Books can be a valuable aid to learning, understanding and developing your karate. We have put together a list of books pertinent to JKA Shotokan karate. Most are available online from Amazon but if you’d prefer to peruse before buying, Foyles on Charing Cross Road and Waterstones Piccadilly offer a better selection than most.

By the very nature of the Japan Karate Association, techniques are continually being refined and developed though while there are some excellent resources available, there is no substitute for regular club training.

Clicking on the links below will take you directly to the website. Where some books are in limited supply, the links may take you through to Amazon’s Kindle downloads so please check that you select the correct item before purchasing.

Happy reading!



The Karate Way – How to Master the Basic Techniques
Japan Karate Association
One of the more recent books to come out of the JKA Honbu in the last decade is an excellent resource. Although in Japanese only, the photography is good and techniques are broken down clearly.
The accompanying DVD superbly demonstrates kihon, kata and kumite. Highly recommended.
Available from Amazon Japan

Best Karate
Masatoshi Nakayama
This series of books by Masatoshi Nakayama underpins the library of many serious Shotokan practitioner. You will find them a useful reference as you progress through the different grades. All books highlight common mistakes, offer advice on correct form and present training exercises. They excel in aiding the learning of all Shotokan kata (excluding the training kata ‘Kihon’). It has been many years since these books were first published, but they are still among the best references available. Start your collection off with the Fundamentals, Comprehensive and Heian/Tekki volumes.

Order Best Karate Vol.1: Comprehensive, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 2: Fundamentals, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 3: Kumite 1, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 4: Kumite 2, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 5: Heian 1-5 & Tekki 1-3, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 6: Bassai Dai & Kanku Dai, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 7: Jitte, Hangetsu & Empi, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 8: Gankaku & Jion, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 9: Bassai Sho, Kanku Sho & Chinte, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 10: Unsu, Sochin & Nijushiho, from Amazon
Order Best Karate Vol 11: Gojushiho Dai, Gojushihi Sho & Meikyo, from Amazon

Dynamic Karate
Masatoshi Nakayama
Dynamic Karate takes all of the fundamental elements of Best Karate and brings them together in one big book. So much information is contained within that it is impossible to absorb all at once. Definitely a book to keep coming back to over the years.
Order Dynamic Karate from Amazon

Shotokan Karate
Keinsuke Enoeda
These books offer nice large pictures of some basic positions and kata but the grading syllabus is slightly different to that of the JKA. A high proportion of the photographs feature Ohta Yoshinobu Sensei when he was a little bit younger. The first of the two books also contains Kihon kata.
Order Shotokan Karate 10th-6th Kyu from Amazon
Order Shotokan Karate 5th Kyu-1st Dan from Amazon

Practical Karate
Masatoshi Nakayama
This follow-up series to Best Karate shows how your karate training can be adapted to suit typical everyday situations where you might find yourself under threat. It also proves that you don’t need to take your shoes off before being able to apply your special skills. The early 1960’s fashions on display in the book add a sense of amusement or nostalgia – depending on your age!
Order Practical Karate Vol.1 Fundamentals from Amazon
Order Practical Karate Vol 2: Unarmed Assailant from Amazon
Order Practical Karate Vol 3: Multiple Assailant from Amazon
Order Practical Karate Vol 4: Armed Assailant from Amazon
Order Practical Karate Vol 5: Defence for Women from Amazon
Order Practical Karate Vol 6: Special Situations from Amazon

Karate do Nyumon
Funakoshi, Others
Exploring the history and precepts behind the Shotokan karate style. Read what the founder expects from you as a student and practitioner.
Order Karate-do Nyumon from Amazon

Shotokan Kata
A very handy reference for memorising the 26 Shotokan kata. Clean illustrations show form transition on the kata’s embusen.
Order Shotokan Kata from Amazon

Perfecting Kumite
Tanaka Masahiko
Kumite techniques and theories of one the JKA’s best known Instructors and kumite champion. Translated by Schlatt.
Order Perfecting Kumite from Amazon

Further Reading

Moving Zen
CW Nichol
If you can find a copy, this book offers an interesting read about one man’s journey to Japan and subsequent discovery and tempering of himself, through the study of karate.
Order Moving Zen from

The Shotokan Dictionary
One of many publications by Schlatt. This is a very handy quick-reference for the Japanese words used by your instructor during training.
Order The Shotokan Karate Dictionary from Amazon

The Essence of Karate
Gichin Funakoshi
A pocket size hardback with personal stories and musings of Master Funakoshi. Interesting and quite charming. If you see one in a bookshop, consider buying it. They’re extremely difficult to get hold of. Foreward by Hirokazu Kanazawa.
Order The Essence of Karate from Amazon

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Karate
Edmond Otis
This book has a rather unflattering title but is a very accessible reference for the beginner. Particularly interesting parts of the book include sections on etiquette and a list of things to consider when you are first looking to start karate. It also contains useful information for those who have been training for much longer.
Order The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Karate from Amazon

Karate, My Way of Life
Gichin Funakoshi
It was Funakoshi who brought karate to the Japanese mainland from Okinawa in response to an invitation by the Japanese Ministry of Education. He was persuaded to stay and dedicated his life to the development of karate in Japan. This autobiography offers an insight into the man widely regarded as the Father of Modern Day Karate.
Order Karate-do: My Way of Life from Amazon

Keinosuke Enoeda, The Tiger of Shotokan Karate
Rod Butler
Interesting book charting the life and contribution to karate the world over by one of the JKA’s most famous karate masters.
Order Keinosuke Enoeda, The Tiger of Shotokan Karate from Amazon

JKA Karate-do Kata, Volumes 1 & 2
Japan Karate Association
The latest refined master text books from the JKA Honbu.
Sometimes available in limited supply at JKA courses.
Available directly from the JKA Honbu


JKA Diary
£15 might seem expensive for a small vinyl covered pocket calendar. But this is much more than just a diary. You’ll find it includes the kyu grading syllabus and addresses of JKA dojo main representatives worldwide so you’ll never need to miss training while on holiday again! It also contains passport-type photos of the Honbu instructors atop of personal details like their birthday and which university they attended. Indispensable for the JKA Otaku.
In Japanese but sometimes available with English language translation. Available toward the end of the year from the Tokyo Honbu if you’re passing.

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