The Art of War: Chapter1

By: Sun Tzu

Chapter 1: Planning

• The art of war is of vital importance to the state.
• It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
• The art of war, then , is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining I the field.
• These are: The Moral Law; Heaven; Earth; The Commander; Method and Discipline.
• The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.
• Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.
• Earth comprises distances, great and small, danger and security, open ground and narrow passes, the chances of life and death.
• The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness.
• By Method and Discipline are to be understood the marshalling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the gradation of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.
• These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.
• Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise.
• Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the moral law? Which of the two general has the most ability? With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced? Which army is the stronger? On which side are the officers and men more highly trained?
• In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?
• By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.
• The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer – let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it will suffer defeat – let such a one be dismissed!
• While heeding the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.
• According as circumstances are favourable, one should modify one’s plans.
• All warfare is based on deception.
• Hence, when able to attack, appear that you are unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, appear that you are far; when far way, appear that you are near.
• Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
• If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.
• If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
• If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them.
• Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
• These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.
• Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations leads to victory, and few calculations to defeat; how much more no calculations at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

(I would gladly like to hear comments and ideas you can share from you…)


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