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Best Sports Books chosen by Experts

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Best Sports Books

Best Sports Books

Recommendations from experts

What book to read next? How to know if it’s going to be a gem or a waste of time? A good place to start is to get recommendations from like minded people.

What do other judoka’s books shelf look like? What is Neil Adams reading? Has Kate Howey got any good reads to recommend? What do champions read?

From these questions came this new section of the website: Book Recommendations by Experts.

Let me tell you more:

Best books for sports people

Going beyond the mat.

Book Recommendations by Experts started during the middle of lockdown. Unable to travel (one of my passions) and uncertain of the future, I decided to take a look at solutions. Bingo! One thing I can do, is I can read.

I began to look at my own book shelf, and then I wondered what other judoka’s book shelves look like? Did anyone have any good book recommendations? I began to ask around.

Who better to ask about what the best books for sports people than sports people themselves?

What are their favourite judo books? Or non-judo books for that matter. Books that have made an impact and a difference in their sporting career be it a biography, or a self-help book.

Best books for coaches

Recommendations from coaches for coaches

I wanted to develop a section with the best books for coaches, and so I asked plenty of coaches too.

Here, you’ll find book recommendations from judo coaches, books that, although are not specifically about judo, focus on key coaching skills; leadership, coaching and success.

Filter by category

You can filter by clicking on a category on the main page, or below here is a small selection:

Success & Mindset
Nutrition & Fitness
Skill Acquisition

Filter by Expert

You can also filter by the name of the expert who has recommended the book:

Neil Adams
Kate Howey
Chloe Cowen Vickers
Euan Burton
Darren Warner
Peter Gardiner
Mark Fricker
Jo Crowley
Vince Skillcorn
Paul Ajala
and Nik Fairbrother (me!)

Best Sports Biographies

Be Inspired

Who doesn’t love a sports biography? Biographies rate right up there as best books for sports people. The insight, the behind the scenes, the struggles, and the success. If you looking to be inspired then start with one of these 10 Best Sports Biographies.

Some absolute crackers here: Leading by Sir Alex Ferguson, and Clive Woodward’s Winning.

Best Judo Books

Books about judo

The Best Judo Books

Books on judo. A dying genre? Do we now rely on You Tube video to study technique? Less books about judo are being published these days for sure, which is a real shame. Reading and studying pictures is a powerful way to learn.

But if you know where to look, there are some real gems out there. Here are Top Ten Technique Books recommended by the panel of judo experts.

Old Judo Books

Collector Books

Want something a bit special to add to your judo collection? The coveted Fighting Judo by Kashiwazaki comes straight to mind. My own copy is torn and battered and much loved. You might pick up a copy on eBay or amazon, if you’re lucky – but it will cost you.

However, some of these on this list of Old Judo Books are more reasonably priced and are real finds.

Judo Books by Jigoro Kano and Japanese authors

Mind over muscle

What about reading a book written by judo founder’s Jigoro Kano? See this list of judo books by Japanese authors which includes two of Jigoro Kano’s books; Mind over muscle (recommended by Euan Burton) and Kodokan Judo. Written in English (thankfully) and other books by Japanese Masters like Yasuhiro Yamashita, Katsuhiro Kashiwazaki and Toshiro Daigo.

Judo Masterclass books

Build your collection

Chances are if you competed in the 80s/90s, you will own at least one Masterclass. But did you realise how many there are?

Judo Masterclass Technique was a fantastic series, published by Nicolas Soames (Ippon Books) and Fighting Films, that focusses on judo legends and their repertoire of techniques; Alexander Iatskevich, Neil Adams, Yasuhiro Yamashita, Robert Van de Valle, Jean-Luc Rougé, Noboyuko Sato and Katsuhiro Kashiwazaki.

Here are some of the favourites picked by our panel of experts – for more titles visit the Fighting Films website.

Best judo books for Beginners and Children

For Kids Who Love Judo

OK, so might be biased here – but check out the Koka Kids Judo Books for Children. There are books for beginners and books for intermediates and advanced.

Each book centres around a skill from learning hold downs and breakfalls, to turnovers and throwing. See the full collection with info on how to buy each book.

My Bookshelf

Are you reading more?

Reading has surged in the UK, with most people reading at least double what they normally do, since lockdown began. No surprise really. Reading is one of the way to get through lockdown and come out the other side in better shape.

My book shelf has expanded since I started this project and I’ve been buying books based on the recommendations. The last book I read was a winner. The Energy Plan by James Collins (and recommended by Darren Warner, thanks Darren! And next up for me is one of Kate Howey’s picks: Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin.

Do you have a best sports books recommendation?

Can you help keep Book Recommendations by Experts going? Do you have a best sports books or best judo book to recommend? If you do, please get in touch.

10 Best Sports Biographies Recommended by Judo Champions

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10 Best Sports Biographies Recommended by Judo Champions

Ten of the best biographies written by sporting legends and highlighted by our team of judo champions and experts as must-reads.

Click cover to see book on amazon

The Fight

Norman Mailer's The Fight focuses on the 1974 World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in Kinshasa, Zaire. Muhammad Ali met George Foreman in the ring. Foreman's genius employed silence, serenity and cunning. He had never been defeated. His hands were his instrument, and 'he kept them in his pockets the way a hunter lays his rifle back into its velvet case'. Together the two men made boxing history in an explosive meeting of two great minds, two iron wills and monumental egos.

Recommended by Euan Burton

Click cover to see book on amazon

Driven from within

Michael Jordan

This is a book about the power of collaberation and teamwork, the awe-inspiring energy generated when people combine their creativity and passion, and a fearless desire to lead. Whether waking at 6 A.M. to work out as a high school junior, or spending hours with legendary designer Tinker Hatfield on the intricacies f state-of-the-art shoe design, Michael Jordan has never wavered in his desire to be the best. ""It all started with an appetite to prove. Whether it was competing with my siblings or trying to get attention from myparents, I wanted to show what I could do, what I was capable of accomplishing. I wanted results, and I was driven to find out the best way to get them."" Everyone knows the results. In "Driven from Within," Michael Jordan and those in his inner circle reveal the philosophy that makes it all happen.

Recommended by Peter Gardiner

Click cover to see book on amazon

No Nonsense: The Autobiography

Joey Barton

So, you think you know Joey Barton. Think again. No Nonsense is a game-changing autobiography which will redefine the most fascinating figure in British football. It is the raw yet redemptive story of a man shaped by rejection and the consequences of his mistakes. He has represented England, and been a pivotal player for Manchester City, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers, Marseille, Burnley and Glasgow Rangers, but his career has featured recurring controversy. The low point of being sent to prison for assault in 2008 proved to be the catalyst for the re-evaluation of his life.

Recommended by Chloe Cowen

Click cover to see book on amazon

Mao’s Last Dancer

Li Cunxin

Raised in a desperately poor village during the height of China's Cultural Revolution, Li Cunxin's childhood revolved around the commune, his family and Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.

Until, that is, Madame Mao's cultural delegates came in search of young peasants to study ballet at the academy in Beijing and he was thrust into a completely unfamiliar world.

When a trip to Texas as part of a rare cultural exchange opened his eyes to life and love beyond China's borders, he defected to the United States in an extraordinary and dramatic tale of Cold War intrigue.

Told in his own distinctive voice, this is Li's inspirational story of how he came to be Mao's last dancer, and one of the world's greatest ballet dancers.

Recommended by Kate Howey

Click cover to see book on amazon

My Fight Your Fight: The Official Ronda Rousey autobiography

Ronda Rousey

The journey to the top for the most dominant mixed-martial-arts fighter in history has been filled with challenges. From a childhood marked by speech problems to the painful loss of her father, she grew up repeatedly pushing her mind and body to the limit in order to win. She battled prejudice to become the first female fighter in UFC. Now she is the biggest name in the sport, breaking attendance levels and re-writing the history books with her astonishing knockout victories, most in under a minute. She has also forged a successful Hollywood career as an actor.

In this honest and inspiring book, Rousey relives her greatest fights and shares her secrets for success and mental toughness. She reveals how we can all be at our best, even on our worst days, and how we can turn our limitations into opportunities. It will leave you ready to face your own challenges in life, whatever they may be.

Recommended by Nik Fairbrother

Click cover to see book on amazon


Clive Woodward

Winning! tells a remarkable story - an unforgettable journey that began in September 1997 and took the English Rugby Team team from the lower ranks of international first-class rugby to the top as World Cup Champions.

WINNING! talks about the team's journey of innovation and discovery and will reveal exactly how it happened, the fundamentals of their success and how these principles can be applied to any human endeavour. Bringing his business management skills to the game, Woodward simplified the entire approach to the structure of the team and created new management systems both on and off the pitch.

Recommended by Darren Warner

Click cover to see book on amazon

Leading: Lessons in leadership

Alex Ferguson

LEADING is structured around the key skills that Sir Alex values most highly. It includes subjects we immediately associate with his managerial style: Discipline, Control, Teamwork and Motivation. But it also addresses subjects that are less obvious but no less important when seeking success: Delegation, Data Analysis and Dealing with Failure. Written with the investor Sir Michael Moritz, a longstanding friend of Sir Alex, LEADING is packed with insight, wisdom, humour and honesty. The individual stories inevitably concern themselves with football, and the phenomenal success that came along the way, but the lessons can be applied by anyone. Whether you run a business, teach in a classroom, or work in a small team, LEADING will help you become a better leader.

Click cover to see book on amazon

The Greatest: My Own Story

Muhammad Ali

Everybody knows the record the stuff of almanacs, trade magazines and clipping services. A handful know the man. But only Muhammad Ali knows his life as he lived it.
The Greatest is Ali's own story. For six years he worked, traveled and talked with Richard Durham, a writer with a stunning talent, and the result is mesmerizing in its brilliance, drama, humanity and sheer entertainment. This is no documented scrapbook of wins and losses strung together with anecdotes; nor is it a thin potpourri of locker room gags. This book, like Ali who has incited every reaction except indifference goes straight to the place where responses to him have always been the gut. When the history of the twentieth century is finally recorded, it must include Muhammad Ali. He is "The Greatest."

Recommended by Paul Ajala

Click cover to see book on amazon

Neil Adams MBE autobiography: A Game of Throws

Neil Adams

At 24 Neil Adams was at the top of his game. He was on the Olympic team, had almost every Judo championship title in the world under his belt and had recently been awarded an MBE. This is not his Olympic Story. This is not a 'good old, glory days' kind of tale. This is about what happens after, when the sponsors have disappeared, when the shine of the medal has dulled into the public's distant memory. When you are left alone to deal with bills and life decisions that suddenly have nothing to do with Judo, BBC Superstars or Glory. This is the story of a man rebuilding his life on and off the mats.

Recommended by Neil Adams

Click cover to see book on amazon

Judo Champion Karen Briggs

Karen Briggs

Recommended by Kate Howey

10 Best Judo Books for Technique

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10 Best Judo Books for Technique

Ten of the best judo technique books you will find, written by judo's finest technicians including Jigoro Kano, Yasuhiro Yamashita, Katsuhiko Kashiwaza, Neil Adams, Alexander Iatskevich, Hidetoshi Nakanishi and Toshiro Daigo.

Click cover to see book on amazon

40 Judo Throws

Nik Fairbrother

40 Judo Throws is an illustrated junior guide to all the throws of the Gokyo (judo syllabus), written by world champion Nik Fairbrother, 7th Dan. There are step by step tutorials for each technique, and learning is visual, clear and easy. There are also tips from the author on improving your throwing skills.

Recommended by Nik Fairbrother

Click cover to see book on amazon

Osaekomi (Masterclass Techniques)

Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki

Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki is widely regarded as one of the greatest exponents of osaekomi of the last decades of the 20th century. This is the first book ever to concentrate purely on osaekomi and as such presents a considerable challenge. The range of the classic holds is relatively small--less that a dozen--but the numbers of variations and methods of application are enormous; and they are changing and developing all the time. In this extremely clear explanation Kashiwazaki deals with the basic holds, the variations, the weaknesses and the escapes. Then--in what is perhaps the most revealing aspect of the book--he presents the applications, the turnovers that enable the judoka to apply the holds.

Recommended by Nik Fairbrother

Click cover to see book on amazon

Mind over muscle

Jigoro Kano

In 1882 Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) founded Kodokan Judo at Eishoji Temple in Tokyo. It was the culmination of a lifelong devotion to the jujutsu of the past, which he reorganized while taking great care to retain its classical traditions. Historically, martial arts were practiced only by the elite in Japan. Kano, a renowned educator as well as a sportsman, is credited with popularizing the martial arts, and in particular, judo, among people in all levels of society.

Recommended by Darren Warner, Euan Burton

Click cover to see book on amazon


Neil Adams

The armlock is one of the most successful groundwork skills of modern judo. This "Masterclass Techniques" study by Neil Adams, one of the finest exponents of the technique of the last twenty years, will ensure its continued dominance. The book provides a detailed study of variations--including ude-gatame and the spectacular flying armlock--which have been developed and successfully used in competition by leading names from the world of judo such as Iaskevitch, Divisenko, Seisenbacher and Great Britain's Karen Briggs.

Click cover to see book on amazon


Neil Adams

This is the first book ever to be written on the crucial aspect of judo gripping techniques. Adams was widely recognized for his masterly understanding of grips even though his favored grip was eminently classical. In this pioneering volume, he looks at orthodox and unorthodox gripping, attack and defense, gripping strategies, and gripping skills.

Click cover to see book on amazon

Fighting Spirit of Judo

Yasuhiro Yamashita

This book although having some autobiographical content, is essentially a detailed analysis of Yamashita's favourite techniques as described by the great man himself, with a short biography including some of the author's thoughts on some aspects of judo and detailed description of Yamashita's favourite techniques.

Recommended by Euan Burton

Click cover to see book on amazon

The A-Z of Judo

Syd Hoare

o compile this authoritative volume, Syd Hoare, 7th Dan, has drawn on more than three decades of judo experience at the highest level, and an extensive knowledge of the Japanese language and Japanese judo literature. He catalogues and describes more than 100 throwing techniques, 20 holds, 30 armlocks and 40 strangles. Also included are a further 20 techniques which, though now forbidden by modern judo rules for being too dangerous, were originally part of the combat systems as it emerged from its origins in Ju-jitsu.

Recommended by Jo Crowley

Click cover to see book on amazon

Russian Judo

Alexander Iatskevich

In this ground-breaking book, five-times European champion Alexander Iatskevich brings his extensive knowledge to this comprehensive account. Russian Judo considers the history of the style, how it grew out of the varying wrestling traditions of the Soviet Union and its national style, sambo. Iatskevich notes the main techniques which Russian Judo have made so effective in the last decades and which are now accepted as part of the central fabric of judo

Recommended by Chloe Cowen

Click cover to see book on amazon

Attacking Judo: A Guide to Combinations and Counters

Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki and Hidetoshi Nakanishi

Positive attacking in throwing and ground work is at the heart of all the best judo. This is a fundamental attitude of world champions Katsuhihiko Kashiwazaki and Hidetoshi Nakanishi, who are now among the foremost teachers in Japan. But this boldness must be based on a sound technical understanding. Attacking Judo is a new concept in judo publishing based on simple drawings rather than long complex explanations.

Click cover to see book on amazon

Fighting Judo

Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki, Terence Donovan

The quality of the Fighting Judo Kashiwazaki book in terms of its aesthetic beauty is unmatched. The author, a world champion demonstrates throws, holds, pins, turnovers, grabs, and entanglements, and discusses the finer points of mat work. The black and white photography of Terence Donovan makes a huge impact.

Christmas Judo Gifts for Judoka

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Christmas Judo Gifts

Looking for Christmas Judo Gifts?

We have the perfect judo toy for your Christmas stocking – buy a judo monkey!

Visit the Koka Kids shop where there are judo tshirts, judo hoodies and one of the best kids judo suits.

Or buy a gift that challenges inspires with one of our judo books (available through amazon as paperback)

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Covid and Judo: Fighting For Positives

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Covid and Judo – are there any positives? Anything at all?

It’s a dark time for judo. The future is uncertain, some dojos have been forced to close their doors for good, and for those who have returned to the tatami, judo is a shadow of what it was. Our elite struggle to find motivation for an Olympics that might not take place and all of us, from the small club to larger businesses have taken a heavy financial hit.

But is there also light?

Are there any positives that have arisen from this Pandemic?

Has anything good come of Covid for Judo? Anything at all?

I put that question to 20 of Great Britain’s leading judo coaches, fully expecting the reply to be a quick, sharp, short – “NO! Nothing!”

The answers surprised me. They shouldn’t have. After all, by nature, judoka are fighters. And by nature, coaches are leaders.

The answers came back quickly. One after another saying: yes, they had found positives…many positives.

You can read the coaches answers in full at the end of the post, but first a quick summary of the main points.

It boosted my spirits and I hope it will boost your spirits too.

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Win 3 Judo Books

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Win Judo Books

Exciting news! You can win 3 judo books autographed by world judo champion, Nik Fairbrother.

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