Sun Tzu Quotes
- "Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you
are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant
both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril."
- All warfare is based on deception. There is no place where espionage is not used. Offer the
enemy bait to lure him.
- Appraise war in terms of the fundamental factors. The first of these factors is moral influence.
- Therefore the victories of good warriors are not noted for cleverness or bravery. Therefore
their victories in battle are not flukes. Their victories are not flukes because they position themselves
where they will surely win, prevailing over those wh"
- "Opportunities multiply as they are seized."
- "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise
"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then
seek to win."
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 best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual
hostilities...It is best to win without fighting.
- A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent.
Though effective, appear to be ineffective.
- Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and
then seek to win.
- One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as
disastrous as to lose one.
- "In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. The art of war is of vital importance to
the state. It is matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence under no circumstances
can it be neglected."
- 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. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder,
and crush him.
- 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.
- "The art of using troops is this:
......When ten to the enemy's one, surround him;
......When five times his strength, attack him;
......If double his strength, divide him;
......If equally matched you may engage him;
......If weaker numerically, be capable of withdrawing;
......And if in all respects unequal, be capable of eluding him,
..........for a small force is but booty for one more powerful."
- "Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.
Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!"
- 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
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 w in or lose.
- He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory
is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay
siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources
of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened,
your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage
of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue...
In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
- Though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with
- It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand
the profitable way of carrying it on.
- Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy... use the conquered foe to augment
one's own strength.
- 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. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire
than to destroy it.
- To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists
in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
- Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans, the next best is to prevent
the junction of the enemy's forces, the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field,
and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.
- There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army: By commanding the
army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey; This is called hobbling
the army. By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant
of the conditions which obtain in an army; This causes restlessness in the soldier's minds. By employing
the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of
adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
- He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. He will win who knows how to handle
both superior and inferior forces. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout
all its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. He will win
who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
- 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.
- The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited
for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands,
but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. Thus the good fighter
is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.
- Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an
enemy that is already defeated.
- 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.
- 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.
- In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will
be needed in order to secure victory. 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.
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?
- 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 clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be
imposed on him.
- An army may march great distances without distress, if it marches through country where the
enemy is not. 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
- 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.
- 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 relieve. 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.
- 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
- In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them.
- Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places
and hastens downwards... 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. Therefore,
just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who
can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called
a heaven-born captain.
- So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.
- The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and
misfortune into gain.
- Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.
- We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.
- Do not interfere with an army that is returning home. When you surround an army, leave an outlet
free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.
- The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our
own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that
we have made our position unassailable.
- When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is INSUBORDINATION.
When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is COLLAPSE. When
the higher officers are angry and insubordinate, and on meeting the enemy give battle on their own
account from a feeling of resentment, before the commander-in-chief can tell whether or no he is
in a position to fight, the result is RUIN.
- 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
- 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. If, however, you
are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your
commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt
children; they are useless for any practical purpose.
- If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is
not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. If we know that the enemy is open
to attack, but are unaware that our own men are not in a condition to attack, we have gone only
halfway towards victory. 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.
- If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven
and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.
- On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not. On contentious ground,
attack not. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy's way. On the ground of intersecting highways,
join hands with your allies. On serious ground, gather in plunder. In difficult ground, keep steadily
on the march. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. On desperate ground, fight.
- If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in orderly array and on the point of marching
to the attack, I should say: "Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he
will be amenable to your will." Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness,
make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
- Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to
flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.
- If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for
riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity.
- Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders without regard to previous arrangements;
and you will be able to handle a whole army as though you had to do with but a single man.
- 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. Hence the saying:
The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.
- 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. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not,
stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.
- No leader should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no leader should
fight a battle simply out of pique. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again
into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. Hence the enlightened leader is heedful,
and the good leader full of caution.
- Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity; (2) They cannot be properly
managed without benevolence and straight forwardness; (3) Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one
cannot make certain of the truth of their reports; (4) Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies
for every kind of warfare; (5) If a secret piece of news is divulged by a spy before the time is
ripe, he must be put to death together with the man to whom the secret was told.
- 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 double agents and available for our service. It is
through the information brought by the double agent that we are able to acquire and employ local
and inward spies. It is owing to his information, again, that we can cause the doomed spy to carry
false tidings to the enemy.
- "To capture the enemy's entire army is better than to destroy it; to take intact a regiment,
a company, or a squad is better than to destroy them. For to win one hundred victories in one hundred
battles is not the supreme of excellence. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence."
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