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71. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

The Invisible Enemy is Invincible....!!

A Skilled Attack is the one against which opponents do not know how defend ;

A Skilled defense is the one which Opponents do not know how to Attack ;

A Military Genius is the one Who wins the War without entering the Battleground ”

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the Late Spring and Autumn Period (roughly 5th century BC). The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu ("Master Sun", also spelled Sunzi), is composed of 13 chapters. Each one is devoted to an aspect of warfare and how it applies to military strategy and tactics. For almost 1,500 years it was the lead text in an anthology that would be formalised as the Seven Military Classics by Emperor Shenzong of Song in 1080.

The Art of War remains the most influential strategy text in East Asian warfare and has influenced both Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy, lifestyles and beyond.

The book contained a detailed explanation and analysis of the Chinese military, from weapons and strategy to rank and discipline. Sun also stressed the importance of intelligence operatives and espionage to the war effort. Because Sun has long been considered to be one of history's finest military tacticians and analysts, his teachings and strategies formed the basis of advanced military training for centuries to come.

The book was translated into French and published in 1772 (re-published in 1782) by the French Jesuit Jean Joseph Marie Amiot. A partial translation into English was attempted by British officer Everard Ferguson Calthrop in 1905 under the title The Book of War. The first annotated English translation was completed and published by Lionel Giles in 1910.

Military and political leaders such as the Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong, Japanese daimyō Takeda Shingen, Vietnamese general Võ Nguyên Giáp, and American military general Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. have drawn inspiration from the book.

I. Text and Commentaries

The Art of War is traditionally attributed to a military general from the late 6th century BC known as "Master Sun" (Mandarin: "Sunzi", earlier "Sun Tzu"), though its earliest parts probably date to at least 100 years later. Sima Qian's 1st century BC work Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji), the first of China's 24 dynastic histories, records an early Chinese tradition stating that a text on military matters was written by one "Sun Wu" (孫武) from the State of Qi, and that this text had been read and studied by King Helü of Wu (r. 514–495 BC).

This text was traditionally identified with the received Master Sun's Art of War. The conventional view—which is still widely held in China—was that Sun Wu was a military theorist from the end of the Spring and Autumn period (776–471 BC) who fled his home state of Qi to the southeastern kingdom of Wu, where he is said to have impressed the king with his ability to train even dainty palace ladies in warfare and to have made Wu's armies powerful enough to challenge their western rivals in the state of Chu.

The strategist, poet, and warlord Cao Cao in the early 3rd century AD authored the earliest known commentary to the Art of War. Cao's preface makes clear that he edited the text and removed certain passages, but th extent of his changes were unclear historically.

The Art of War appears throughout the bibliographical catalogs of the Chinese dynastic histories, but listings of its divisions and size varied widely. In the early 20th century, the Chinese writer and reformer Liang Qichao theorized that the text was actually written in the 4th century BC by Sunzi's purported descendant Sun Bin, as a number of historical sources mention a military treatise he wrote.


Around the 12th century, some scholars began to doubt the historical existence of Sunzi, primarily on the grounds that he is not mentioned in the historical classic The Commentary of Zuo (Zuo zhuan 左傳), which mentions most of the notable figures from the Spring and Autumn period. The name "Sun Wu" (孫武) does not appear in any text prior to the Records of the Grand Historian, and has been suspected to be a made-up descriptive cognomen meaning "the fugitive warrior": the surname "Sun" is glossed as the related term "fugitive" (xùn 遜), while "Wu" is the ancient Chinese virtue of "martial, valiant" ( 武), which corresponds to Sunzi's role as the hero's doppelgänger in the story of Wu Zixu.

Unlike Sun Wu, Sun Bin appears to have been an actual person who was a genuine authority on military matters, and may have been the inspiration for the creation of the historical figure "Sunzi" through a form of euhemerism.

II. Summary of The Art of War

These are some of the famous quotes drawn from this book, which will summarise the essence of this Book .

  • “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 make the enemy believe we are far away. When far away we must make the enemy believe we are near.”

  • “According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.”

  • “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”

  • “If he is superior in strength, evade him.”

  • “Attack him where he is unprepared. Appear where you are not expected.”

  • “The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.”

  • “There is no instance of a country having benefitted from prolonged warfare.”

  • “A wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own.”

  • “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

  • There are five essentials for victory:

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 who’s army is animated by the same spirit throughout all it’s 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.

  • “The worst strategy of all is to besiege walled cities.”

  • “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.”

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

  • “In war, the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won.”

  • “In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack: the direct and indirect.”

  • “An army may march great distances without distress if it marches through country where the enemy is not.”

  • “You can be sure in succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.”

“Military tactics are like water. For water, in its natural course, runs away from high places and hastens downwards. So, in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and strike at what is weak.”

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

  • “Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.”

  • “A clever general, therefore, avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined to return.”

  • “It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against the enemy nor to oppose him when he comes downhill.”

  • “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy not coming, but on our readiness to receive him.”

  • “Make your way by unexpected routes and attack unguarded spots.”

  • “If they will face death, there is nothing they will not achieve.”

  • “The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach.”

  • “If it is to your advantage, make a forward move. If not, stay where you are.”

III. Here are 3 lessons from Master Sun Tzu for Corporate World :

  1. Only enter battles you know you can win.

  2. Deceive your competition to make them do what you want.

  3. Lead your team as if you were leading a single man by the hand.

Are your mental faculties sharpened? Let’s win the battle of business!

Lesson 1: Only enter battles you know you can win.

Winners know when to fight and when not to fight. Losers always fight and thus often end up losing.

Fools enter battles and then start thinking about how to win. Strategists know how they’re going to win before they even start to battle.

If you have 10 hours, sharpen the Axe for 9 hours and use only one hour for cutting. Have you ever thought about the fact that the most skillful fighters often avoid battles and that that’s why they’re never defeated?

Take Bobby Fischer, for instance. The most brilliant chess player of all time instantly retreated, after he won the world championship, not playing again for 20 years.

So if you’re starting a business, look at the industry first. Can you even win against your biggest competitors? And if not, is there a different niche you can fill?

Creating a soda brand to compete with Coca-Cola would certainly be an effort in vain, given that over 1 billion drinks of the brand are consumed every single day.

But maybe you can create a higher-priced, eco-friendly alternative, that targets single mums. That could make a fortune!

Only enter battles you know you can win.

Lesson 2: Deceive your competitors to impose your will on them.

Mask strength with weakness, courage with timidity and order with disorder, Sun Tzu says.

A clever army will win not with their bodies, but with their minds. Making it seem like you’re miles away when you’re close to the enemies base with distractions, or surprise attacking in several places to splinter opposing forces are common tactics in the battlefield. They’re based on deceit and supposed to make your enemy do what you want them to do. In business, you can do the same.

The history of Walmart is same as above, an American discount department storechain, began in 1950 when businessman Sam Walton purchased a store from Luther E. Harrison in Bentonville, Arkansas, and opened Walton's 5 & 10.

The Walmart chain proper was founded in 1962 with a single store in Rogers, expanding outside Arkansas by 1968 and throughout the rest of theSouthern United Statesby the 1980s, ultimately operating a store in every state of the United States, plus its first stores in Canada, by 1995...

Nobody recognised them in the early stage, how they were expanding. now, they engulfed the whole world with 11,484 stores worldwide with Sales Revenues of US $ 523.964 billion (FY2020) and No.1 Fortune 500 Company.

Lesson 3: Lead your team as if you were leading a single man by the hand.

Eventually, your business will need a team. And eventually, that team will have to grow. But as companies get bigger, they get more complex. Every single human adds an infinite amount of feelings, thoughts and ideas to the business, and all of those have to be managed.

When talking about armies, Sun Tzu says:

“A skilled general leads his army, as if he was leading a single man by the hand.”

Whether you’re managing a big army or a small one, the tools are the same:

Break them down into smaller groups and then use clear signals to steer them into the right direction.

In business, that means teams should stay small, 3-4 people are often a good number to cooperate, before things get too complicated. Then you can set clear signals, like sales targets, tools to use, and a daily morning briefing, to make sure everyone’s on track.

Never forget 1-on-1 interaction with everyone on your team, because if you treat your employees like family, they’ll be just as loyal and committed.


The Art Of War is absolutely staggering and stunning book on Military Strategies and Tactics. It gives complete expance of thought how to gauge and measure the Situations and Environment either in Society or in Business.

This book also gives wionderful insights of how to navigate in the complex corporate world. Its is more of mind gaming rather than field activities.

Its a definitely a gold mine of Strategies, Tactics, Plans , Deception , Schemes and Maneuvering Methods, which will Enable and Equip Everyone to face harsh realities of World.

MM Rao

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