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
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
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.