VI. WEAK POINTS AND STRONG

VI. WEAK POINTS AND STRONG

1. Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and
awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight;
whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle
will arrive exhausted.

2. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on
the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.

3. By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy
to approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage,
he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.

4. If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him;
if well supplied with food, he can starve him out;
if quietly encamped, he can force him to move.

5. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend;
march swiftly to places where you are not expected.

6. An army may march great distances without distress,
if it marches through country where the enemy is not.

7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks
if you only attack places which are undefended.You can
ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold
positions that cannot be attacked.

8. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose
opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful
in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.

9. O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you
we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible;
and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands.

10. You may advance and be absolutely irresistible,
if you make for the enemy’s weak points; you may retire
and be safe from pursuit if your movements are more rapid
than those of the enemy.

11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced
to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high
rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack
some other place that he will be obliged to relieve.

12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent
the enemy from engaging us even though the lines
of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground.
All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable
in his way.

13. By discovering the enemy’s dispositions and remaining
invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated,
while the enemy’s must be divided.

14. We can form a single united body, while the
enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will
be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole,
which means that we shall be many to the enemy’s few.

15. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force
with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.

16. The spot where we intend to fight must not be
made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare
against a possible attack at several different points;
and his forces being thus distributed in many directions,
the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will
be proportionately few.

17. For should the enemy strengthen his van,
he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear,
he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left,
he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right,
he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere,
he will everywhere be weak.

18. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare
against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling
our adversary to make these preparations against us.

19. Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle,
we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order
to fight.

20. But if neither time nor place be known,
then the left wing will be impotent to succor the right,
the right equally impotent to succor the left, the van
unable to relieve the rear, or the rear to support the van.
How much more so if the furthest portions of the army are
anything under a hundred LI apart, and even the nearest
are separated by several LI!

21. Though according to my estimate the soldiers
of Yueh exceed our own in number, that shall advantage
them nothing in the matter of victory. I say then
that victory can be achieved.

22. Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may
prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover
his plans and the likelihood of their success.

23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his
activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself,
so as to find out his vulnerable spots.

24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own,
so that you may know where strength is superabundant
and where it is deficient.

25. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch
you can attain is to conceal them; conceal your dispositions,
and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies,
from the machinations of the wisest brains.

26. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy’s
own tactics–that is what the multitude cannot comprehend.

27. All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer,
but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory
is evolved.

28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained
you one victory, but let your methods be regulated
by the infinite variety of circumstances.

29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its
natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards.

30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong
and to strike at what is weak.

31. Water shapes its course according to the nature
of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works
out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.

32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape,
so in warfare there are no constant conditions.

33. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his
opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called
a heaven-born captain.

34. The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth)
are not always equally predominant; the four seasons make
way for each other in turn. There are short days and long;
the moon has its periods of waning and waxing.

VI. WEAK POINTS AND STRONG

VI. WEAK POINTS AND STRONG

1. Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and
awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight;
whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle
will arrive exhausted.

2. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on
the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.

3. By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy
to approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage,
he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.

4. If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him;
if well supplied with food, he can starve him out;
if quietly encamped, he can force him to move.

5. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend;
march swiftly to places where you are not expected.

6. An army may march great distances without distress,
if it marches through country where the enemy is not.

7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks
if you only attack places which are undefended.You can
ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold
positions that cannot be attacked.

8. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose
opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful
in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.

9. O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you
we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible;
and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands.

10. You may advance and be absolutely irresistible,
if you make for the enemy’s weak points; you may retire
and be safe from pursuit if your movements are more rapid
than those of the enemy.

11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced
to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high
rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack
some other place that he will be obliged to relieve.

12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent
the enemy from engaging us even though the lines
of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground.
All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable
in his way.

13. By discovering the enemy’s dispositions and remaining
invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated,
while the enemy’s must be divided.

14. We can form a single united body, while the
enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will
be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole,
which means that we shall be many to the enemy’s few.

15. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force
with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.

16. The spot where we intend to fight must not be
made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare
against a possible attack at several different points;
and his forces being thus distributed in many directions,
the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will
be proportionately few.

17. For should the enemy strengthen his van,
he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear,
he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left,
he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right,
he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere,
he will everywhere be weak.

18. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare
against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling
our adversary to make these preparations against us.

19. Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle,
we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order
to fight.

20. But if neither time nor place be known,
then the left wing will be impotent to succor the right,
the right equally impotent to succor the left, the van
unable to relieve the rear, or the rear to support the van.
How much more so if the furthest portions of the army are
anything under a hundred LI apart, and even the nearest
are separated by several LI!

21. Though according to my estimate the soldiers
of Yueh exceed our own in number, that shall advantage
them nothing in the matter of victory. I say then
that victory can be achieved.

22. Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may
prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover
his plans and the likelihood of their success.

23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his
activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself,
so as to find out his vulnerable spots.

24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own,
so that you may know where strength is superabundant
and where it is deficient.

25. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch
you can attain is to conceal them; conceal your dispositions,
and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies,
from the machinations of the wisest brains.

26. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy’s
own tactics–that is what the multitude cannot comprehend.

27. All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer,
but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory
is evolved.

28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained
you one victory, but let your methods be regulated
by the infinite variety of circumstances.

29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its
natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards.

30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong
and to strike at what is weak.

31. Water shapes its course according to the nature
of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works
out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.

32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape,
so in warfare there are no constant conditions.

33. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his
opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called
a heaven-born captain.

34. The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth)
are not always equally predominant; the four seasons make
way for each other in turn. There are short days and long;
the moon has its periods of waning and waxing.

V. ENERGY

V. ENERGY

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.

16. Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may
be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all;
amid confusion and chaos, your array may be without head
or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat.

17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline,
simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness
postulates strength.

18. Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is
simply a question of subdivision; concealing courage under
a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy;
masking strength with weakness is to be effected
by tactical dispositions.

19. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy
on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to
which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something,
that the enemy may snatch at it.

20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march;
then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.

21. The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined
energy, and does not require too much from individuals.
Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize
combined energy.

22. When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting
men become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones.
For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain
motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope;
if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if
round-shaped, to go rolling down.

23. Thus the energy developed by good fighting men
is as the momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain
thousands of feet in height. So much on the subject
of energy.

IV. TACTICAL DISPOSITIONS

IV. TACTICAL DISPOSITIONS

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.

5. Security against defeat implies defensive tactics;
ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.

6. Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient
strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength.

7. The general who is skilled in defense hides in the
most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in
attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven.
Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect ourselves;
on the other, a victory that is complete.

8. To see victory only when it is within the ken
of the common herd is not the acme of excellence.

9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight
and conquer and the whole Empire says, “Well done!”

10. To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength;
to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight;
to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.

11. What the ancients called a clever fighter is
one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.

12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation
for wisdom nor credit for courage.

13. He wins his battles by making no mistakes.
Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty
of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is
already defeated.

14. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into
a position which makes defeat impossible, and does
not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.

15. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist
only seeks battle after the victory has been won,
whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights
and afterwards looks for victory.

16. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law,
and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is
in his power to control success.

17. In respect of military method, we have,
firstly, Measurement; secondly, Estimation of quantity;
thirdly, Calculation; fourthly, Balancing of chances;
fifthly, Victory.

18. Measurement owes its existence to Earth;
Estimation of quantity to Measurement; Calculation to
Estimation of quantity; Balancing of chances to Calculation;
and Victory to Balancing of chances.

19. A victorious army opposed to a routed one, is as
a pound’s weight placed in the scale against a single grain.

20. The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting
of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.

III. ATTACK BY STRATAGEM

III. ATTACK BY STRATAGEM

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.

3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to
balk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent
the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in
order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field;
and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

4. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it
can possibly be avoided. The preparation of mantlets,
movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take
up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds over
against the walls will take three months more.

5. The general, unable to control his irritation,
will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants,
with the result that one-third of his men are slain,
while the town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous
effects of a siege.

6. Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s
troops without any fighting; he captures their cities
without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom
without lengthy operations in the field.

7. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery
of the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph
will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem.

8. It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten
to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one,
to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army
into two.

9. If equally matched, we can offer battle;
if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy;
if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him.

10. Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made
by a small force, in the end it must be captured
by the larger force.

11. Now the general is the bulwark of the State;
if the bulwark is complete at all points; the State will
be strong; if the bulwark is defective, the State will
be weak.

12. There are three ways in which a ruler can bring
misfortune upon his army:–

13. (1) By commanding the army to advance or to retreat,
being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey.
This is called hobbling the army.

14. (2) By attempting to govern an army in the
same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant
of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes
restlessness in the soldier’s minds.

15. (3) By employing the officers of his army
without discrimination, through ignorance of the
military principle of adaptation to circumstances.
This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.

16. But when the army is restless and distrustful,
trouble is sure to come from the other feudal princes.
This is simply bringing anarchy into the army, and flinging
victory away.

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.

II. WAGING WAR

II. WAGING WAR

1. Sun Tzu said: In the operations of war,
where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots,
as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand
mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them
a thousand li, the expenditure at home and at the front,
including entertainment of guests, small items such as
glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor,
will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day.
Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory
is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and
their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town,
you will exhaust your strength.
3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources
of the State will not be equal to the strain.

4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped,
your strength exhausted and your treasure spent,
other chieftains will spring up to take advantage
of your extremity. Then no man, however wise,
will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

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.

8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy,
neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.

9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage
on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough
for its needs.

10. Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army
to be maintained by contributions from a distance.
Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes
the people to be impoverished.

11. On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes
prices to go up; and high prices cause the people’s
substance to be drained away.

12. When their substance is drained away, the peasantry
will be afflicted by heavy exactions.

13,14. With this loss of substance and exhaustion
of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare,
and three-tenths of their income will be dissipated;
while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses,
breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields,
protective mantles, draught-oxen and heavy wagons,
will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue.

15. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging
on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy’s provisions
is equivalent to twenty of one’s own, and likewise
a single picul of his provender is equivalent to twenty
from one’s own store.

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.

17. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots
have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first.
Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy,
and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours.
The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.

18. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment
one’s own strength.

19. In war, then, let your great object be victory,
not lengthy campaigns.

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.

I. LAYING PLANS

I. LAYING PLANS

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.

3. The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.

4. These are:

(1) The Moral Law;

(2) Heaven;

(3) Earth;

(4) The Commander;

(5) Method and discipline.

5,6. The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.

7. Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.

8. Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.

9. The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.

10. By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.

11. These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

12. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:–

13.

(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?
(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
(5) Which army is stronger?
(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

14. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

15. The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat:–let such a one be dismissed!

16. While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.

17. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.

18. All warfare is based on deception.

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.

Sun Tzu on The Art of War

SUN TZU ON THE ART OF WAR
THE OLDEST MILITARY TREATISE IN THE WORLD

Translated from the Chinese
By LIONEL GILES, M.A. (1910)

 

 

 


[This is the basic text of Sun Tzu on the Art of War. It was extracted from Mr. Giles’ complete work as titled above. The commentary itself, which, of course includes this work embedded within it, has been released as suntzu10.txt (or suntzu10.zip). This is being released only as an adjunct to that work, which contains a wealth of commentary upon this text.]

The Art of War has 13 chapters.