best BJJ Books

Unlocking the Gentle Art: The Ultimate Guide to the Best BJJ Books

Thinking of picking up a BJJ book to expand your grappling horizons and learning more about, well, all aspects of Jiu-Jitsu? 

Well, you’ve come to the right place, as we have every title out there to help you become even more of a BJJ nerd. While we get it that book selection, much like music, comes down to personal preference and taste. 

Certain types of books deserve to be called the best BJJ books for more than one reason. 

Read on to discover what those reasons are!  

At a Glance

Best BJJ Books

Mastering Jiu-Jitsu by Renzo Gracie, John Danaher, and Carlos Gracie Jr.

best bjj book

  • Year: 2003
  • Length: 248 pages
  • Available Formats: Paperback, Kindle
  • Our Score: 10/10

This book is the ultimate collaboration of authors you couldn’t put together in one place anymore, even if you tried. Come to think of it, this would be an awesome seminar! Anyway, the people behind the book are Renzo Gracie, his legendary uncle Carlos Gracie Jr, and the one and only John Danaher, a Renzo black belt and arguably, the greatest mind in BJJ. 

This is a book for everyone involved in grappling martial arts and/or combat sports. Even if you’re not interested in the contents I’d go as far as calling it a collector’s item. The book starts with the history and roots of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, covered in most part by Carlso Gracie Jr. 

John Danaher then takes care of the mechanical principles behind the execution of some of the most recognizable and efficient Jiu-Jitsu concepts in his recognizable style, dividing them into clinching, top, and bottom before Renzo Gracie piles in, introducing a self-defense aspect to the mix. Both of these great minds also provide several chapters on competition 

All in all, nothing but good things to say about this book, and that is coming from someone who all but despises BJJ books that cover techniques.    

Zen Jiu-Jitsu – White To Blue by Oliver Staark

best BJJ book

  • Year: 2013
  • Length: 118 pages
  • Available Formats: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook
  • Our Score: 10/10

Staark is not the most recognizable name in the world of BJJ, but that does not mean the man’s thoughts do not hold merit. On the contrary, his “Zen Jiu-Jitsu” book is a perfect example of the depth of knowledge this 2nd-degree Roger Gracie black belt has about the Gentle Art.  

Staark has books covering every part of the journey through BJJ belts, but this one is by far his most important one, covering the crucial transition from white to blue belt.  Personally, I enjoyed it as a brown belt, when I discovered it, but I particularly loved that it is full of concepts and ways to make people think and understand rather than a mindless collection of moves. 

The book follows a Q&A format, with Staark answering all the most common white belt questions a student can think of, and several not many have thought of. From choosing a school to understanding true core concepts that help beginners make sense of Jiu-Jitsu, from self-defense to directions on how to drill, this book really is a white belt’s best friend. 

The Black Belt Blueprint: An Intelligent Approach to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Nick Gregorriades

best bjj book

  • Year: 2015
  • Length: 176 pages
  • Available Formats: Paperback, Kindle
  • Our Score: 10/10

Nic Gregoriades, just like Oliver Staark, is another Roger Gracie black belt, but unlike his brother-in-grappling (and penmanship) he is far better known in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The co-founder of “Jiu-JItsu Brotherhood”, is well known as a conceptual grappler, who loves a scientific approach to BJJ.   

Since I share a passion for a fundamental understanding of the sport we love, I value Gregoriades highly and consider this to be one of the best BJJ books of all time. Nic does go over the mechanical and technical aspects of BJJ you would expect to feature in a book like this, including positional control, submission mechanics, directions on transitioning, etc. 

He goes above and beyond though, in terms of trying to deconstruct and explain rolling to people through dedicated chapters on breathwork and the evasive “Invisible Jiu-Jitsu” that Rikson Gracie preaches, but never really explains. Well, Nic does it for him, and quite well, I might add.   

The only thing I don’t like is the belt-chasing-esque suggestive title, but I can understand the need for marketing. 

Gracie Submission Essentials: Grandmaster and Master Secrets Of Finishing A Fight by Helio Gracie and Royler Gracie

  • Year: 2007 
  • Length: 278 pages
  • Available Formats: Paperback
  • Our Score: 8/10

Helio Gracie is yet another ‘author” that needs no real introduction.

While Helio was an innovator and the creative force behind the formation of BJJ as we know it today (well, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, to be more precise), he was not nearly as good at writing. This book, however, is worth the time, especially with his son’s Royler input as a co-author.    

To begin with, I like the “Grandmaster and Master” title, as corny as it may come across to some. I also appreciate the straightforwardness of this BJJ book – it says it is about submissions and it is, no unnecessary parts bout the way the Gracies lived in Brazil or similar nonsense. 

Helio and Royler, both arguably the most famous submission artists of the legendary family (along with Rickson, of course), share lots of interesting tips and tricks on finishing and getting to some of the most fundamental BJJ submissions, along the lines of triangle chokes, armbars, Kimuras, collar chokes, etc.

I read it as a black belt, and it really helped me out with details on everything, especially triangles.

Top Game: Domination in the World of Jiu-Jitsu by Gordon Ryan

best bjj book

  • Year: 2022
  • Length: 150 pages
  • Available Formats: Softcover, Hardcover
  • Our Score: 3/10

Okay, enough with top-scoring books, it is time to break the cycle here. Gordon Ryan needs no introduction, but his book certainly does, as not many people are aware he has one. That is a great indicator of whether or not it is a good one. While Gordon’s video instructionals are pretty solid, albeit chaotic order-wise, his book, sadly, comes nowhere near. 

Ryan’s book, much like his instructions, is very sporadic, with no real cohesion to the information inside. There is a ton of motivational speech-type stuff in there, almost none of which is original or holds any real value. Ryan even makes attempts at explaining how to build a brand and give some financial advice on passive and active income, all of which land very wide off the mark. 

BJJ-wise, which is not even a third of the book, he shares some thoughts on his early days, his inspiration in BJJ from Royce Gracie, a few stories about him and Tonon in the early days of the  DDS, and his experience in daycare where his UFC-addicted teacher organized matches for the kids.  

A positive note in the book is his approach to failures, mostly through his insane work rate, as well as the story of his first major victory at EBI. He also touches on his 2017 ADCC performance which saw him win the heavyweight division, but does not share anything that we already do not know. 

This book is about as valuable in terms of information as Ryan’s very first instructional, the one where he showed how to become huge like him by lifting weights. 

The only reason I put this book on this list is that, given Ryan’s No-GI GOAT status, it may turn out to be a collector’s item down the road, as I don’t see anyone printing it ever again.  

Jiu-JItsu Unleashed: A Comprehensive Guide To The World’s Hottest Martial Arts Discipline by Eddie Bravo 

best BJJ book

  • Year: 2005
  • Length: 208 pages
  • Available Formats: Paperback, Kindle
  • Our Score: 9/10

Where do I start with Eddi Bravo? 

Introducing him requires a book on its own but for now. Let’s just call him the first man who challenged ideas set in stone by the Gracies, and took Jiu-Jitsu in a more creative direction via his now legendary 10th PLanet Jiu-Jitsu Academy.  

I read this book as a purple belt when I was really getting into 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu techniques and concepts, but then I re-read it just a few months ago. Still as good, and opened my eyes up to new details I missed the first time. 

Eddie wrote the book almost 20 years ago after he had already established his No-Gi system. In it, he goes over his historic victory over Royler Gracie, and a bunch of other BJJ-related and unrelated stories that only Eddie Bravo can tell. 

There is a technical portion of this book, covering everything from grappling to self-defense which includes striking. Given that Eddie was trying to popularize his system as the best Jiu-Jitsu system for MMA, this is understandable, but I tend to frown upon technical instructions of BJJ moves in books. 

The chapters covering his approach to training, understanding BJJ, strategy, and building the 10th Planet Empire, on the other hand, are incredible and worth reading over and over again.

Jiu-Jitsu On The Brain by Mark Johnson

best bjj book

  • Year: 2012
  • Length: 74
  • Available Formats: Kindle
  • Our Score: 10/10

Mark “West Side” Johnson is a BJJ black belt under Pedro Sauer, based out of Northern California, where he heads the West Side Jiu-Jitsu Academy. He is also an English teacher, which makes him probably the best-credentialed author on our list today.  

His book is slightly different from most other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu books. What gives it a firm standing among the best BJJ books in the world is that it covers no technical advice whatsoever. Instead, it’s a book on what Jiu-Jitsu can do for your everyday life. 

Johnson, in a very eloquent manner, covers Jiu-Jitsu in five learning stages, which is exactly how the book is written in terms of chapters and sections.

The subjects Mark covers include patience when rolling, not looking for shortcuts, picking out Gis, the overall Jiu-Jitsu culture and lifestyle, and even fun stuff, like farting in class. 

Jiu-JItsu University by Saulo Ribeiro

best BJJ book

  • Year: 2008
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Available Formats: Paperback, Spiral-bound, Kindle
  • Our Score: 8/10

If there was ever something that we could call a classic in terms of BJJ books, it would have to be this one. As much as I don’t like technical books, there is no way I could recommend the best books on Jiu-Jitsu without mentioning Saulo Ribeiro’s masterpiece. 

Sauolo is the older half of one of the most popular brother duos in Jiu-Jitsu, is one of the most likable and knowledgable coaches, as well as one of the most decorated and legendary competitors in Jiu-Jitsu. 

Saulo’s book is a technical one, outlining details on doing more than 200 different BJJ techniques. The Ribeiros have their own take on some BJJ aspects, much like Eddie Bravo, but with the Gi, so there is a lot to learn from their specific approach. 

Something that makes this book stand out are the sections covering common errors people make in terms of some BJJ moves, and how to correct them once and for all. This alone makes the book worth acquiring.

The Gracie Way: An Illustrated History Of The World’s Greatest Martial Arts Family by Kid Peligro

best BJJ book

  • Year: 2003
  • Length: 228  pages
  • Available Formats: Paperback
  • Our Score: 9/10

Kid Peligro did what some Gracies tried to do with their own books, but failed – he managed to capture the grappling magic and character of the Gracie family by compiling some of the most entertaining and unique stories tied to the family.  

Peligro is a BJJ black belt and was one of the first people to blog on the subject of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His real name is Geraldo Costa, and he was promoted to black belt by Royler Gracie and had very close ties to the legendary martial arts family. 

The book tells the stories of Helio Gracie, from his frail boyhood days to his prowess as one of the most feared no-holds-barred competitors of his time. Peligro also covers Rickson and his legendary brawls and Gracie garage stories, as well as the legendary role of Royce Gracie in the creation of the UFC, MMA, and the popularization of the Gentle Art around the world.   

Kid’s perspective is an inside one, telling the Gracie BJJ story from the inside, through the lives and everyday struggles of the Gracies in Brazil, to their femdom after they successfully moved Jiu-Jitsu to the US.

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Globetrotter: The True Story About A Frantic, 140-Day Long, Around-The-World Trip To Train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Christian Graugart  

  • Year: 2012
  • Length: 538 pages
  • Available Formats: Paperback, Kindle
  • Our Score: 10/10

One of the best BJJ books ever, which actually has no techniques covered in it whatsoever.

Having had the pleasure of not only reading the book (multiple times) but also meeting, hanging out with, and learning from Christian Graugart on many occasions, I can understand the draw of the book for people – he is a unique character. 

This book outlines a very brave and unusual trip around the world. Graugart decided to do a 6-month-long round-the-world trip with the focus of teaching and training BJJ at every stop along the way.  Interestingly enough, he skipped very popular tourist destinations and picked less frequented countries and academies to teach at for a place to sleep and some food. 

The incredible story of discovering the world, BJJ, and himself is masterfully put together, making this one of those books you can’t put down. Seriously, I almost missed my flight back home, from a BJJ Globetrotters camp actually, because I got too drawn to it during an airport transfer. 

In it, Christian also explains how he came up with the idea and name for the BJJ Globetrotters camp franchise which is without a doubt, the best in putting together crazy Jiu-Jitsu camps around the world.

Breathe: A Life In Flow by Rickon Gracie

  • Year: 2021
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Available Formats: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook, Audio CD.
  • Our Score: 9/10

Rickson’s latest book became a must-read almost as soon as he published it.

He has always been a mysterious person, with little known about him apart from his legendary competitive record, his fascination with breathing and flexibility, and the fact he had some crazy experiences with BJJ-related brawls in both Brazil and the USA. 

If you’re hoping for more info on the brawls, this is not the book to get. For now, you’ll have to stick to the info in Kid Peligro’s book, and the odd anecdote on the Joe Rogan Podcast. What Breathe: A Life In Flow brings to the table is the real story of Rickson, from his own perspective. 

This is essentially a memoir, with Rickson covering his entire life from his earliest childhood memories, to his modern-day red belt status. 

He covers an inside story of how Jiu-Jitsu was developed by Helio and Carlos Gracie, as well as his upbringing, the way he trained, and how he became obsessed with breathing and stretching, using these tools to obtain his unbeaten competitive record.

Advanced Jiu-Jitsu by Marcelo Garcia

  • Year: 2011
  • Length: 320
  • Available Formats: Paperback
  • Our Score: 9/10

A fitting way to wrap up our quest for the best Jiu-Jitsu book is with Marcelo Garcia’s “Advanced Jiu-Jitsu”. Simple title, and a simple cover design, but a real goldmine of grappling secrets inside, even though most of it is technical. 

Marcelo is another BJJ personality that needs no real introduction, as he was the NO-Gi GOAT before Ryan, and would’ve probably been Gorodn’s sternest test if they were to meet in their prime. 

Marcelo’s impact on Jiu-Jitsu is undeniable, with his innovative approach resulting in huge leaps in the areas of X guards, guillotine chokes, back control, and wrestling. In fact, I think he was the first to successfully integrate wrestling into BJJ, so much so, that he won ADCC 4 times, three of which in a row. 

The book covers Marcelo’s approach to applying specific techniques backed by more than 2,000 illustrations that provide very detailed step-by-step instructions. Marcelo does not cover everything BJ has to offer, but rather focuses on what he does best, and his unique ways of setting it all up.   

If there was ever one technical BJ book that you could use to effectively learn some Jiu-Jitsu from, this is it.

Types of BJJ Books

I am fully aware that what I consider to be the best book on BJJ, is not going to be perceived as the best by someone else. Much like the taste for food or music, the taste for books is something that can’t truly be discussed in terms of categorization and gradation.

We can, however, try to categorize most BJJ books in several different categories which might make it easier to pick where you want to begin your journey into the rabbit hole of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu literature:

  • Instructional books are the ones that cover techniques and BJJ moves only, with little info outside of that. They were the only source of instructions before video instructionals came along. 
  • Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle books, like Graugart’s “BJJ Globetrotter” and Johnson’s “Jiu-Jitsu On the Brain” offer something else, a unique perspective on how BJJ influences people’s lives outside the mats, portrayed through experiences.  
  • BJJ mindset books are the ones that try to provide a roadmap to understand Jiu-Jitsu, but also your role in it, and how to progress effectively without letting ego, worries, and comparison to others get in your way. Gregoriades’ and Staark’s books are great examples. 
  • Biographical BJJ books are the ones covering the lives and deeds of specific grapplers. They might be self-written, like Rickson’s and Ryan’s, or done by others like Peligro’s book on the Gracie clan. 

While most books mix up some or all of these aspects, they still tend to prefer one of them as their major direction of storytelling, which is how we came up with this categorization system. 

BJJ Books FAQs

Does reading BJJ books help? 

Yes, reading books can help you in many ways, but it will be least helpful in the way most people ask this question and that is in terms of picking up techniques or getting better in rolling. Nothing beats training on the mats. 

Can you learn Jiu-Jitsu from books only?

No, there is no way to learn BJJ only from books, or videos for that matter, even if you have a partner. You need a gym with experienced coaches, regular training, and many training partners to roll with. 

Is reading or listening to BJJ books better?

That is completely down to personal choice, as is the selection of a physical copy or an E-book. 

What BJJ book should I get first? 

I would begin with Kid Peligro’s book on the Gracie family, as it is always good to start at the beginning when you’re trying to understand something, However, this too is mostly a personal choice, and you won’t go wrong with either of the recommendations above. 

How Else Can I Learn BJJ on My Own?

While BJJ is definitely a sport that requires at least one other training partner for maximum effectiveness, there are other ways you can develop your skills on your own. Of course, reading books is a great way, as watching instructionals online, or even using a grappling dummy (we’ve got a list of the best grappling dummies you can check out). 

Final Thoughts 

The best BJJ books offer a different way to experience the Gentle Art which not many people opt for in the digital age of BJJ videos. 

While the number of books on Jiu-jitsu is considerably smaller than the number of video instructionals, they are out there, and understanding what makes certain books better than others is important in knowing where to start so that you get the best possible experience out of the time you put in to read them.

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