best books about kung fu 1 Books About Kung Fu - 9 Texts to Learn the Most Ancient Chinese Martial Art

Come poke around our books about Kung Fu! If you consider learning martial arts but ignore schools and techniques, these books for training are the best for you. 9 Books to bring your Kung Fu to the next level

Back in 1974, Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting” sung the Golden Age of the demigod Bruce Lee and Hong Kong kung fu films.

Decades later, Chinese martial arts courses spread everywhere, often featuring masters boasting direct lineage with centuries-old schools.

Knowledge of the subject is, however, still limited: for example, many ignore that in Chinese, the word “kung fu” doesn’t equate with “martial arts”. In fact, it refers to any skill acquired through exercise( might be tea-making or painting, too).

Another overlooked information is that Shaolin Monastery, far from being a boxing school, is the most important Chan (Zen) temple in the world and that monks learn fighting skills to repel intruders.

Please keep in mind there is no way you can learn kung fu without a master’s live class, so this list of books about Kung Fu, grouped in three categories, is just meant to give some additional knowledge on the subject.

Check also: 13 Great Books About Karate: History, Katas, Practical Self Defense

Disclosure: Some of our articles contain affiliate links (as an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases).

General Knowledge and Shaolin Kung Fu

Kung Fu Elements: Wushu Training and Martial Arts Application Manual

by Wen-Ching Wu and Shou-Yu Liang, 2001

In learning Kung Fu, the focus is on practice rather than comprehension. In other words, to learn movements and techniques, you have to repeat them thousands of times.

This book is a very complete training reference including all the basic repeatable movements.

It also highlights the differences between Internal and External Styles and many more fields to further explore and this is why we chose it as the first book of this list.

The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way

by Shi Yan Ming, 2006

This book’s purpose is quite extreme: transforming your body and soul in 28 days. Whether you deem this feasible or not, its author is a 34th generation Shaolin warrior monk and this alone should ring a bell.

Shi Yan Ming spent 23 years of his life in Shaolin, where the homonymous seminal kung fu style originated. Hundreds of color photographs complete the book with great visual reference to what’s written.  

The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu

by Wong Kiew Kit, 2002

What makes this book different from other books on kung fu is its completeness: throughout its 240 pages, Wong Kiew Kit will answer any questions you never dared to ask about kung fu, like “what’s the difference between  Shaolin and Wudang Kung Fu?” and “how to practice Abdominal Breathing?”.

We are sure his unassailable “five reasons to practice kung fu” will inspire you when your motivation will fade. Great for beginners.

Authentic Shaolin Heritage: Training Methods Of 72 Arts Of Shaolin

by Jin Jing Zhong, 2008

This 1934 learning book was written by a direct disciple of Shaolin’s famous “Golden Arhat” and only recently translated into English. It deals with one of the lesser-known aspects of Shaolin Kung Fu, the72 Shaolin Arts.

Before 1934, only Shaolin monks knew this set of practices, some of which can develop into supernatural abilities. Some of these practices should be done with the supervision of an experienced master.

Southern Styles

best books about kung fu 2 Books About Kung Fu - 9 Texts to Learn the Most Ancient Chinese Martial Art

Monkey Movement: The Ultimate Guide for Monkey Kung Fu Movements, Techniques, and Acting

by Sifu Brian Kuttel

One of the most fascinating aspects of kung fu is the way it developed fighting styles from the observation of animals.

Monkey kung fu, characterized by surprising training techniques and unpredictable punching and kicking techniques, is one of the most famous ones.

With this book and its clear-cut illustrations, experienced Sifu Brian Kuttel will teach you all the basic movements of monkey form within Choy Li Fut style kung fu.

White Crane Kung Fu: Secrets of Internal Power

by Vladimir Zlatic

White Crane is a Fujianese style of Kung Fu you can recognize by looking at the way the fighter imitates the flapping wings of a bird.

This book focuses on its internal power and rejects the esoteric way often used to explain it in favor of a more scientific approach.

The way internal power is accumulated, transmitted, and released can be applied to other kung fu styles as well.

Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do

best books about kung fu 3 Books About Kung Fu - 9 Texts to Learn the Most Ancient Chinese Martial Art

Wing Chun Kung Fu: Traditional Chinese Kung Fu for Self-Defense and Health

by Ip Chun, 1998

Ip Chun, himself a living legend, is the son of Ip Man (yes, the one from the famous movie trilogy), the grandmaster that popularised Wing Chun.

The main characteristic of this type of Kung Fu is its emphasis on softness, that is to say, “maintain one’s feeling of the opponent’s movement by staying relaxed all the while keeping in the strength to fight back, much like the flexible nature of bamboo”.

The Tao of Wing Chun: The History and Principles of China’s Most Explosive Martial Art

by John Little and Danny Xuan, 2019

This illustrated book by worldwide famous Wing Chun master Danny Xuan will give your kung fu skills some deep philosophical and historical foundations.

The author looks at Wing Chun from various perspectives, even from the one of biomechanics.

One whole chapter is devoted to the way Wing Chun and The Art of War can relate, another one to different hypotheses on the early history of this martial art.

Tao of Jeet Kune Do: New Expanded Edition

by Bruce Lee, 2011

Bruce Lee himself studied Wing Chun with master Ip Man, but he felt that traditional kung fu techniques were not adaptable enough to actual street fighting.

This is why he came up with a new, hybrid martial art, named Jeet Kune Do, simplifying centuries-old traditions.

Unmissable in your collection of books on kung fu, this work is a compilation of Bruce Lee’s writings about it, paired with his original illustrations.

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