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Zen in the Martial Arts

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,122 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
A man who has attained mastery of an art reveals it in his every action."-- "Samurai Maximum."Under the guidance of such celebrated masters as Ed Parker and the immortal Bruce Lee, Joe Hyams vividly recounts his more than 25 years of experience in the martial arts. In his illuminating story, Hyam reveals to you how the daily application of Zen principles not only developed ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 1st 1982 by Bantam (first published 1979)
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The God Complex by Chris TitusThe Way of the Ninja by Masaaki HatsumiZen in the Martial Arts by Joe HyamsEssence of Ninjutsu by Masaaki HatsumiJet Black and the Ninja Wind by Leza Lowitz
3rd out of 10 books — 17 voters
A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto MusashiThe Art of War by Sun TzuTao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce LeeKarate-Do by Gichin FunakoshiBudo by Morihei Ueshiba
Classic Martial Arts Books
8th out of 14 books — 15 voters

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Community Reviews

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Debbie Zapata
Mar 09, 2016 Debbie Zapata rated it liked it
Shelves: saturday
This little book shares the insights Joe Hyams experienced while studying karate over the years with such masters as Bruce Lee, Bong Soo Han, Ed Parker, and others. Hyams did not enter the study of karate as a way of spiritual enlightenment; he began classes in 1952 to lose weight and work off hostility. It was not until after a few years of lessons that he began to appreciate the deeper meaning of the martial arts. Twenty years later he arranged what he learned into short chapters which show th ...more
Goran Powell
Nov 09, 2009 Goran Powell rated it liked it
This is a short book written from the personal perspective of the author, Joe Hymas, who trained under such noted masters as Bruce Lee and Ed Parker.

Written in 1979, he recounts more than 25 years of experience in the martial arts, writing how Zen principles gave him the mental discipline to cope with issues of self-image, work pressure and competition, and how, through mastering the spiritual goals in martial arts, you can dramatically alter the quality of your life, enriching your relationshi
Jake Danishevsky
Aug 18, 2015 Jake Danishevsky rated it it was amazing
We have all heard the saying 'Good things come in small packages'. Well, this book is an epitome of that saying. When I first picked up this book, I figured, I would read it in a day. It is only 144 small pages and a very easy to read text, but I was wrong.

Joe Hyams started out as a journalist and a writer. He had no idea what martial arts or Zen is all about, until he started his first martial arts training about 25 years ago. He has studied under Ed Parks and the legend himself Bruce Lee. Joe
Devon Toland
Jun 17, 2013 Devon Toland rated it it was amazing
Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams is truly inspirational, and I can say it has changed my life. Considering the kind of person I am, who doesn't enjoy reading, I've read this book five times. The book follows the life of Joe Hyams, who is very relatable, and he is a nice guy. He takes an interest in the martial arts, and studies with all kinds of famous martial artists. Joe Hyams shares his experiences and lessons with the reader, and they can be applied to everyday life. This book is great f ...more
Nov 13, 2012 Bernadette rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to Bernadette by: Master Chris Berlow
The first time I read this book, I wasn't "ready" to read it. The second time I read this book, I wasn't ready to "accept" it. The third time I read this book, I wasn't ready to stop reading it. I've decided this will be a book I carry around with me.
Zohar Abramovitz
Sep 18, 2013 Zohar Abramovitz rated it liked it
If I could give this book 31/2 stars, that's about where I'd rate it. It's an interesting read, but it's sort of like watching a 30 year old sci-fi movie after watching all the movies that it laid the groundwork for. Given that this is the book the kind of spawned the "Zen in the Art of" - one could almost call it a genre unto itself - I was expecting a little bit more from it. Being one of the first books written about zen theory by and for westerners, it was innovative for its time and is defi ...more
Feb 06, 2013 Payam rated it it was amazing
There are many self-help books out there that want to transform you to a "better" you. This book is no different. This book, presents the same concepts and same "laws" mentioned in other popular books meant to "transform" you. So, if it is not a unique book, why the 5 star rating?

The stories in this book intrigue you and hold you due to their human touch. They are unique in that no other book has ever ventured into providing life lessons via Martial Arts examples. The fusion of a physical practi
Jan 29, 2013 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephen by: My Sensei and other martial arts instructors at my Dojo
This book is an excellent and easy read. It's delivered by the author in a primarily anecdotal form. It took me a little bit to get used to the way the author lead to the "lesson" in each with a story, but found that I really enjoyed the style. It felt very much to me like having a conversation with the author about the lessons he learned.

I will caution anyone expecting a treatise on martial arts history or a "step-by-step" book about martial arts or even how to apply Zen to a martial art. This
May 10, 2012 Amanda rated it it was amazing
A close friend loaned me this book from his personal library, and it was a much enjoyed and appreciated read (bought my own copy from half price books) it tells you not only practical applications of zen in the martial arts, but many very practical lessons we all could use in day to day life. (we all fly through life in anticipation of this or that, but rarely take the time to savor the moment when we reach our goal, kind of like the dog who begs for the steak and swallows it without so much as ...more
Stephen Helmlinger
Can't say enough good things about this book!
Ernie Lederman
Aug 25, 2015 Ernie Lederman rated it it was ok
I don’t find this book believable. Hyams made some errors which may or may not have been deliberate, and plagiarized one passage that I know about.
Hyams says he began studying with Ed Parker in 1952. However, in 1952 Parker was teaching at Brigham Young University. He did not have a studio in the Los Angeles area (in Pasadena, not Beverly Hills) until 1956. Hyams also says Elvis Presley was studying with Parker in 1952, but that year Elvis was 17 years old and a high-school student in Memphis. H
José Antonio Lopez
Jul 12, 2015 José Antonio Lopez rated it liked it
This short book by Joe Hyams is a recollection of stories in his journey as martial artist. Hyams was a Hollywood reporter and writer who started in martial arts in his 30'. He had the opportunity to learn Kempo, Jeet Kune Do, Wing Chun, Hapkido, Aikido, from big masters like Bruce Lee, Ed Parker, Bong Soo Han, and Jim Lau.

Zen in the Martial Arts is not a book about Martial Arts nor a book about Zen philosophy is a story of self discovery, and how their application can help control ones mind to
Mar 26, 2015 Roberto rated it it was amazing
This book is great if you are interested in zen, martial arts, or both (my specific case). The author tells a series of stories that happened through his life, and how they taught him a zen principle. Even if you are not interested at all in the martial arts, you should read it because of its easy-to-understand way of introducing complex zen concepts.

Among my favorite excerpts are the following:
- Martial arts are essentially avenues through which the artists can reach spiritual serenity, mental
Mohammad Ali Abedi
Apr 13, 2014 Mohammad Ali Abedi rated it liked it
The author writes about his martial arts practices through the years and how it can apply to practical, everyday living. It is a simple, easy to read books, which it chapter being fairly short with a lesson at the end, which he usually concludes with an incident from his life where that lesson helped him.

The chapters are usually in the form of anecdotes with his martial art masters (one of them being Bruce Lee) making it a fast and easy book to finish. Not a very deep book, in terms of philosop
Jul 16, 2012 Terry rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
The martial arts are full of examples of how perfecting small parts of a form can teach applicable lessons in many other parts of life. Correct breathing while fighting can be instructive for breathing while playing tennis or recovering from surgery. This book shows how lessons the author learned while studying martial arts can be applied in everyday situations. It is short and well written. It talks about patience and other aspects of learning as well as aspects of accomplishment.
Richard Garcia
Dec 30, 2013 Richard Garcia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true classic on Zen and martial arts

A classic book on Zen and how the martial arts can be a pathway to learning it. I highly recommend this book to both martial artist as well as anyone who is looking for an introductory book on Zen.
Temple Dog
May 15, 2016 Temple Dog rated it liked it
Hyams' Zen in the Martial Arts centers on these core themes; focus, living in the moment, and internal satiety achieved through enlightenment.

If you are seeking a primer for attaining a truly spiritual self, this book gives you the foundation on which to build toward greater joy.

Hyams hits the key points, with chapters entitled "empty your cup" in order to be open to continuous learning, or “know your limits” is a Zen take on the serenity pray. And, “do not disturb” should be the mantra for anyo
Jan 08, 2014 Anisey rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book. Essential book for martial artists, but a must have for the regular average joe.
Paul Tshagharyan
Apr 07, 2014 Paul Tshagharyan rated it it was ok
Գիրքը բավականին թեթև է կարդացվում, միգուցէ բարձր էլ գնահատեի, եթե մի քանի կոպիտ սխալներ չլինեին. Ձեն բուդդիզմը ձևավորվել է Չինաստանում, 5-րդ դարում, "Չան" անվանումով, գրքում սխալ են նշված թե ծագումը, թե սկզբնավորման ու տարածման թվականները: Հեղինակները Ձենի սկզբունքները կապել էին այնպիսի մարտարվեստների հետ, որոնց գաղափարաբանական հիմքում ընկած է սինտոյականությունը և սամուրայական պատվո վարքականոնները. էս էլ կոպիտ սխալներից մեկը: Սամուրայների վարքն ու կենցաղը նկարագրված է B դասի ֆիլմերի տպավորության ...more
A great read, and something I'll come back to many times. If you've new to practice and want to make it deeper than rote learning or "just combat", definitely give this a go. I felt very much more aware of the extra dimension in my class today, and it showed.
Juadde The
Dec 09, 2014 Juadde The rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's the first book of my life that lead me in the sacred way of martial arts. I hope everyone who interest in this way. Don't hesitate to read it for your first step on the way of wisdom and courage. Open up the world inside your heart.
Oct 30, 2013 James rated it it was amazing
I have read it several times over the past many years and it has always encourage me to pursue peace, pleasure, health, the non violent use of martial arts and to mentally prepare for violent confrontational engagements.
Aug 18, 2013 Maria rated it it was amazing
Easy read but awesome! I am understanding Zen more than ever. The author is so clear in his writing and experiences and also explaining how to apply zen principles in everyday life.
Oct 06, 2013 Ed rated it it was amazing
Shelves: martial-arts
A very valuable book for those who wish to develop the inner skills of a martial artist. Particularly valuable to practitioners of the arts who are older or who have physical limitations.
Feb 19, 2015 Lindsay rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I read this as a Kung Fu student, and was pleasantly surprised to see that much of what is talked about in this book is also spoken of by my Sifu. On the one hand, it means I didn't read a whole lot I didn't already know; on the other hand, I was able to get some of the metaphysical lessons my Sifu teaches us in between the physical elements from another experienced perspective. Also, being able to get that second perspective allowed me to further refine how I will try to apply the various lesso ...more
Jul 22, 2013 Quentin rated it really liked it
Some life lessons in here! Good, valuable things to keep in mind in everyday life. From Bruce Lee, Masutatsu Oyama, and other Karate/martial art virtuosos.
Belal Khan
May 02, 2013 Belal Khan rated it it was amazing
Great set of lifestyle principles toward the development of personal character derived from one man's journey in training with Bruce Lee.
Steve Scott
Sep 18, 2013 Steve Scott rated it really liked it
Shelves: martial-arts
I've read this twice, and I heartily recommend it to martial artists. It's a slim little volume, and quick to get through.
Jeanne Kondash
Mar 03, 2013 Jeanne Kondash rated it it was amazing
Concise, thoughtful and full of truths. Applies to life lessons overall. And I found its messages totally enlightening.
Jun 30, 2012 Alyce rated it it was amazing
This book definitely changed who I was as a martial artist. It made me put everything into perspective.
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“When you lose your temper, you lose yourself—on the mat as well as in life.” 2 likes
“The angry man will defeat himself in battle as well as in life.” 2 likes
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