The Art of War quotes by Sun Tzu

By | 20.07.2021
the-art-of-war-quotes-by-Sun-tzu

Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?

A leader leads by example, not by force.

Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.

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.

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Keep your friends close, your enemies even closer.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.

Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus, do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.

Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.

The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.

The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.

Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

Thus, it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people’s fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.

Let your plans be dark and as impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.

He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good.

If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near.

It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity

What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.

With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem.

Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.

If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, 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. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.

If equally matched, we can offer battle; if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy; if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him.

Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.

The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.

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.

The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.

There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.

Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose

One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of the trigger.

Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems

To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

The control of a large force is the same in principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.

Do not engage an enemy more powerful than you. And if it is unavoidable and you do have to engage, then make sure you engage it on your terms, not on your enemy’s terms.

Quickness is the essence of the war.

If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

Sun Tzu quotes on strategy

In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.

If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.

Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.

When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.

In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed.

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.

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.

If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.

There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.

Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise, for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.

There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.There are not more than five primary colors, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.

sun-tzu-quotes-on-strategy

We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.

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 manoeuvres.

A wise general makes a point of foraging of the enemy.

When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.

The experienced soldier, once in motion, is never bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is never at a loss.

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.

The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack

Who wishes to fight must first count the cost

If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt

Therefore, the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.

All war is deception.

The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.

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.

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.

To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.

The general who is skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven.

Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.

There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.

Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.

The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success.

He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.

The wise warrior avoids the battle.

sun-tzu-famous-quotes

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

The difficulty of tactical manoeuvring consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.

We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country — its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.

It is more important to out-think your enemy, than to outfight him

Victory usually goes to the army who has better trained officers and men.

The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.

Move only if there is a real advantage to be gained.

The skillful tactician may be likened to the shuai-jan. Now the shuai-jan is a snake that is found in the Ch’ang mountains. Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.

All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

A clever general, therefore, avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined to return. This is the art of studying moods.

The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.

If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak. If the banners and flags are shifted about, sedition is afoot. If the officers are angry, it means that the men are weary

Do not press an enemy at bay.

When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.

The skillful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man.

He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.

The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.

If in training soldiers’ commands are habitually enforced, the army will be well-disciplined; if not, its discipline will be bad.

For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards.

If your opponent is of choleric temper,  seek to irritate him.  Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.

Thus the expert in battle moves the enemy, and is not moved by him.

If we know that the enemy is open to attack, and also know that our men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the nature of the ground makes fighting impracticable, we have still gone only halfway towards victory.

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.

Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.

Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack.

No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique

Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.

The peak efficiency of knowledge and strategy is to make conflict unnecessary.

There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.

What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.

The enemy’s spies who have come to spy on us must be sought out, tempted with bribes, led away and comfortably housed. Thus they will become converted spies and available for our service.

He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.

Great results, can be achieved with small forces.

When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men, and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganization.

It is through the information brought by the converted spy that we are able to acquire and employ local and inward spies.

There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive;
and, unless submissive, then will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached
to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be unless.

If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler’s bidding.

We can cause the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy.

You have to believe in yourself.

Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.

When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.

Bravery without forethought, causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull.  Such an opponent, must not be encountered with brute force, but may be lured into an ambush and slain.

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.

Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.

If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.

Mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy

Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.

Sweat more during peace: bleed less during war.

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.

Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

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