Archives For Sun Tzu

Military strategy is like water, which flows away from high ground towards low ground; so, in your tactics, avoid the enemy’s strengths and attack his weaknesses. Water adapts its course according to the terrain; in the same way you should shape your victory around the enemy’s dispositions. There are no constants in warfare, any more than water maintains a constant shape. Thus a general who gains victory by shaping his tactics according to the enemy ranks with the Immortals.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Thus a great warrior takes control of others and does not let others control him. By holding out temptation, he can make the enemy approach; by inflicting harm, he can hold them at a distance. Using the same principles, if the enemy are taking their ease, he can rouse them; if they are well-provisioned, he can starve them; if they are encamped, he can move them on. Attack at points which the enemy must scramble to defend, and launch lightning attacks where they are not expected. It is possible to march your army a thousand li as long as it is across unoccupied territory. To be sure of success, only attack at undefended areas. To be sure in defense, mount your defenses at those places the enemy cannot attack.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The skilled general seeks combined momentum and does not rely on individual prowess; he knows how to choose his men for maximum combined effect. This combined effect in battle has the powers of rolling logs and boulders. It is the nature of logs and boulders to remain still on level ground, but to roll down a slope; they will come quickly to a halt if they have squared-off sides, but keep rolling if they are round. The momentum of skilled warriors is like a round boulder tumbling down a thousand-foot mountain. This is what I have to say on momentum.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In the rolling turmoil of battle, your troops may appear to be in chaos, but in fact cannot be discorded; in tumult and confusion, your dispositions may seem formless, but in fact remain invincible. In this way, apparent confusion masks true organization; cowardice masks courage; weakness masks strength. Confusion and organization are a matter or deployment. Cowardice and courage are a matter of momentum. Strength and weakness are a matter of formation. A general skilled in out-maneuvering the enemy uses formation to make them follow him; he offers a sacrifice to make them snatch at it; he lays bait to tempt them and sets his troops in ambush to wait for them.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In all kinds of warfare, the direct approach is used for attack, but the oblique is what achieves victory. A general who understands the use of the oblique has a source of tactics as inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, which, like the Rivers and the Oceans, will never run dry. Like the Sun and Moon, they diminish and then replenish; they constantly renew themselves like the cycle of the Four Seasons. There are only five basic notes in music, but their variations are infinite. There are only five primary colours, but when blended, their shades and hues are limitless. There are only five principal tastes, but their combinations produce more flavours than can ever be tasted. In military strategy, there is only the direct and oblique, but between them they offer and inexhaustible range of tactics. The direct and the oblique lead naturally one into the other, like an ever-turning wheel, so who can ever exhaust their resources? The surge of rolling flood-water washes away boulders: this is called momentum. The swoop of a falcon strikes and kills its prey: this is called timing. Thus a skilled warrior, his momentum must be irresistible and his timing precise. Momentum is the tension in a crossbow arm; timing is the pulling of the trigger.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Momentum.

The principles of control for a large force are the same as for a small one; the essential factor is how they are divided up. Deploying a large army in battle is just like deploying a small one; it is a matter of formation and communication. To hold an entire army unbroken in the face of enemy attack is achieved by use of both the oblique and the direct. To make the force of your army’s attack like a grindstone crushing an egg, you must master the substantial and the insubstantial.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In the Art of War, first comes scoping, then measurement, then calculation, then balancing and finally victory. The Earth is the basis for scoping, scoping the basis for measurement, measurement the basis for calculation, calculation the basis for balancing, and balancing the basis for victory. A victorious army is just as an yi is to a shu. And a defeated army is as a shu to an yi. A victorious army carries all the weight of flood water plunging into a thousand-foot gorge.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The great generals of old first ensured that they themselves were beyond defeat and then waited for the enemy to make themselves vulnerable. Thus we can say that although you have it in your own hands to place yourself beyond defeat, you cannot, of yourself, bring about the defeat of the enemy. Whilst you are unsure of victory, defend; when you are sure of victory, attack. Defense should indicate that you are not in a position to defeat the enemy, attack that you are even stronger than you need to be. A skilled defender digs himself in deeper than the ninth level of the Earth; a skilled attacker falls on the enemy from above the ninth level of Heaven. In this way you can both protect yourself completely and ensure total victory.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There are five keys to victory: knowing when to fight and when not to, brings victory; knowing what to do both when superior in numbers and when outnumbered, brings victory; holding officers and men united in purpose, brings victory; careful preparation to catch the enemy unprepared, brings victory; a skillful general given free rein by the ruler, brings victory. These five together are the path to success.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In considering the complete art of war, it is greatly preferable to capture a state whole rather than break it up; it is better to capture a battalion whole rather than break it up; it is better to capture a company whole rather than break it up; it is better to capture a company whole rather than break it up. Using this principle, you can understand that winning a hundred victories out of a hundred battles is not the ultimate achievement; ultimate achievements is to defeat the enemy without even coming to battle.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War