Art of War, Sun Tze

Notes from the mind of a *really old* strategist.

Posted on Apr 08, '23

If commands are not followed, the leader is unclear. If commands are clear, deputies are at fault - behead them. That trains the army.

Unflinching discipline

outlined rules.

Wars are won with many Calculations & preparation.

Length of attack - no attack can persist forever. All attacks should be sprints.

Use your enemy’s resources.

There is no victory in hearing the sound of thunder - winning in a bull market. The victor is he who executes with no mistake, complete precision.

Don’t move, unless it is to your advantage.

The victor is one who knows both - how to attack and how to defend. Victory is won before the attack. Victory is one by going beyond defeat - position yourself as such that you can’t be defeated. And then allow your enemy to give you the opportunity to defeat him. Attack aggressively and precisely when he does. Like an onrush of conquering forces.

Earth > measurements > quantity > calculations> balancing of chances > victory

Control of a large force is the same as control of a few men - just divide up the numbers.

Fighting a large army under your command is the same as a small one; just institute signs and signals.

Analyze weak and strong points

In all fighting direct and indirect methods can be used in different combinations.

Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline. Simulated fear postulates courage. Simulated weakness postulates strength.

Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight. Whoever is second, will hasten to battle and arrive exhausted.

You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. You can ensure safety of your defence if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked. The general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend and he is skillful in defence whose opponent does not know what to attack.

Divine art of subtlety and secrecy. You learn to be invisible and inaudible.

In warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning maybe called a heaven born captain.

Move, only when it is advantageous.

If you go in without a plan, with brute force - you will fail.

He will conquer who has mastered the art of deviation.

Be rapid, be precise.

Use local knowledge. Know the space you are working in.

Attack weak points. Don’t attack when you aren’t strong or the enemy is strong.

Just as water has no constant shape, warfare has no constant conditions.

Conquer the art of studying the mood.

Take the easier path. Don’t take on fights while climbing uphill.

Keep the enemy in hope. Don’t back people into a corner.

Make yourself undefeatable first.

Variation in Tactics

  • Vary your plans.
  • consideration of advantages and disadvantages will be blended together
  • make your position unassailble. ALWAYS BE PREPARED. Don’t count on your enemy not coming. Count on yourself being prepared.
  • 5 dangerous faults affect a general - recklessness (destruction), cowardice (capture), hasty temper (provoked by insults), delicacy of honour (sensitive to shame), over-solicitude for his men (prone to worry). When an army is overthrown, the reason will be found in these 5 dangerous faults.

The Army on The March

  • Use natural advantages.
  • Be mindful of health. Camp on dry hard ground
  • When an enemy is close and quiet, he’s counting on the natural strength of his position
  • When he tries to provoke a fight, he is anxious for the other side to advance
  • humble words and increased preparations means the enemy is about to advance
  • Violent words and driving forward means he’ll retreat
  • Soldiers must be kept in control with human but iron discipline.

The Nine Situations

  • This chapter is all about positions; but basically it says - recognise the state and adopt an already known strategy from wisdom.
  • Also, when a human is given no choice, they lose the fear of loss and fight the hardest.

Attack by Fire

  • Identify the ways of doing something; For eg, “there are 4 ways to attack by fire”
  • The enlightened ruler lays his plan well-ahead. And the good general cultivates his resources.

The use of spies

  • What enables the wise sovereign and good general to strike and conquer and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge. This foreknowledge can only be obtained by other men. local spies: members of the district inward spies: members of the enemy’s faculty converted spies: getting hold of the enemies’ spies and using them for our own purpose doomed spies: do things for deception, have someone report them to the enemy surviving spies: those who bring back news from the enemy’s camp