In order to be successful as a fighter, whether it’s in the octagon, in the ring, on the street or on a battlefield, it’s important to train the mind as well as the body. There’s a reason veteran soldiers in WW2 hated fighting along side new recruits and referred to them as “cherries”, they weren’t mentally prepared for real combat and that often led to the unnecessary loss of life. The expectation of experience in any professional sport is both reasonable and unreasonable. If you take a look at the paradox that haunts many college graduates today, in order to be fit for a job you need experience and in order to get experience you need a job. So how does one tackle the need for experience without the opportunity for practical learning? By studying the lessons learned from others. In academia the approach is fairly straight forward, but in the world of combat sports the path is not always so clear. To help remedy the situation many great minds have written books that can mentally prepare fighters of all kinds of battles. This list is a brief sampling of what we believe are the top five pieces of literature that corporate warriors and cage fighters alike should consider when training their mind for battle.
5. The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee
Author: John Little
By far the most modern book on the list, “The Warrior Within” is a compilation of the philosophical writings of Bruce Lee. Most people are familiar with Bruce Lee’s almost superhuman ability to do pretty much anything he set his mind to. From the power of his one inch punch to striking matches thrown at him with nun chucks.
Disclaimer: Although this video appears authentic it is in fact a Nokia advertisement. It is included here not to serve as an example of reality but rather the potential of an athlete. The core theme of the story being that you should strive for the impossible to reach your maximum potential.
What a lot of people may not realize is that his ability to do things in the physical world stem from his way of thinking and personal philosophies. A modern legend, Bruce Lee’s is definitely a mind that any fighter could learn from. Some of the themes covered in this book are “seeing the totality of life” and “putting things into perspective” as well as “defeating adversity by adapting to circumstances”.
4. Ender’s Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game is actually a science fiction novel and though it might seem an odd fit for a list of books that fighters of any kind should be reading it’s actually been at the top of the U.S. military’s reading list since it was published decades ago. The novel covers the story of young man by the name of Andrew Wiggin who appears sensitive and peaceful. For much of the book he is teased and picked on by his jealous brother, from bullies at school, and by older boys in command school.
So what is the underlying theme or idea that makes this a top book for the Marine Corps year in and year out? Andrew (Ender) is never an aggressor but when forced to defend himself, Ender destroys his attackers completely rendering them unable to ever attack him again. Young Andrew has a “scorched earth policy” that he applies to everything in his life. In grade school a bully known as Stilson forces Andrew into a fight, begrudgingly Andrew defends himself as any traditional hero would but while Batman would stop when his opponent is down, Ender kicks him in the ribs and head repeatedly to drive home the point. (Stilson subsequently dies from his sustained injuries.) Perhaps if more fighters read this book there would be less need for judges in MMA.
Author: Niccolò Machiavelli
The Prince has been required reading of royalty and politicians for ages. It is the book that inspired the term “Machiavellian” when dealing with an approach that is cunning and relentless in advancing one’s own agenda. It’s claimed to be one of the first works of modern political philosophy, and while it may seem politics are the least of a fighters concerns, in fact the strategy of the mind, to which politics is keenly focused is one of the areas which the best fighters should always be focused on perfecting. Whether deciding what move to make in the octagon or what decision to make about a contract or proposed bout, a good fighter will want to learn from the lessons that Niccolo Machiavelli has to teach in this literary classic.
A quote worth mentioning:
“He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation.”
-Machiavelli, “Chapter 15”
2.The Book of Five Rings
Published: circa 1645
Author: Miyamoto Musashi
The “Book of Five Rings” is an ancient text that even business leaders find that they can benefit from. Where most of us were struggling with how to talk to girls at age thirteen, Miyamoto was winning duels with sword fighting adepts. Miyamoto was a great swordsman at a young age and apparently the only thing he couldn’t do was lose.
A notable quote from Miyamoto Musashi:
“At the age of twenty-one I went up to Kyoto and fought duels with several adepts of the sword from famous schools, but I never lost.” -Miyamoto Musashi, Go Rin No Sho
Miyamoto fought in approximately 60 duels (a conservative estimate) and never lost. Most professional fighters go about thirty professional bouts and they aren’t using swords. While the Book of Five rings appears to refer to a singular literary piece, the rings refer to separate books that have been compiled into one text. The five “books” parallel to the five “elements” in the physical world. The Book of Earth, The Book of Water, The Book of Fire, The Book of Wind, and The Book of the Void make up the entirety of the text. This is undoubtably a great read for anyone looking for a competitive edge in a physical or mental fight.
1.The Art of War
Published: circa 500 B.C.E.
Author: Sun Tzu
By far the oldest text on the list and yet one of the most highly regarded and revered books on strategy in politics and warfare. “The Art of War” has been a recommended text for strategists, feudal lords, politicians and combat veterans for approximately 2,500 years. It has influenced both eastern and western military philosophies and traditions. While little is known of Sun Tzu’s actual military exploits many would agree that few other texts on any subject are as well respected as “The Art of War” in reference to combat and strategy. Sun Tzu considered war a necessary evil to be avoided whenever possible. He thought that wars should be won swiftly before the enemy becomes a real threat and to keep the economic impact low. (War, apparently was not as profitable then as it is now.)
One of his most famous quotes and a tenet of this publication:
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu
For those who may doubt any of their abilities or experience, consuming the information in these great texts will give you a mental leg up on many who have not taken the time to read them. We hope you find this list as useful as we have and should any of you have books that you recommend please let us know in the comments!