Add KarateForums.com
Username:    Password:
Remember Me?    
   I Lost My Password!
Post new topic   Reply to topic    KarateForums.com Forum Index -> KarateForums.com Articles Archive
 See a User Guidelines violation? Press on the post.
Author Message

DWx
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 17 Jan 2007
Posts: 6140
Location: UK
Styles: Tae Kwon Do & Yang family Tai Chi

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:30 pm    Post subject: Lessons in The Art of War by Martina Sprague (Book Review) Reply with quote

Disclosure: this book was kindly provided by Tuttle Publishing, through Patrick.

Despite its title, this book not only delves into Sun Tzu's famous tome but compares and contrasts his views with those of Carl von Clausewitz, an early 19th century Prussian general and military theorist. It is more than just kessons in The Art of War, it is a discussion on the similarities and differences in Eastern and Western battlefield tactics in addition to how these can be applied to the modern day fighter.

About the Author

If anyone were to be write a book comparing military strategies and how they can be applied to personal combat, Martina Sprague seems more than qualified. From the book:

Quote:
Martina Sprague has studied martial arts since 1987. She has a Master of Arts Degree in Military History from Norwich University and is the author of numerous books, including A History of Edged Weapon Warfare, Fighting Science: The Laws of Physics for Martial Artists, Norse Warfare: Unconventional Battle Strategies of the Ancient Vikings and The Science of Takedowns, Throws & Grappling for Self-Defense.

According to her personal website, Sprague has over 25 years experience in Kenpo karate, competition kickboxing and modern freestyle. Over the course of the chapters listed below, she uses this experience to discuss how the martial arts we practice today train us to fight and how we can apply the theories of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz to each facet of combat.
  • The Nature and Conduct of Combat
  • What is Combat?
  • Preparing for Battle
  • Elements of Tactics and Strategy
  • Imposing Your Will
  • Destroying the Enemy Force
  • Strength of the Defensive Position
  • Failure
  • Moral Quality of Courage
  • Securing Victory
Sun Tzu vs. Clausewitz

Prior to picking up Sprague's book, I confess to having never delved too deeply into Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Nowadays Sun Tzu's work is considered by many to be essential to not only the martial artist's library, but also to the modern day businessman as it details strategies and tactics for navigating conflict. Although, like most martial artists I have of course heard of it and in fact do have a copy, I have never spent any serious amount of time analyzing the lessons it contains. Unfortunately, if I understand only a little about Sun Tzu's school of thought, what I know about Carl von Clausewitz can be written on a matchbox. Though Clausewitz is considered to be the father of Western military strategy (as Sun Tzu is considered the father of Eastern), more often than not I would imagine today's martial artists tend to be unaware of his works and instead would gravitate towards works such The Art of War or The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli for a Western perspective.

(As an aside, interestingly enough a search for "Clausewitz" on this forum brings up 4 results whereas by comparison if I search for "Sun Tzu," 68 posts are returned. I think that goes to show how well known Sun Tzu's teaching are whereas Clausewitz, not so much).

Despite my ignorance, Lessons in The Art of War does a very good job of providing an overview, to the uninitiated, of both schools of thought and discusses them both on a deeper level for those already familiar. Over the course of ten chapters, Sprague discusses how Sun Tzu's and Clausewitz's theories can be applied to all facets of a conflict; from preparing for the fight itself through to victory (and failure). Despite hundreds of years passing between Sun Tzu's The Art of War, Clausewitz's Vom Kriege (On War) and today, many of the strategies promoted by each man still have relevance for the modern fighter. To quote Sprague herself:

Quote:
At the core, combat is about forcing an enemy to succumb to one's will. We might use different sets of weapons... and these weapons may eventually become outdated. But the experience of warfare, or the characteristics by which one recognizes combat, remains unaltered.

Even though both strategists are primarily concerned with conflict on a larger scale between armies and nations, Sprague does a very good job in relating the theories to battle on a more personal level. A surprising number of the tactics detailed by both Sun Tzu and Clausewitz can be applied to one-on-one combat and Lessons in The Art of War delves deeply into this, relating the teachings to a wide variety of martial arts from the Octagon to the tatami. Furthermore, she refers to many other great martial artists and fighters from both Eastern and Western backgrounds and contrasts Sun Tzu and Clausewitz's theories to the likes of Miyamoto Musashi, Gichin Funakoshi, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and the Gracies.

Sprague does an excellent job of explaining exactly why both Sun Tzu and von Clausewitz held the opinions they had and provides historical and cultural backgrounds for both. They both lived and fought in very different political and cultural climates, and it is clear that this had an impact on their views in how to handle warfare. Likewise, the cultural and political climate also had an impact on the various martial arts which arose in the East and West, and Sprague discusses how this led to differences in Eastern and Western methodologies and tactics.

Final Thoughts

Whilst incredibly detailed and informative, at times I did find some of the points to be a little labored and repetitive and found myself skipping over sections. It is not a light read for sure, and I would very much consider it to be a serious study on military theory rather than something which can be picked up for a quick read when you have a moment to spare. Furthermore, it may just be a personal gripe of mine, whilst containing hundreds of references, the vast majority of citations are for articles from Black Belt Magazine and similar, especially when it comes to details of martial arts that are outside her repertoire. Whilst I certainly wouldn't expect the author to be greatly knowledgeable in all martial arts, some of her assertions about Taekwondo, for instance, weren't quite on point. For example, she discusses the "ancient origins" and how it "was developed for combat to the death" to make a point about a good offense. Even a cursory glance over the current Taekwondo Wikipedia page shows that this is not necessarily the case. Especially from someone who has a degree in history, I would have expected better sources and this would make me question the validity of some of her other examples.

Nevertheless Lessons in the Art of War is incredibly informative and provides insights into different battlefield tactics and strategies from both Sun Tzu and Claus von Clausewitz. The over-arching message of Lessons from The Art of War is best summed up by the author herself:

Quote:
Although Sun Tzu's and Carl von Clausewitz's powerful assertions will likely challenge common approaches to success and hopefully spark debate, the aim of this book is to establish a solid foundation for further study, decentralize the martial arts and bridge the gap between the traditional Asian arts and their Western counterparts.

On this Sprague has certainly delivered and I would consider Lessons on The Art of War a valuable addition to any martial artist's library.

Buy the book: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk (KarateForums.com receives a small commission on any sales generated through these links).
_________________
"Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." ~ Confucius
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Patrick
KF Administrator

Joined: 01 May 2001
Posts: 27029
Location: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission, Danielle. I appreciate the level of detail you went into.

Patrick
_________________
Patrick O'Keefe - KarateForums.com Administrator
Have a suggestion or a bit of feedback relating to KarateForums.com? Please contact me!
KarateForums.com Articles - KarateForums.com Awards - Member of the Month - User Guidelines
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger

sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14370
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the review, Danielle!!

Quite well written, both the book and your review. The details, as already mentioned, make the difference across the board. I will check into buying this book for the authors point of views on the subject.



_________________
**Proof is on the floor!!!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 27735
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 11:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the review, Danielle. I've not read much of Sprague's material, but I have read The Art of War, but only once. I do enjoy some history, and I had not heard of Clausewitz before, but it sounds like his works are worth looking into.

This point gives me pause:
Quote:
Whilst I certainly wouldn't expect the author to be greatly knowledgeable in all martial arts, some of her assertions about Taekwondo, for instance, weren't quite on point. For example, she discusses the "ancient origins" and how it "was developed for combat to the death" to make a point about a good offense. Even a cursory glance over the current Taekwondo Wikipedia page shows that this is not necessarily the case. Especially from someone who has a degree in history, I would have expected better sources and this would make me question the validity of some of her other examples.


This is just kind of discouraging, and whenever I see points made about TKD like this, I find myself sighing and rolling my eyes. The cat is pretty much out of the bag when it comes to TKD's history, so there isn't much point in continuing with the older versions.

Other than that, though, it sounds like the book would be an interesting read, if not for the compare and contrast of East and West. Thanks for the review!
_________________
www.haysgym.com
http://www.sunyis.com/
www.aikidoofnorthwestkansas.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

DWx
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 17 Jan 2007
Posts: 6140
Location: UK
Styles: Tae Kwon Do & Yang family Tai Chi

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bushido_man96 wrote:
Thanks for the review, Danielle. I've not read much of Sprague's material, but I have read The Art of War, but only once. I do enjoy some history, and I had not heard of Clausewitz before, but it sounds like his works are worth looking into.

This point gives me pause:
Quote:
Whilst I certainly wouldn't expect the author to be greatly knowledgeable in all martial arts, some of her assertions about Taekwondo, for instance, weren't quite on point. For example, she discusses the "ancient origins" and how it "was developed for combat to the death" to make a point about a good offense. Even a cursory glance over the current Taekwondo Wikipedia page shows that this is not necessarily the case. Especially from someone who has a degree in history, I would have expected better sources and this would make me question the validity of some of her other examples.


This is just kind of discouraging, and whenever I see points made about TKD like this, I find myself sighing and rolling my eyes. The cat is pretty much out of the bag when it comes to TKD's history, so there isn't much point in continuing with the older versions.

Other than that, though, it sounds like the book would be an interesting read, if not for the compare and contrast of East and West. Thanks for the review!

In my mind this really impacted on the credibility of some of the arguments. I'd rather Sprague had stuck to her own experience and pulled from that but it seems as though she wants to validate every argument with examples from numerous martial arts. I suppose this is also why I got a little bored in places because she'd explained the same point 3 or 4 times. Well worth a read though.
_________________
"Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." ~ Confucius
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Titanium
Blue Belt
Blue Belt

Joined: 08 Aug 2015
Posts: 259
Location: Chesterfield, UK
Styles: Wado-Kai & Shotokan

PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very good evaluation - a new spin of the Art of War - a particular favorite of mine.

Thanks for sharing.
_________________
“Spirit first, technique second.” – Gichin Funakoshi
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    KarateForums.com Forum Index -> KarateForums.com Articles Archive All times are GMT - 6 Hours
Page 1 of 1
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


< Advertising - Contact - Disclosure Policy - Staff - User Guidelines >