuk Suh, Grandmaster

  • This one can wait until Red Belt or so.

Iron Butterfly, The: Memoir of a Martial Arts Master ~ Choon-Ok Harmon

  • Yuh Kwan Jang Nim Harmon’s story of growing up in Korea, learning Kuk Sool and fighting to be able to train as an adult woman. A must-read for all students.

The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin Classics) ~ Alexandre Dumas

  • Since this was originally written in French, I’ll assume that you’ll be reading a translation. Find one that’s unabridged. It’s about betrayal, revenge, patience, and so on. Lots of life lessons and a great story.

Getting in the Gap ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

  • If you have never been able to meditate, this book is for you. Dr. Dyer uses the first line of the Lord’s Prayer from the Book of M-Matthew to teach you how to meditate. My copy came with a CD, but I think you just download the guided meditation now.

Danbo Nims (Blackbelt Candidates)

Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts (Complete Conditioning for Sports) ~ Sean Cochran

  • Just what it says: a good book about conditioning. There are others, but this is a good place to start.

The Martial Arts Book of Physics: How To Maximize Your Power, Speed and Endurance Using The Natural Laws of Motion. ~ Martina Sprague

  • This book gives you the why rather than the how. You get glimpses into the physics, geometry, and physiology behind martial movement.

The Book of Five Rings ~ Musashi Miyamoto

  • Even though this is from a Japanese tradition rather than Korean, it gives you insight into the warrior class. I’ll look for a reputable book on the Korean warrior class.

Kuk Sool Won Handbooks ~ In Hyuk Suh, Grandmaster

  • There are five in all, but number three is out of print and hard to come by. Get the others.

Dynamic Stretching and Kicking ~ Bill Wallace

  • Great guide for anyone wishing or needing to improve flexibility (I’m looking at you, adolescent males.)


5,000 Years of Korean Martial Arts: The Heritage of the Hermit Kingdom Warriors ~ R. Barry Harmon

  • Master Harmon’s lifelong study of traditional Korean martial art led to this book. Well worth the time for the serious student.

The Power Of Pressure Points ~ R. Barry Harmon

  • Although not yet available, reportedly this book will have pressure point names in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and English. It will give their use and loads of other details. I’m excited for this one!


However you interpret that word, I’m a firm believer that there is a part of us beyond the mental and physical. There is an undefinable, mysterious aspect to consciousness and intelligence, and these books have helped me shape my understanding of it.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull: The Complete Edition ~ Richard Bach

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah ~ Richard Bach

The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure ~ James Redmond

Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Book 1 ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide, Revised and Updated Edition ~ Deepak Chopra

  • This book is a short primer on Ayurveda, a system of medicine upon which Asian medicine is based. Dr. Chopra explains the science and how current research is providing insights into this ancient practice.

The Rhythm of Life ~ Matthew Kelly

  • We all need reflection time, and reading this book will give you that. It encourages you to look at your life as if from the outside.

The Hidden Messages in Water ~ Masaru Emoto, Translated by David A. Thayne

  • This one’s a little bit…out there. Give it a chance, though. Mr. Emoto did work to show that water could be affected by intention projected upon it. It will make you think about your emotions and how you might affect the world around you.

Once again, this list is a work in progress. I’ll continue to update this article until I feel confident that it is more or less final, then I’ll repost. Students might want to bookmark it.





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