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
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
5. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining
battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you
may know where strength is superabundant and where it is
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
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
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.