The top 10 books every BJJ grappler should own

These are Grappling Insider’s recommendations for the top 10 best books on the market for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) grappler.

Avid BJJ practitioners know that learning the art doesn’t stop when class is over. Quite the opposite, most grapplers love to consume BJJ content outside of the gym – whether it be instructionals, free YouTube technique videos, podcasts, or anything else they can get their hands on.

Today we’ll be looking at good old-fashioned books. From detailed technical instructionals to philosophical writings on the virtues of BJJ, there’s a wide range of books written about this art or books that any grappler would find useful.

Obviously, some are better than others. To help you narrow down your BJJ reading list, we’ve picked out our top 10 favorite books for the jiu-jitsu enthusiast.

Books about BJJ history

#1 Opening Closed Guard and The Rise and Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Robert Drysdale

Yes, we’re well aware that the number-one spot in our list contains two books, but we couldn’t pick just one. For an incredibly thorough, unbiased look at the sometimes mysterious origins and growth of BJJ, there is perhaps no better storyteller on earth than Robert Drysdale.

A former elite competitor (he is an ADCC and IBJJF world champion), Drysdale is also a very serious historian. For his first book, Opening Closed Guard, he spoke to a number of individuals who were right there for the birth of BJJ. His detailed history of the beginnings of the sport makes for eye-opening reading and obliterates countless misconceptions about how the art came to be what it is today.

We spoke to Drysdale about this book and his motivations for writing it. Check out that interview here.

His second book, The Rise and Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, dives into how BJJ grew from the streets of Rio to a global phenomenon. Yet again, Drysdale sets the record straight on several common misconceptions that are prevalent today. What’s more, he gives plenty of attention to lesser-known characters like Carlson and Rolles Gracie who had a massive impact on BJJ.

Shop Robert Drysdale’s books on Amazon.

#2 Breathe: A Life in Flow by Rickson Gracie

For a more personal, firsthand telling of BJJ history, Rickson Gracie’s Breathe: A Life in Flow is a captivating page-turner.

A legendary, larger-than-life figure, Gracie pulls back the curtain on some of the inner workings and conflicts of his iconic family. From his rough-and-tumble childhood and upbringing that saw him defending his family name on the streets to his work spreading the gospel of BJJ in America, to his undefeated MMA career, Gracie details all the key moments of his incredible life.

What’s more, Gracie ties it all together with his unique philosophy of living that emphasizes the mind-body connection and living in harmony (“flow”) with your circumstances.

Shop for Rickson Gracie’s memoir on Amazon.

BJJ technique instructionals

#3 Jiu-Jistu University by Saulo Ribeiro

Legendary black belt world champion Saulo Ribeiro has written perhaps the most comprehensive and widely read BJJ instructional ever published. Even though this book was originally published in 2008, all of the techniques remain relevant today, and countless black belts around the world keep Jiu-Jitsu University on their bookshelves.

With over 200 different techniques and hundreds of color photos, Ribeiro outlines the most important moves and strategies for every belt color from white to black. Because he’s such a seasoned competitor, Ribeiro is able to describe common mistakes or pitfalls of certain techniques, providing that added level of detail that sets this book apart.

We’d recommend this instructional for both BJJ beginners and experienced teachers looking to fine-tune their technique.

Shop for Jiu-Jitsu University on Amazon.

#4 Mastering the Rubber Guard by Eddie Bravo

For the no-gi specialists or any grapplers looking to elevate their overall guard game, 10th Planet founder Eddie Bravo’s Mastering the Rubber Guard is a must-have. The sheer volume and mass of information contained in this classic instructional is impressive in its own right, but what we love most about this book is how clearly each and every technique is laid out alongside nearly 1,000 color photos.

Much more than just rubber guard techniques, this book covers common positions like butterfly guard, half-guard, and the dogfight position. These techniques are pieced together in a systematic, logical way that makes implementing them in practice quite easy. 

Because so many of Bravo’s teachings might be viewed as unorthodox, these techniques tend to be effective right from the jump and can change a grappler’s perspective on how to approach the guard.

Shop for Mastering the Rubber Guard on Amazon.

#5 Mastering Jujitsu by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher

Legendary competitor Renzo Gracie and legendary coach John Danaher teamed up to write a clear and concise book that details not only effective grappling techniques but also the key concepts and strategies behind all major positions. Mastering Jujitsu is more than just a technical instructional, it’s an incredibly helpful guide to understanding the overarching concepts in BJJ and how they apply across different combat scenarios.

To be sure, the techniques in this book are great and proven at the highest levels – and the authors include numerous case studies of certain techniques being used in competition. But beyond those techniques, we think this book is a must-own because of all the BJJ theory that’s included, as well as the well-written introduction that outlines the history and evolution of the art.

This book is perfect for both beginners looking to get a better understanding of BJJ overall, but we also think veteran grapplers would get plenty out of the higher-level discussions.

Check out Mastering Jujitsu on Amazon.

Books for BJJ health, performance, strength, and conditioning

#6 Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts by Loren Landow

Loren Landow is one of the most respected names in the strength and conditioning field. Before he was the Director of Football Performance for Notre Dame and before he was the strength coach for the Denver Broncos, Landow was the strength and conditioning coach to a number of elite MMA fighters and grapplers.

He brings his nearly unmatched expertise to this detailed yet easily accessible book that outlines specific workouts for specific athletes depending on the stage of training they are in. Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts not only describes how to perform these workouts but also gives the reason for each exercise. 

While Landow designs workouts specifically for grapplers, he also recognizes that the most important part of grappling is, well, grappling. With that in mind, the exercises and protocols he outlines are designed to support your time on the mat, rather than replace it.

Shop for Ultimate Conditioning for Martial Arts on Amazon.

#7 Martial Arts Nutrition by Teri Tom, MS, RD

Sports nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach Teri Tom brings her immense amount of scientifically proven knowledge and expertise to this incredibly useful book. As the nutritionist for many elite athletes like Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan, and Andrei Arlovski, Tom certainly is an expert among experts.

For grapplers, we love Martial Arts Nutrition because the focus is on fueling your body for better performance in the training room and in competition. You won’t find any fad diets or quick tricks to nutrition here. Quite the opposite, Tom outlines the science behind what you should eat, when to eat it, and why you’re eating it.

The book is a must for any serious grappler, whether you’re trying to lose weight, cut weight for competition, or simply maximize your potential on the mat. We’ve personally followed the plans outlined in Martial Arts Nutrition and can confirm that we’ve seen more energy on the mat and faster recovery afterward.

Check out Martial Arts Nutrition on Amazon.

#8 With Winning In Mind by Lanny Bassham

You might be surprised to see a book written by an Olympic gold medalist in rifle shooting on a list designed for grapplers, but after reading and implementing the concepts described in With Winning In Mind, we are confident that any BJJ competitor can and will benefit greatly from Lanny Bassham’s advice on developing an unbreakable competition mindset. 

Intimately familiar with high-pressure competition, Bassham focuses not just on positive thinking and visualization but how to integrate these concepts into your daily life. The book is easy to read and filled with both high-level, philosophical ideas and practical advice that you can start following immediately.

If you’ve found yourself lacking in confidence or doubting your ability to perform when the pressure is on, we can’t recommend this book enough. 

Shop for With Winning in Mind on Amazon.

Miscellaneous BJJ books

#9 The 32 Principles by Rener Gracie

With a lifetime enmeshed in BJJ, Rener Gracie shows how the key concepts of the art can be applied to daily life in this insightful page-turner. Simply put, any BJJ-obsessed grappler will love The 32 Principles for its thought-provoking look at how what we learn on the mats can help us in business, relationships, and life in general.

Using important concepts found in grappling, Gracie provides a guide to better living and decision-making. Coming in at under 250 pages, we love that this book is easily digestible and packed with ideas that you can implement in your life today. And even after reading it, we found ourselves returning to re-read certain chapters when confronted with a difficult decision – this book is the gift that keeps on giving.

Shop for Rener’s book on Amazon.

#10 5 Rules for White Belts by Chris Matakas

Chris Matakas is likely the most prolific author in the BJJ space, and his 5 Rules for White Belts is a foundational text that certainly doesn’t disappoint. 

Obviously, the book is written for beginners to BJJ, designed to help those new grapplers get the most out of their training, retain more information from each class, maintain motivation when things get tough, and develop a deeper understanding of the art. Concise and right to the point, the book provides both technical knowledge and philosophical concepts that are sure to make BJJ less intimidating for any new white belt.

Check out 5 Rules for White Belts on Amazon.

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

Ben Coate has 1184 posts and counting. See all posts by Ben Coate