Reviews - What do customers think about The Ancient Bing-Fa: Martial Arts Strategy: The Science of Personal Power?
Terrible Feb 18, 2008
In this book, Mr. Gagliardi is using the same approach he has used in several of his previous books. He writes a brief introductory section. Then the core section of the book consists of his encarta translation of Sun Tzu's classic, along with his interpretive comments. Since Mr. Gagliardi has no credible background in the martial arts, he is far from qualified to proffer this kind of advice.
The text makes a number of assumptions and claims, and contains some historically inaccurate statements. Beginning on the inside cover of the book, he states:
"This is the first English-language book to explain the intellectual roots of the strategy used in all martial arts." (inside cover)
"Twenty-Five hundred years ago, the Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote the principles that sparked the practice of martial arts throughout Asia." (inside cover)
"[Sun Tzu's] book is known in China as the Bing-fa. For most of the last two thousand years, the work was suppressed in China, and its connection with the martial arts deemed too dangerous to be revealed." (inside cover)
"The practice of martial arts originally sought to unite body, mind, and spirit, but because the Bing-fa was secret, many of the intellectual aspects of the martial arts were lost. This book reintroduces English-speaking martial artists to the strategic rules underlying their training." (inside cover)
"[Mr. Gagliardi's version of Sun Tzu]... systematically explains the relationship of Sun Tzu's work to the worldwide practice of martial arts." (inside cover)
"ORIGINS OF THE MARTIAL ARTS" (p. 6)
"Unlike other sports and exercise programs, the martial arts train the whole person... Down through the millennia, the knowledge on which the martial arts are based... was suppressed. Today, most of those who practice martial arts are unfamiliar with those principles except in how they become embodied in martial arts practice." (p. 6)
"The purpose of this book is to explain the secrets of that knowledge. If you practice martial arts, reading this book will give you a deeper insight into the many aspects of your art." (p. 6)
"Today, we know this work as Sun Tzu's The Art of War. That title - like much of what appears in most English translations of the work - is very misleading. The Chinese title is Sun Tzu Bing-fa, which literally means "Master Sun's Martial Arts." (p. 7)
"For most of the last two thousand years, access to the ancient Bing-fa was severely restricted. Its concepts were originally studied broadly throughout China during the beginning of martial arts practice. However, over the centuries, China's ruling dynasties increasingly decided that its information was too valuable and too dangerous to be left in the hands of the common people." (p. 8)
"[The ruling nobility controlled]... the distribution of the written forms of the Bing-fa. Only the ruling nobility was allowed access to the original text. While its concepts were still passed on in the oral and physical tradition of the martial arts - as they are today - the Chinese emperors themselves took an active role in burying the specifics of this knowledge under layers of safer Asian philosophies, primarily those of Taoism and Zen Buddhism." (p. 9)
"Sun Tzu's view of competitive training led him to recruit and organize the first Chinese citizen army. With it, he conquered most of the Yangtze River valley." (p. 11)
"[Around 298 B.C., the Chinese historian Zhuang Zi recorded]... that Sun Tzu's theory had been incorporated into the martial arts techniques of both offensive and defensive and of both armed and unarmed combat." (p. 12)
"Sun Tzu's methods, originally taught in the same context of larger wars, were now seen as the key to individual contests." (p. 12)
"Sun Tzu's descendent, Sun Bing, also popularized the work, and is said to have expanded it from the original thirteen chapters to eighty-two chapters, though unlike the Bing-fa, surviving parts of Sun Bing's work are less than convincing." (pp. 12-13)
"As we can see from this gradual transformation, the concepts of the Bing-fa were firmly embedded in the origins of the martial arts but gradually covered up... [With] the first emperor of China, access to the written Bing-fa itself was restricted. The pragmatic, revolutionary philosophy taught by the Bing-fa was systematically replaced by the less troublesome philosophies of Taoism and Zen Buddhism." (p. 15)
"THE REDISCOVERY OF THE BING-FA" (p. 15)
For thousands of years, until the opening of China to the West, the Bing-fa was known only to China's ruling class. Then a Jesuit missionary, Father Amiot, was given a copy of the text... [which he translated and published in France in 1782]. This was the beginning of the general discovery of the Bing-fa." (p. 15)
"Today, [Mr. Gagliardi's Institute] is at the forefront of uncovering this long-lost knowledge." (p. 15)
"[Mr. Gagliardi's Institute] is the world's leading organization in exploring all the uses of [Sun Tzu's work]." (p. 16)
In many of these areas, I sharply disagree with Mr. Gagliardi. His historical assessment of the development and inter-relationship of Sun Tzu to the Martial Arts often draws incorrect conclusions. The fact that he has been largely ignorant of the role and inter-relationship of the martial arts to the work of Sun Tzu does not mean that he has uncovered anything "lost." This is absolute fiction at its interpretive worst. The martial lessons of Sun Tzu have been actively taught within the credible Asian arts for millennia. And to assert that he and his organization are the "worlds leaders" in exploring all the applications of Sun Tzu is narcissistic, to say the least.
In every single interpretive book Mr. Gagliardi has written on Sun Tzu, he endlessly markets himself, and his "award winning" translation... which he now asserts is internationally recognized as near-perfect. On pages 16-17 of this book, he once again does this. And on his website, he states that his book is "unquestionably... the best and most complete translation" ever done on Sun Tzu's work. I sharply disagree with his claims in these areas, and with his similar claims that he is "acknowledged as America's leading authority on Sun Tzu" (inside dust jacket, as well as the back cover of the book). Mr. Gagliardi is not. He is far from it.
The 1999 version of Mr. Gagliardi's "award winning" translation contained a large number of typographical and translation errors. In fact, it had so many problems, it had to be substantially revised in 2003. In this book, Mr. Gagliardi uses the English translation text from his revised edition. While the revision is a signifigant improvement over the 1999 original, it still contains a number of problems and translation errors.
On page 17, he summarizes the purpose of the book as follows: "On the facing right-hand pages, we explain each stanza of the original text in the specific context of mastering martial arts strategy... In our explanation [on the left-hand pages], we simply discuss what a warrior of the period would have known that you cannot know. In certain cases, this means we explain certain Chinese concepts in more detail. In other cases, we illustrate the concepts involved with examples of how they are used in modern martial arts."
The rest of the book consists of his interpretive study. In fairness, some of the application comments he makes are valid... but they are also usually obvious and well-known. There is hardly any substance, insightfulness or depth in this book. It is technically weak in many, many areas.
At the end of the book, Mr. Gagliardi once again markets himself to the masses, and invites "Martial Arts Trainers" to join his institute to learn martial arts strategy. He claims his institutes programs "... will help your students reach their true potential... [and] promote your martial arts business in your community... We can show you, as one of our trainers, how to leverage that interest and create thousands of dollars of free publicity for your business..." (p. 191)
Once again, Mr. Gagliardi shows his supreme ignorance of the subject he is purporting to be the foremost expert on!