The Art Of War - Sun Tzu - Kaufman

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Author: Sun Tzu - Tranlated by Stephen F. Kaufman
Pub: 1996 by Charles E. Tuttle Co.
Pages: 109
Ranking:One Star Rating
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My first impression of this book was the "Hanshi 10th Dan" 'ranking' of the author. While in no way impugning Mr. Kaufman's martial ability, these sort of ranks bring smiles to most Judoka... Then I see the claim that he is an "acknowledged Founding Father" of American Karate, and my smile grows larger. When I continue to read that he is the founder of the "widely recognized" Dojo No Hebi - School of the Snake, I'm afraid that some hint of laughter might break out.

I do find it somewhat disconcerting to find The Ashikaga fleet sailing into attack Nitta, c. 1840, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, as the cover art of a book that many experts consider to be a Chinese classic... :)

I must confess to a predisposition to not consider this book very seriously... it's *not* a translation, rather a re-writing in smooth-flowing English. And I find that it's lacking when compared to true translations... But, to a person that merely wants to be familiar with Sun Tzu's classic... without actually slogging through one of the real translations, this would be more than acceptable.

Although it would be seriously pushing the envelope to call this the comic-book version of a real classic, I can't honestly recommend this book. It actually skips many ideas of Sun Tzu, and greatly expands others with Mr. Kaufman's ideas. It will do for a real beginner, but to truely learn what Sun Tzu had to teach, I'd recommend Cleary's translation. Griffith's version is also good, and if your wallet is bare, you can read the 'etext' version of the Giles translation.

In order to make comparisons easy, I've included the same paragraph from four different versions.


Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

[Li Ch`uan cites the case of Fu Chien, prince of Ch`in, who in 383 A.D. marched with a vast army against the Chin Emperor. When warned not to despise an enemy who could command the services of such men as Hsieh An and Huan Ch`ung, he boastfully replied: "I have the population of eight provinces at my back, infantry and horsemen to the number of one million; why, they could dam up the Yangtsze River itself by merely throwing their whips into the stream. What danger have I to fear?" Nevertheless, his forces were soon after disastrously routed at the Fei River, and he was obliged to beat a hasty retreat.]

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

[Chang Yu said: "Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive." He adds: "Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack." It would be hard to find a better epitome of the root-principle of war.]


31. Therefore I say: 'Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.

32. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal.

33. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.'

Li Ch'uan: Such people are called 'mad bandits'. What can they expect if not defeat?


So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.


If you assess your strength and can fend off opponents, what danger is there? If because of your own strength you fail to measure opponents, then victory is uncertain.


Compare your government to that of the enemy; compare your military leadership to that of the enemy; compare your logistics to that of your enemy; compare your ground to that of your enemy. Having established these comparisons, you will have a preview of superiorities and inferiorities, weaknesses and strengths; this will enable you to prevail every time in subsequent military operations.


When you know others, then you are able to attack them. When you know yourself, you are able to protect yourself. Attack is the time for defense, defense is a strategy of attack. If you know this, you will not be in danger even if you fight a hundred battles. When you only know yourself, this means guarding your energy and waiting. This is why knowing defense but not offense means half victory and half defeat.

When you know neither the arts of defense nor the arts of attack, you will lose in battle.


(He has combined a previous discussion of Generals in the paragraph. I left it in)

The insightful warlord has trust and faith in his generals. He permits them to express their authority under the right conditions and sees to it that they are rewarded when successful and admonished when they fail because of poor planning. He knows the enemy and himself in order to avoid peril. Because of this knowledge, he will succeed in the field and the administration of the state. If he is unaware of the enemy's strengths but is aware of himself, his chances of victory are evenly matched. If he doesn't know himself and doesn't know the enemy, he is certain to entertain defeat. The ruler should never have picked this man to lead; he is not strong either.



Introduction ....................................... IX
BOOK 1: Considerations and Estimations for War ...... 1
BOOK 2: Preparations for War ....................... 13
BOOK 3: The Nature of Attacks ...................... 21
BOOK 4: How to Think of War ........................ 33
BOOK 5: Using the Power of Heaven .................. 41
BOOK 6: Fortitude and Frailty ...................... 47
BOOK 7: Manipulation of Circumstance ............... 55
BOOK 8: Variations of Reality in War ............... 65
BOOK 9: The Virtue of Changing Positions ........... 73
BOOK 10: Control and Maintenance of Territory ...... 81
BOOK 11: Conducting and Managing Campaigns ......... 89
BOOK 12: Fierceness in Combat ...................... 97
BOOK 13: Spies and Traitors ....................... 103



Sun Tzu lived approximately two thousand years ago - if in fact he lived at all. In those times, generally, works like The Art of War were passed along by word of mouth by enlightened people and in time the lessons became corrupted. Taught in Sun Tzu's name, these lessons are fundamental for intelligent people who seek an understanding of conquest and the application of it, according to their own goals. In this work you will learn how people are to be treated and dealt with. The work was written for men in command and leaders of states. It is for the ambitious and strong spirited; do not seek morality lessons here.

Sun Tzu has been translated and interpreted countless times by people with little knowledge of true combat reality on either the physical or mental level. It has been called any number of things, but it still remains a guide for the control of people, places, and things. It can be construed as mortal-combat specific or as a general guide to management - aggressive, high-minded, goal-oriented management.

Most of the available translations and interpretations maintain a poetic approach that really doesn't pertain to the times we are living in. There is a tendency to maintain a "mystique" regarding ancient knowledge. This is quaint, relative to today's aggressive personality. We are living in a global network and must think in decisive terms if we are to succeed in our various business dealings - which can take place in a boardroom, a courtroom, a barroom, or the battlefield; wherever you may choose.

In this interpretation I detail the actions that must be taken to maintain control of an environment. Obviously, the explanations must be put into the context of the reader's experience. It is, therefore, a real-time book. My work is thoroughly grounded in experience and is the product of intense meditation on the precepts first suggested by Sun Tzu. A hard-nosed, cold-blooded mentality is essential to personal development both on the field of battle and at the negotiating table, and if you wish to succeed in such situations, you must act accordingly. This mentality is required if you truly desire to be one among the few.

I leave out the commentaries by alleged ancient masters as to what Sun Tzu supposedly meant. These commentaries were generally given as edifications by others so they could tell you their ideas. In reality, who cares what Ch'en Fu thinks about Sun Tzu's hidden meaning about the jade stalk in the midst of the enemy's goldfish pond? We are grown-up and intelligent enough to develop our own understanding without the need for quaint allegories. There is nothing sacred here. I find that approach unnecessary, limiting, and a waste of time to the educated reader. The only comments and clarifi-cations you will ever need should be your own and they should be based on your understanding and application of the knowledge. You should take notes for your own personal needs.

Interpretations and translations of ancient works will come and go. Some will remain in force and others will fall by the wayside. It doesn't matter what happens to a work as long as that work is done with sincerity and a knowledge of the truth of the matter. The attitudes and ideas that I discuss require understanding and insight on the part of the reader. This book is a philosophy of management; it is not about how to change a lightbulb, although, in the final analysis, it could be. How you use the information is the only aspect of the work that should have any functional value for you. As a student, what you consider right or wrong, correct or incorrect, can only be determined by yourself.

A word about my selection of terms. I have selected the rank of "warlord" because I feel that it is this person who is generally in charge of the "campaign to maintain," regardless of gender or specific titles such as boss, president, king, etc. I preserve the identification of all involved in a masculine format. This is not to belittle women, and no offense is intended. However, the tenor of "war" is mostly of male "feather flashing," irrespective of the fact that I personally realize the superiority of women in many matters of leadership. The term "ruler" is generically used where perhaps "prince," "king," or "empress" could also have been used.

I leave it to you to judge the work on its own merits. If you follow the precepts laid out for you then you will see radical changes in the manner in which you conduct your life - on every level.

As an acknowledged and world-recognized martial arts master, a Hanshi (which is the highest rank attainable), I am thoroughly aware of my responsibility for the interpretation of this doctrine, and I have made it incumbent upon myself to explain Sun Tzu's tenets as I perceive them in a definitive manner.


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