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Posted December 13, 2010
I became a fan of Hanshi Kaufman's approach after reading his translation of Five Rings. Like that work, this translation is done for the warrior. There is no tap-dancing here. This a book on waging war, translated by a warrior, for the warrior.
As such, this particular version is required reading for my own personal students. If you're into "PC" this might not be the book for you. If you want sound and seasoned insight into the martial mindset, I recommend you pick up a copy and read it with your bones.
I give this one five kicks up.
This is not a translation of Sun Tzu, but an INTERPRETATION, which the author himself describes in his own Forward as "definitive." The text of this book is not a tranlation of Sun Tzu's words, but a book of Kaufman's words inspired by Sun Tzu.
This book is more of an inspirational affirmation for those who need permission to be ruthless and "do whatever it takes to win while destroying your enemies." In many places, Kaufman inserts Machiavellian style philosophy where none exists in Sun Tzu's original work. And, though easy to read it's nearly useless strategically because it's difficult to separate Kaufman's inspirational exhortations from his paraphrases of Sun Tzu's strategic dicta. Kaufman's prose throughout the book is cliché and heavyhanded, designed to sound ruthless.
For example, chapter 12 is traditionaly translated as a manual on the strategic use of fire, including it's dangers, in neutralizing an opponents ability to make war. In modern times, the traditional interpretation would apply to the use of biological weapons. Kaufman, however, interprets fire as "fierceness," and asserts in his chapter 12 that fierceness is important on the part of the "warlord" and soldiers.
This is primarily book of motivation, not of strategy.
For a mature, analytical treatment of Sun Tzu, look to Brig. Gen Samuel B. Griffith, or Dr. Roger T. Ames, or Dr. Thomas Cleary, or Dr. Ralph D. Saywer. Even the 1905 Giles translation is superior to Kaufman.
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Posted January 18, 2013
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