The Books of Masters Sun and Wu still remain the most celebrated works on war in the literature of China. While the chariot has gone, and weapons have changed, these ancient masters have held their own, since they deal chiefly with the fundamental principles of war, with the influence of politics and human nature on military operations; and they show in a most striking way how unchanging these
principles are.

At the time of the Masters – China was a conglomerate of principalities in continual ferment. Personal ambition and intrigue, and not the wishes of the people, were the main factors in these wars.

Patriotism, or a popular cause, could not, therefore, be relied on to maintain the _moral_ of the levies. Instead of these, what may be called the force of despair is pointed out as the most powerful agent in giving cohesion and energy to an army. The general is urged to take a vigorous offensive; and to act at a distance from his base, where defeat means disaster, and where desertion is minimised owing to the distance from home. He should, in fact, burn his boats before an action, or, in Chinese phrase, act as one who removes the ladder from under those mounted upon the roof.

Unlike the tactics of the Japanese, in whom the spirit of attack burns strongly, those of Master Sun and Wu are essentially of the offensive-defensive order–manoeuvre before fighting, and non-committal until the enemy has shows his hand. The business of the general is to avoid encounter in battle until the enemy is no longer capable of offering resistance.

The masters do not make the mistake of advocating a passive defense. It is rather the defence which avoids battle by mobility and manoeuvre, induces the enemy by stratagem to divide his forces, or act in conformity with our wishes, and then falls upon him.

In regard to the tactics of the battlefield, the frontal attack, is considered unworthy of the skillful general. The plan of attack should consist, in the division of the army into two forces. The enemy is “attracted and engaged by one force, and defeated with the other” and here we have the containing or secondary attack of military principles.

Masters Sun and Wu are held in even greater reverence in Japan than in China, where war is looked upon as a troublesome phase in national life, and victory in battle is not considered the greatest achievement of a state.

In Japan successive generations of soldiers have been brought up on Sun and Wu. Like other arts, mystery surrounded the art of war, a belief that was encouraged by the strategist; and for a considerable time, the few copies of this book, that were brought over from China to Japan, were jealously guarded by their possessors. Later, as they became known, Japanese commentators arose to study Chinese literature more in depth.

The works of Masters Sun and Wu have given way to the scientific works of European writers, and the Masters sayings have become proverbs. Belief in the importance of a knowledge of the enemy and his resources, of preparation and training, had grown out of a long study of the ancient masters; and since it was the vital importance of a successful issue to the Japanese which, after all, fired their inner spirit and carried them through, they proved the sage’s words that it is the energy, born of despair, that wins the victory.



Now Wu, albeit clothed in the raiment of a scholar, was a man skilled in the art of war.

And Wen, Lord of Wei, came unto him and said:—

“I am a man of peace, caring not for military affairs.”

And Wu said:—

“Your actions are witnesses of your mind; why do your words say not what is in your heart?

“You do prepare and dress hides and leather through the four seasons, ornamenting them with red lacquer and the figures of panthers and elephants; which give not warmth in winter, neither in summer, coolness. Moreover, you make halberds, feet long, and pikes 12 feet long, and leather (covered) chariots so large as to fill up the gateways, wheels with ornament, and naves capped with leather. Now, these are neither beautiful to the eye nor light in the chase; I know not for what use my lord makes these things.

“But, although provided with these instruments of war, if the leader be not competent, a brooding hen might as well strike a badger, or a dog with young challenge the tiger: the spirit of encounter may be present, but there is no end but death.

“In ancient times, the Prince Chengsang cultivated virtue, and put away military things, and his kingdom fell.

“The Prince Yuhu put his trust in numbers, and delighted in war and was driven from the throne.

“Therefore the enlightened ruler should ponder over these things; encourage learning and virtue in the kingdom, and be prepared against war from without.

“To hesitate before the enemy is not a cause for righteousness; remorse for the fallen is not true humanity.”

And when Lord Wen heard these words, he himself spread a seat, and his wife offered up a cup, and Wu was appointed general before the altar.

Now, in the defence of Hsihe against different states there were fought seventy-six great fights, of which sixty-four were complete victories, and the remainder undecided. And the kingdom grew and stretched 1,000 leagues on every side, which was all due to the virtue of Wu.



And Wu the Master said:—

The mighty rulers of old first trained their retainers, and then extended their regard to their outlying feudatories.

There are four discords:—

Discord in the state: then never make war.

Discord in the army: then do not strike camp.

Discord in the camp: then do not advance to attack.

Discord in the battle array: then seek not to decide the issue.

Therefore, wise rulers who would employ their subjects in great endeavours, should first establish harmony among them.

Lend not a ready ear to human counsellors, but lay the matter before the altar; seek inside the turtle, and consider well the time and season. Then, if all be well, commit ourselves to the undertaking.

If the people know that their lord is careful of their lives, and laments their death beyond all else; then, in the time of danger, the soldiers advance, and, advancing, find glory in death; and in survival after retreat, dishonour.

The Master said:—

The Way must follow the only true path: righteousness lies at the root of achievement and merit.

The object of stratagem is to avoid loss and gain advantage.

The object of government is to guard enterprise and to preserve the state.

If conduct depart from the Way, and the undertaking accord not with righteousness, then disaster befalls the mighty.

Therefore, wise men maintain order by keeping in the Way, and governing with righteousness; they move with discretion, and with benevolence they make the people amenable.

If these four virtues be practised, there is prosperity; if they be neglected, there is decay.

For, when Lord Tang of Cheng defeated Lord Chieh, the people of Hsia rejoiced, and when Wu of Chou defeated Lord Chou, the people of Yin were not discomfited. And this was because it was ordained by Providence and human desire.

The Master said:—

In the government of a country and command of an army, the inculcation of propriety, stimulation of righteousness, and the promotion of a sense of shame are required.

When men possess a sense of shame, they will attack with resolution when in strength, and when few in number defend to the last.

But while victory is easy in attack, it is difficult in defence.

Now, of the fighting races below heaven; those who gained five victories have been worn out; those who have won four victories have been impoverished; three victories have given dominion; two victories have founded a kingdom; and upon one victory an empire has been established.

For those who have gained power on earth by many victories are few; and those who have lost it, many.

The Master said:—

The causes of war are five:—

First, ambition; second, profit; third, overburdened hate; fourth, internal disorder; fifth, famine.

Again, the natures of war are five:—

First, a righteous war; second, a war of might; third, a war of revenge; fourth, a war of tyranny; fifth, an unrighteous war.

The prevention of tyranny and the restoration of order is just; to strike in reliance on numbers is oppression; to raise the standard for reasons of anger is a war of revenge; to quit propriety, and seize advantage is tyranny; when the state is disordered and the people worn out, to harbour designs, and set a multitude in motion, is a war of unrighteousness.

There is a way of overcoming each of these five.

Righteousness is overcome by propriety; might by humanity; revenge by words; tyranny by deception; unrighteousness by strategy.

Lord Wen asked and said:—

“I would know the way to control an army, to measure men, and make the country strong.”

Wu answered and said:—

“The enlightened rulers of antiquity respected propriety between sovereign and people; established etiquette between high and low; settled officials and citizens in close accord; gave instruction in accordance with custom; selected men of ability, and thereby provided against what should come to pass.

“In ancient times, Prince Huan of Chi assembled 50,000 men at arms, and became chief among the princes; Prince Wen of Chin put 40,000 mighty men in the van, and gained his ambition; Prince Mu of Chin gathered together 30,000 invincibles, and subdued his neighbouring foes. Wherefore, the princes of powerful states must consider their people, and assemble the valiant and spirited men by companies.

“Those who delight to attack, and to display their valour and fealty should be formed in companies.

“Those skilful in scaling heights, or covering long distances, and who are quick and light of foot must be collected in companies.

“Retainers who have lost their rank, and who are desirous of displaying their prowess before their superiors should be gathered into companies.

“Those who have abandoned a castle, or deserted their trust, and are desirous of atoning for their misconduct, should be collected and formed into companies.

“These five bodies form the flower of the army. With 3,000 of such troops, if they issue from within, an encompassing enemy can be burst asunder; if they enter from without, a castle can be overthrown.”

Lord Wen asked and said:—

“I desire to know how to fix the battle array, render defence secure, and attack with certainty of victory.”

Wu answered and said:—

“To see with the eye is better than ready words. Yet, I say, if the wise men be put in authority and the ignorant in low places, then the army is already arranged.

“If the people be free from anxiety about their estates, and love their officials, then defence is already secure.

“If all the lieges be proud of their lord, and think ill of neighbouring states, then is the battle already won.”

The Lord Wen once assembled a number of his subjects to discuss affairs of state: and none could equal him in wisdom, and when he left the council chamber his face was pleased.

Then Wu advanced and said:—

In ancient times, Lord Chuang of Chu once consulted with his lieges, and none were like unto him in wisdom; and when the Lord left the council chamber his countenance was troubled. Then the Duke Shen asked and said: “Why is my Lord troubled?” And he answered: “I have heard that the world is never without sages, and that in every country there are wise men; that good advisers are the foundation of an empire; and friends of dominion. Now, if I, lacking wisdom, have no equal among the multitude of my officers, dangerous indeed is the state of Chu. It grieves me that whereas Prince Chuang of Chu was troubled in a like case my Lord should be pleased.”

And hearing this Lord Wen was inwardly troubled.




And Lord Wen said to Wu:—

“Chin threatens us on the west; Chu surrounds us on the south; Chao presses us in the north; Chi watches us in the east; Yen stops our rear, and Han is posted in our front. Thus, the armies of six nations encompass us on every side, and our condition is very unpropitious. Canst thou relieve my anxiety?”

Wu answered and said:—

“The path of safety of a state lies first of all in vigilance. Now my Lord has already taken warning, wherefore misfortunes are yet distant.

“Let me state the habits of these six countries. The forces of Chi are weighty but without solidity; the soldiers of Chin are scattered, and fight each of his own accord: the army of Chu is well ordered, but cannot endure: the soldiers of Yen defend well, but are without dash: the armies of the three Chins are well governed, but cannot be used.

“The nature of Chi is stubborn and the country rich, but prince and officials are proud and luxurious, and neglectful of the common people; government is loose and rewards not impartial; in one camp there are two minds; the front is heavy, but the rear is light. Therefore it is ponderous without stability. To attack it, the force must be divided into three parts, and, by threatening it on three sides, its front can be broken.

“The nature of Chin is strong, the country rugged, and the government firm; rewards and punishments just, the people indomitable, and all have the fighting spirit; wherefore, when separated, each fights of his own accord.

“To defeat this people, they must first be tempted by gain to leave their cause, so that the soldiers, greedy of profit, desert their general: then, taking advantage of their disobedience, their scattered forces can be chased, ambushes laid, favourable opportunities taken, and their general captured.

“The nature of Chu is weak, its territory wide, the government weak, and the people exhausted; the troops are well ordered but of short endurance.

“The way to defeat them is to assault their camp, throw it into confusion and crush their spirit, advance softly, and retire quickly; tire them out, avoid a serious encounter, and they may be defeated.

“The nature of Yen is straightforward; its people are cautious, loving courage and righteousness, and without guile; wherefore they defend but are not daring.

“The way to defeat them is to draw close and press them; tease them and pass to a distance; move quickly, and appear in the rear, thus causing bewilderment to their officers and fear in their ranks. Our chariots and horsemen will act with circumspection and avoid encounter. Thus their general can be captured.

“The three Chins are the middle kingdom: their nature is peaceful and their rule just. Their people are tired of war; their troops are trained, but their leaders are despised; pay is small, and the soldiers lack the spirit of sacrifice, thus they are well governed but cannot be used.

“The way to defeat them is to threaten them from afar. If a multitude attack—defend; if they retreat—pursue, and tire them out.

“In every army there are mighty warriors with strength to lift the Censer, swifter of foot than the war horse; who can take the enemy’s standard, or slay his general. If such men be selected, and set apart, cared for and honoured, they are the life of the army.

“Those who use the five arms with skill, who are clever, strong and quick, and careless of the enemy, should be given rank and decoration, and used to decide the victory. Their parents and families should be cared for, encouraged by rewards, and kept in fear of punishment. These men consolidate the battle array; their presence causes endurance.

“If these men be well selected, double their number can be defeated.”

And Lord Wen said:—

“It is good!”

Wu the Master said:—

“In the estimation of the enemy there are eight cases when, without consulting the oracles, he may be attacked.

“First, an enemy who, in great wind and cold, has risen early, started forth across ice and rivers, and braved stress and hardships.

“Second, an enemy who, in the height of summer, and in great heat, has risen early, has travelled incessantly, is hungry and without water, and is striving to reach a distance.

“Third, an enemy who has been encamped long in one place, who is without provisions, when the farmers are vexed and indignant, who has suffered frequent calamities, and whose officers are unable to establish confidence.

“Fourth, when the enemy’s funds are exhausted, fuel and fodder scarce; when the heavens have been overcast by long continued rain; when there is the desire to loot, but no place to loot withal.

“Fifth, when their numbers are few; when water is scarce; when men and horses are scourged by pestilence, and from no quarter is succour at hand.

“Sixth, when night falls, and the way is yet far; when officers and men are worn out and fearful, weary and without food, and have laid aside their armour and are resting.

“Seventh, when the general’s authority is weak, the officials false, and the soldiers unsettled; when their army has been alarmed, and no help is forthcoming.

“Eighth, when the battle formation is not yet fixed, or camp pitched; when climbing a hill, or passing through a difficult place; when half is hidden and half exposed.

“An enemy in these situations may be smitten without hesitation.

“There are six enemies, that, without consulting oracles, should be avoided.

“First, wide and vast territories, and a large and rich population.

“Second, where the officials care for the people, and bestow bountiful favours and rewards.

“Third, where rewards are well deserved, punishment accurately apportioned, and operations undertaken only when the time is fitting.

“Fourth, where merit is recognised and given rank, wise men appointed, and ability employed.

“Fifth, where the troops are many and their weapons excellent.

“Sixth, when help is at hand on every side, or from a powerful ally.

“For, if the enemy excel in the foregoing, he must be avoided without hesitation. As it is written, if it be judged good, advance; if it be known to be difficult, retreat.”

And Lord Wen asked and said:—

“I desire to know how the interior of the enemy can be known from his outer appearance; the form of his camp by observing his advance, and how victory may be determined?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“If the coming of the enemy be reckless like roaring waters, his banners and pennons disordered, and horses and men frequently looking behind, then ten can be struck with one. Panic will certainly seize them.

“Before the various princes have assembled, before harmony has been established between lord and lieges, before ditches have been dug, or regulations established, and the army is alarmed; wishing to advance, but unable; wishing to retreat, but unable: then the force can strike twice their numbers, and in a hundred fights there is no fear of retreat.”

Lord Wen asked:—

“How can the enemy be certainly defeated?”

Wu answered and said:—

“Make certain of the enemy’s real condition and quickly strike his weak point; strike an enemy who has just arrived from afar, before his ranks are arranged; or one who has eaten and has not completed his dispositions; or an enemy who is hurrying about, or is busily occupied; or has not made favourable use of the ground, or has let pass the opportunity; or one who has come a long distance, and those in rear are late and have not rested.

“Strike an enemy who is half across waters; or who is on a difficult or narrow road; or whose flags and banners are in confusion; or who is frequently changing position; or whose general is not in accord with the soldiers; or who is fearful.

“All such should be assaulted by the picked men; and the remainder of the army should be divided, and follow after them. They may be attacked at once without hesitation.”



Lord Wen said:—

“What is of first importance in operations of war?”

Wu answered and said:—

“Lightness, of which there are four natures, Weight, of which there are two natures, and Confidence must be clearly comprehended.”

And Wen said:—

“What are these?”

And Wu answered:—

“If the way be easy, the horses are light of foot; if the horses be light of foot, the chariots travel freely; if the chariots travel easily, men can ride in them without difficulty; if the men be free to move, the fight prospers. If the difficult and easy ways be known, the horses are lightened; if the horses be fed at proper intervals, the chariots are swift; if there be plenty of oil on the axles of the chariots, the riders are quickly conveyed; if the spears be sharp and the armour strong, the men make the fight easy.

“Large rewards in advance, heavy punishment in retreat, and impartiality in their bestowal are required.

“He who well understands these things is the master of victory.”

And Lord Wen asked and said:—

“By what means can the army gain the victory?”

And Wu answered:—

“The foundation of victory is good government.”

Again, Wen asked and said:—

“Is it not determined by numbers?”

And Wu replied:—

“If laws and orders be not clear; if rewards and punishments be not just; if the bell be sounded and they halt not, or drum be beaten and men do not advance; even if there be a hundred thousand men at arms, they are of no avail.

“Where there is order, then there is propriety at rest, and dignity in motion; none can withstand the attack, and retreat forbids pursuit; motion is regulated, and movements to right and left are made in answer to the signal; if the ranks be cut asunder, formation is preserved; if scattered, they are maintained; in fortune or in danger, there is unity; if a number be collected, they cannot be separated; they may be used but not wearied; in whatever situation they are placed, nothing under heaven can withstand them. The army may be called a father and his children.”

And Wu said:—

“In marching, movements and halts must be properly adjusted, suitable occasions for rationing not missed; the strength of men and horses not exhausted. If these three things be observed, the commands of the superior can be carried out; if the commands of the superior be carried out, order is maintained. If advances and halts be without method, victualling unsuitable, horses and men tired and weary—neither unsaddled or housed—it is because the orders cannot be obeyed; if the orders be set aside, there is disorder in the camp, and in battle—defeat.”

Wu the Master said:—

“On that depository of corpses, the battlefield, if there be certain expectation of death, there is life; if there be happy expectation of life, there is death. The good general is like unto one sitting in a leaking ship, or lying under a burning roof; the wisest man cannot contrive against him; the strongest man cannot destroy his composure; and the enemy’s onslaught can be withstood. For procrastination is the greatest enemy of the general; disasters to the army are born of indecision.”

Wu the Master said:—

“Men meet their death from lack of ability or unskillfulness. Wherefore training is the first requirement of war. One man with a knowledge of war can teach ten; ten men skilled in war can teach one hundred; one hundred can teach one thousand; one thousand can teach ten thousand; and ten thousand men can train an army.

“An enemy from a distance should be awaited, and struck at short range; an enemy that is tired should be met in good order; hunger should be opposed by full bellies; the battle formation should be round or square, the men should kneel or stand; go or remain; move to the right or left; advance or retire; concentrate or disperse; close or extend when the signal is given.

“All these changes must be learnt, and the weapons distributed. This is the business of the general.”

Wu the Master said:—

“In the teaching of war, spears are given to the short; bows and catapults to the tall; banners and standards to the strong; the bell and drum to the bold; fodder and provisions to the feeble; the arrangement of the plan to the wise. Men of the same district should be united; and groups and squads should help each other. At one beat of the drum the ranks are put in order; at two beats of the drum, formation will be made; at three beats of the drum, food will be issued; at four beats of the drum, the men will prepare to march; at five beats of the drum, ranks will be formed; when the drums beat together, then the standards will be raised.”

And Lord Wen asked and said:—

“What is the way of marching and halting an army?”

And Wu answered:—

“Natural ovens and dragons’ heads should be avoided. Natural ovens are the mouths of large valleys. Dragons’ heads are the extremities of large mountains. The green dragons (banners) should be placed on the left, and the white tigers on the right; the red sparrows in front; the snakes and tortoises behind; the pole star (standard) above; and the soldiers will look to the standard.

“When going forth to battle, the direction of the wind must be studied; if blowing in the direction of the enemy, the soldiers will be assembled and follow the wind; if a head wind, the position will be strengthened, and a wait made for the wind to change.”

And Lord Wen asked and said:—

“In what way should horses be treated?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“The places where they are kept should be made comfortable; fodder should be suitable and timely. In winter their stables should be warmed, and in summer sheltered from the heat; their coats clipped, their feet carefully pared, their attention directed so that they be not alarmed, their paces regulated, and their going and halting trained; horses and men should be in accord, and then the horses can be used. The harness, the saddle, bit, bridle, and reins must be strong; if the horse be without vice at the beginning, he can be used to the end; if the horse be hungry it is good; if his belly be full, his value decreases; if the sun be falling and the way still long, dismount frequently. For it is proper that the men be worked, but the horses must be used with discretion, so that they may be prepared should the enemy suddenly attack us.

“If these things be well known, then there is free passage under heaven.”




Wu the Master said:—

“The leader of the army is one who is master of both arms and letters. He who is both brave and tender can be entrusted with troops.

“In the popular estimation of generals, courage alone is regarded; nevertheless, courage is but one of the qualifications of the leader. Courage is heedless in encounter; and rash encounter, which is ignorant of the consequences, cannot be called good.

“There are five matters which leaders must carefully consider.

“First, reason; second, preparation; third, determination; fourth, vigilance; fifth, simplicity.

“With reason, a multitude can be controlled like a small number.

“Preparedness sees an enemy outside the gate.

“Determination before the enemy has no thought of life.

“Even after a victory, vigilance behaves as before the first encounter.

“Simplicity ensures few regulations, and preserves order.

“When the leader receives his orders, he forthwith departs. Not until the enemy has been vanquished does he speak of return. This is the duty of the general.

“Wherefore, from the day of departure of the army, the general seeks glory in death, and dreams not of return in dishonour.”

Wu the Master said:—

“In war there are four important influences.

“First, spirit; second, ground; third, opportunity; fourth, force.

“The military value of the nation’s forces—of one hundred times ten thousand fighting men—depends upon the personality of one man alone; this is called the influence of spirit.

“When the road is steep and narrow, when there are famous mountains and fastnesses where ten men can defend and one thousand cannot pass them by; such is the influence of ground.

“When spies have been skilfully sown, and mounted men pass to and from the enemy’s camp, so that his masses are divided, his sovereign and ministers vexed with each other, and superiors and inferiors mutually censorious; this is the moment of opportunity.

“When the linch-pins are secure, the oars and sweeps ready for use in the boats, the armed men trained for war, and the horses exercised, we have what is called the influence of force.

“He who understands these four matters has the qualifications of a general. Furthermore, dignity, virtue, benevolence, courage, are needed to lead the troops, to calm the multitude, to put fear in the enemy, to remove doubts. When orders are issued, the subordinates do not defy them. Wheresoever the army is, that place the enemy avoids. If these four virtues be present, the country is strong; if they be not present, the country is overthrown.

“Of such is the good general.”

Wu the Master said:—

“The use of drums and bells is to attract the ear; of flags, standards, and banners to strike the eye; of laws and penalties to put fear in the heart.

“To attract the ear the sound must be clear; to strike the eye the colours must be bright. The heart is awed by punishment, therefore punishment must be strict.

“If these three matters be not ordered, the state may, peradventure, be preserved, but defeat by the enemy is certain. Therefore, as it has been said (if these three things be present), there is no departing from the commands of the general; when he orders, there is no going back from death.”

Wu the Master said:—

“The secret of war is, first, to know who is the enemy’s general, and to judge his ability. If our plans depend on his dispositions, then success will be achieved without toil.

“If their general be stupid, and heedlessly trustful, he may be enticed by fraud; if he be avaricious and careless of his fame, he may be bribed with gifts. If he make unconsidered movements without plan, he should be tired out and placed in difficulties. If the superiors be wealthy and proud, and the inferiors avaricious and resentful, they should be set against each other. An enemy that is undetermined, now advancing and then retreating, whose soldiers have nought wherein to put their trust, should be alarmed, and put to flight.

“When an enemy thinks lightly of the general, and desires to return home, the easy roads should be blocked, and the difficult and narrow roads opened; await their coming and capture them.

“If their advance be easy and retreat difficult, await their coming and then advance against them.

“If their advance be difficult and retreat easy, then press and strike them.

“An army that is camped in marshy ground, where there are no water-courses, and long and frequent rains, should be inundated.

“An army that is camped in wild marshes, covered with dark and overhanging grass and brambles, and swept by frequent high winds, should be overthrown by fire.

“An army that has halted long without moving; whose general and soldiers have grown careless, and neglect precautions, should be approached by stealth, and taken by surprise.”

Lord Wen asked, saying:—

“If the two armies be facing each other, and the name of the enemy’s general unknown, in what manner can we discover it?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“A brave man of low degree, lightly but well equipped, should be employed. He should think only of flight and naught of advantage. Then, if he observe the enemy’s pursuit, if there be first a halt and then an advance, order is established. If we retreat and the enemy pursue, but pretend not to be able to overtake us, see an advantage but pretend not to be aware of it, then their general may be called a wise general, and conflict with him must be avoided. If their army be full of uproar; their banners and standards disordered, their soldiers going about or remaining of their own accord, some in line, others in column; if such an enemy be eager to pursue, and see an advantage which they are desperate to seize, then their general is a fool: even if there be a host, they may be taken.”

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Lord Wen asked and said:—

“If strong chariots, good horses, strong and valiant soldiers suddenly meet the enemy, and are thrown into confusion, and ranks broken, what should be done?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“In general, the method of fighting is to effect order in daylight by means of flags and banners, pennons and batons; at night by gongs and drums, whistles and flutes. If a signal be made to the left, the troops move to the left; if to the right, they move to the right. Advance is made at the sound of the drum; halt at the sound of the gong; one blast of the whistle is for advance, two for the rally. If those who disobey be cut down, the forces are subject to authority. If officers and soldiers carry out orders, a superior enemy cannot exist; no position is impregnable in the attack.”

Lord Wen asked and said:—

“What is to be done if the enemy be many and we be few?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“Avoid such an enemy on open ground, and meet him in the narrow way; for, as it is written, if 1 is to stand against 1,000, there is naught better than a pass; if 10 are to hold against 100, there is nothing better than a steep place; if 1,000 are to strike 10,000, there is nothing better than a difficult place. If a small force, with beat of gong and drum, suddenly arise in a narrow way, even a host will be upset. Wherefore it is written: ‘He who has a multitude seeks the plain, and he who has few seeks the narrow way.’”

And Lord Wen asked and said:—

“A mighty host, strong and courageous, which is on the defence with a mountain behind, a precipice between, high ground on the right, and a river on the left, with deep moats, and high walls, and which has artillery; whose retreat is like the removal of a mountain, advance like the hurricane, and whose supplies are in abundance, is an enemy against whom long defence is difficult. In effect, what should be done in such a case?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“This indeed is a great question, whose issue depends, not upon the might of chariot and horse, but upon the schemes of a wise man.

“Let 1,000 chariots and 10,000 horse, well equipped and with foot-men added to them, be divided into five armies, and a road allotted to each army.

“Then if there be five armies, and each army take a different road, the enemy will be puzzled, and know not in what quarter to be prepared. If the enemy’s defence be strong and united, send envoys quickly to him to discover his intention. If he listen to our advices, he will strike camp and withdraw. But, if he listen not to our advice, but strikes down the messenger, and burns his papers, then divide and attack from five quarters. If victorious, do not pursue; if defeated, flee to a distance. If feigning retreat, proceed slowly, and, if the enemy approach, strike swiftly.

“One army will hold the enemy in front, with another cut his rear, two more with gags in their mouths will attack his weak point, whether on the right or on the left. If five armies thus make alternate onslaughts, success is certain.

“This is the way to strike strength.”

And Lord Wen asked and said:—

“If the enemy draw near and encompass us, and we would retreat, but there is no way, and in our multitude there is fear, what should be done?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“In such a case, if we be many and they be few, divide and fall upon them; if the enemy be many and we be few, use stratagem and act according to opportunity; and if opportunities be untiringly seized, even if the enemy be many, he will be reduced to subjection.”

Lord Wen asked and said:—

“If, in a narrow valley with steep places on either side, the enemy be met, and they are many and we are few, what should be done?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“If they be met among hills, woods, in deep mountains, or wide fens, advance quickly, retire swiftly, and hesitate not. If the enemy be suddenly met among high mountains or deep valleys, be the first to strike the drum and fall upon them. Let bow and cross bow advance; shoot and capture; observe the state of their ranks; and, if there be confusion, do not hesitate to strike.”

Lord Wen asked and said:—

“If the enemy be suddenly met in a narrow place with high mountains on either side, and advance and retreat are alike impossible, what should be done in such a case?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“This is called War in valleys where numbers are of no avail. The ablest officers should be collected, and set against the enemy. Men light of foot and well armed should be placed in front; the chariots divided; the horsemen drawn up, and placed in ambush on four sides, with many leagues between, and without showing their weapons. Then, the enemy will certainly make his defence firm, and neither advance or retreat. Whereupon, the standards will be raised, and the ranks of banners shown, the mountains left, and camp pitched in the plain.

“The enemy will then be fearful, and should be challenged by chariot and horse, and allowed no rest.

“This is the method of fighting in valleys.”

And Lord Wen asked and said:—

“If the enemy be met in a marsh where the water is out, so that the wheels of the chariots sink in, and the shafts be covered, and the chariots and horsemen overcome by the waters, when there are no boats or oars, and it is impossible either to advance or retreat, what should be done in such a case?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“This is called water fighting. Chariots and horsemen cannot be used, and they must be put for a time on one side. Go up to the top of a high place, and look out to the four quarters. Then the state of the waters will certainly be seen; their extent, and the deep places and shallows fully ascertained. Then, by stratagem, the enemy may be defeated.

“If the enemy should cross the waters he should be engaged when half over.”

And Lord Wen asked and said:—

“If there has been long continued rain so that the horses sink, and the chariots cannot move; if the enemy appear from four quarters, and the forces are frightened, what is the course in such a case?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“When wet and overcast, the chariots should halt; when fine and dry, they should arise. Seek height, and avoid low places; drive the strong chariots, and choose well the road on which to advance or halt. If the enemy suddenly arise, immediately pursue them.”

Lord Wen asked and said:—

“If our fields and pastures be suddenly pillaged, and our oxen and sheep taken, what should be done?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“Lawless enemies that arise are to be feared; defend well and do not reply. When, at sunset, they seek to withdraw, they will certainly be overladen and fearful. Striving to return quickly to their homes, connection will be lost. Then if they be pursued and attacked, they can be overthrown.”

Wu the Master said:—

“The way of attacking the enemy and investing his castle is as follows:—

“When the outlying buildings have been taken, and the assaulting parties enter the innermost sanctuary, make use of the enemy’s officials, and take charge of their weapons. Let the army on no account fell trees or enter dwellings, cut the crops, slay the six domestic animals, or burn the barns; and show the people that there is no cruel desire. Those who wish to surrender, should be received and freed from anxiety.”




And Lord Wen asked and said:—

“If punishment be just and reward impartial, is victory thereby gained?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“I cannot speak of all the things that concern justice and impartiality, but on these alone dependence cannot be placed.

“If the people hear the word of command, or listen to the order with rejoicing; if, when the army be raised, and a multitude assembled, they go forth gladly to the fight; if, in the tumult of the fight, when blade crosses blade, the soldiers gladly die; upon these three things can the lord of the people place his trust.”

And Lord Wen said:—

“How can this be brought about?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“Seek out merit, advance and reward it, and encourage those without fame.”

Accordingly Lord Wen set seats in the garden of the palace in three rows, and made a feast unto his chief retainers. In the first row were set those of chief merit, and on the table were placed the best meats and precious utensils. Those of medium merit were set in the middle row, and the utensils on the table were fewer in number. Those without merit were set in the last row, and utensils of no value were put before them. And when the feast was over, and they had all departed, the parents, wives, and children of those with merit were given presents outside the gates of the palace according to their degree.

Further, messengers were sent yearly with gifts to condole with the parents of those who had lost a son in the service of the state, and to show that they were had in remembrance.

And after this was carried out for three years, the people of Chin gathered an army, and came as far as the Western River. And when the soldiers of Wei heard this, without waiting for orders, they armed themselves and fell upon them; and they that went forth were 10,000 in number.

And Lord Wen called Wu and said:—

“The words that you spoke unto me, have they not indeed been carried out?”

And Wu answered and said:—

“I have heard that there are men, great and small; souls, grand and feeble.

“As a trial, let 50,000 men, without merit, be collected, and placed under my command against the country of Chin. If we fail, the state will be the laughing-stock among the princes, and its power under heaven will be lost. If a desperate robber be hidden in a wide plain, and 1,000 men be pursuing him, their glances will be furtive like the owl, looking backward like the wolf, for they are in fear of harm from a sudden onslaught.

“One desperate man can put fear in the hearts of a thousand. Now, if this host of 50,000 men become as a desperate thief, and are led against Chin, there is nought to fear.”

On hearing these words Lord Wen agreed, and adding further 500 chariots and 3,000 horse, the hosts of Chin were overthrown, all being due to the encouragement of the troops.

On the day before the battle Wu gave orders to the forces, saying:—

“The army will attack the enemy’s chariots, horse and foot, in accordance with our commands. If the chariots do not capture the enemy’s chariots, or the horse those of the enemy’s, or the foot the enemy’s footmen, even if their army be overthrown, no merit will be gained.”

Therefore on the day of the battle, the orders were simple, and fear of Wei shook the heavens.


Here are some Inspirational Quotes for Honourable ‘Warriors’ to inspire and motivate them towards a more noble life. Honour means putting others before yourself, and doing what is best for others and yourself including those who come after us.

Dishonour are actions that make the world worse. 

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. – Dwight D. Eisenhower


We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us. – Winston S. Churchill

Battles are won by slaughter and maneuver. The greater the general, the more he contributes in maneuver, the less he demands in slaughter. – Winston S. Churchill

It is a proud privilege to be a soldier _ a good soldier [with] discipline, self-respect, pride in his unit and his country, a high sense of duty and obligation to comrades and to his superiors, and a self confidence born of demonstrated ability.  – George S. Patton Jr. 

There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time. – George S. Patton Jr.



You are able to contact me in one of the following ways – happy to discuss training seminars/workshops focused on topics around strategy for politics, war, diplomacy, empowerment etc.


(Also bespoke sports training workshops)

Mohammed Abbasi


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