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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
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
5. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to
defend; march swiftly to places where you are not
6. An army may march great distances without distress, if it marches through country where the enemy is
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
26. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy's own tactics--that is what the multitude cannot
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
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
32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant
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.
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