Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sun Tzu: The Art of War

Sun Tzu: The Art of War

1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State.

2. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.

18. All warfare is based on deception.
(think about that next time you encounter War-'journalism')

19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

20. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder,
and crush him.

21. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him.
If he is in superior strength, evade him.

22. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to
irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

23. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.
If his forces are united, separate them.

24. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where
you are not expected.

25. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.

26. Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.


5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted
with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand
the profitable way of carrying it on.

16. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must
be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from
defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.

20. Thus it may be known that the leader of armies
is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it
depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.


1. Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

17. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
(1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
(2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
(3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
(4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
(5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

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


1. Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.

4. Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.


1. Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force
is the same principle as the control of a few men:
it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers

2. Fighting with a large army under your command
is nowise different from fighting with a small one:
it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.

3. To ensure that your whole host may withstand
the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken--
this is effected by maneuvers direct and indirect.

4. That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone
dashed against an egg--this is effected by the science
of weak points and strong.

5. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.

6. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more.

7. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.

8. There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.

9. There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.

10. In battle, there are not more than two methods
of attack--the direct and the indirect; yet these two
in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.

11. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn.
It is like moving in a circle--you never come to an end.
Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?

12. The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent
which will even roll stones along in its course.

13. The quality of decision is like the well-timed
swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy
its victim.

14. Therefore the good fighter will be terrible
in his onset, and prompt in his decision.

15. Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow;
decision, to the releasing of a trigger.

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