What’s it about?

The Art of War is a late-spring and autumn military treatise from China. Thirteen chapters are attributed to the old Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu.

About the author:

During the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China, Sun Tzu was a military general, strategist, and philosopher. 500  BC.

While waiting for an opportunity for victory, secure yourself against defeats: 

The strategists who are successful only enter a battle knowing that they will win, whereas unsuccessful ones enter affrays and only begin to think about a strategy to win. 

Ensuring a victorious path, a skillful and smart fighter avoids battles he may lose. But even the most bright and brilliant generals can’t tell precisely when victory will come, for he should wait for the enemy to drip or make a mistake providing an opportunity for success.   

A lucrative general knows that to seize victory, there are five crucial rules: 

  1. You must know whether to fight or not. Know when the victory will undoubtedly be achieved. 
  1. You must know whether to fight or not. Know when the victory will undoubtedly be achieved. 
  1. You must know whether to fight or not. Know when the victory will undoubtedly be achieved. 
  1. You must know whether to fight or not. Know when the victory will undoubtedly be achieved. 
  1. You must know whether to fight or not. Know when the victory will undoubtedly be achieved. 

You must be cautious. Only attack when you know you have the advantage; attack from weak points. 

Avoid the enemy’s army when it has a keen spirit, a more advantageous position, or perfect columns and banners.  

Never enter a battle pointlessly out of anger; a wise leader has a reason to fight. Anger will fade, but a kingdom demolished down to the ground can never be brought back.  

Try to study your enemy’s moves, your enemy’s army might look defeated, but it can be a trap. Always make sure your supplies can reach you. Do not let your enemy take you places where you’re detached from your sources. 

 Warfare will be successful if generals, leaders, and sovereigns do not cause their own defeat: 

In a war, a general is commanded by a sovereign. Hence, a ruler can disrupt his army by his commands. The worst way destruction can be done is by commanding the army to advance or retreat when such action can not happen, by attempting to govern the military the same way he does the state, or removing good officers from their positions and placing inappropriate ones. These mistakes shake the confidence of the soldiers in their leader and cause defeat. 

A general too can exhibit dangerous and destructive faults. For example, if the general is reckless, he can lead his army to destruction. He can be a coward who will definitely be captured. If the general is proud, any insult will provoke him to react; instead of strategically acting, or he can be too concerned with his men’s comfort and get worked up by such considerations that he vitiates his principles along with his army.  

If any of the following six climates befall an army, the general is under obligation: 

  1. If he drags his army to a battle with an army ten times stronger than his, causing his soldiers to run away or flee. 
  1. If his soldiers are way too strong in relation to the officers, it will cause defiance and insubordination. 
  1. If the soldiers are too weak, they will collapse against any army.  
  1. If the higher officers are undisciplined enough and angry, it will make them attack their men and causing the ruin of the army instead of constructing a powerful military. 
  1. If he is weak and indecisive, resulting in a shaky, disorganized army. 
  1. If the general miscalculated the enemy’s strength, they might be way superior and lead to an overwhelming defeat. 

Preserve your means and resources through stratagems, foraging, and espionage to collect information: 

Maintaining an army is expensive; 100,000 men is worth 1,000 ounces of silver a day only by supplying food, spears, arrows, oxen, and armor. 

Warfare should have a plan to avoid prolonging it. It can exhaust the resources of any state, even if it was strong. Accordingly, it would help if you aimed for quick and decisive achievements.  

Avoid attacking walled cities because it will take months of preparations and a wisely planned strategy. A lot of inpatient and eager generals will squander their men all over the place for pointless attacks.  

You’ll need a much larger force than your enemy’s to attack and keep everything intact. You don’t need to destroy everything to express your power. A strategic and wise general lessens the cost of warfare when capturing the enemy’s country. 

A skillful and achieved general will subdue his enemies with the least fighting possible. To reach ultimate triumph, he eliminates the least losses possible. Great fighters excel in achieving victory not only by winning but at winning with ease, the simplest and smartest way there is. This is known as the stratagem attack. 

Another way to protect the state’s wealth is to take them from the enemy by foraging locally and growing your power with the enemy’s arms, armor, and men. This saves the expense of supplying your army from home and keeps the strain of sustaining the army for your peasants. 

You can employ spies, as single battles will end wars; they provide decisive information about the enemy’s disposition and bring false secrets back to him. 

For your informants, maintain personal relationships and reward them well. Compared to the protracted and lengthy war they might help to prevent, the cost is minimal. 

If you establish a stratagem around the secret that a spy told you to, kill him and every other person to whom he revealed the secret, so your scheme would not lose its strength.  

Trick your opponent and force on him your will: 

The art of war is based on trickery and deception. You have to disguise power with vulnerability, bravery with timidity, and order with chaos. Make your enemy confused and let him grow reckless. 

Have your soldiers feign disorder when they are highly disciplined. Make it look like you are far away when you draw close to your opponent. Make it look like you are unable to attack when you can shoot. 

As a cat plays with a mouse, you play with your enemy. If he has a temper, aggravate him. If he is relaxed, annoy him; if he is well-supplied, starve him; if he is peacefully encamped, force him to move and drift. If you want the enemy to advance, give him bait; and if you want him to withdraw, inflict harm on him. 

A smart warrior takes the initiative and imposes his will on the enemy. 

Strike the enemy on points poorly defended that he must hurry to protect. Push him to show himself so that you can look at his weaknesses. 

Keep your enemy wondering where you’re going to attack, causing him to break up and spread his strength: In addition to utter numbers, numerical weakness comes from having to plan for attacks on many fronts as well. 

Watch the ground and your opponent and observe them closely, then adjust accordingly: 

A good general recognizes that certain positions can not be held at all times, and some sovereign orders must be disobeyed. 

Just like water forms its course according to the ground over which it flows, so you too have to adjust to the situation, the terrain, and the disposition of the enemy. 

To take advantage of its inherent benefits and prevent its disadvantages, observe the landscape. Do not ascend heights, go offshore, or migrate away from water and shelter in order to fight. 

Avoid areas where drastic cliffs, limited places, or crises occur where a small force can damage an entire army. 

 Inspect and watch the enemy closely. When the troops, while standing, rely on their spears, they become weak from hunger. When the soldiers he sends to bring water want to drink it themselves; they are thirsty.  

And when they begin to eat their own animals, forget to hang their boiling pots over the fires of the base, and behave as though they are not going to come back to their tents, understand that they are prepared to fight until death. 

Adapt your strategies to the different situations as needed and seize opportunities as they arise. 

To wage war effectively, curtly control your soldiers, keep them in doubt, and make them fight to the death: 

Managing a large army and controlling it is not so different from managing a small one: you divide your men into smaller numbers and then use signals to monitor your troops; it can be gongs, drills, banners, and warning fires. 

They’re going to strike, and the cowardly will not have the courage to withdraw, nor will the brave be left alone to strike. As if he were leading one man by the side, a professional general conducts his army. 

Like your beloved sons, treat your soldiers, and they will stick up by you and protect you with their lives. However, if you can’t handle them with authority, they’ll be as useless as spoiled kids. 

Your soldiers’ iron discipline is a sure path to victory. But your soldiers must grow attached to you for discipline to be successful. Therefore, while still keeping them under control, you must treat them in a humane manner. 

You’ve got to be secretive as a general. To keep both your soldiers and the enemy guessing, make sure your soldiers are ignorant of your strategies and change your plans frequently. 

Change camps and, instead of direct ones, take long roundabout routes. Only reveal your hand once you are deep in a country of hostility. 

Tell your men about it when the situation looks bright, but keep it to yourself when the case is bad. 

The further you enter a hostile country, the more solidarity your soldiers will feel. 

Put them in desperate circumstances where there is no escape, and they will lose all sense of fear and fight with the utmost strength and courage, even to their deaths.