Those who are first on the battlefield
and await the opponents are
at ease; those who are last on the
battlefield and head into battle get
Therefore good warriors cause
others to come to them, and do
not go to others.
What causes opponents to come of
their own accord is the prospect of
gain. What discourages opponents
from coming is the prospect of harm.
So when opponents are at ease, it
is possible to tire them. When they
are well fed, it is possible to starve
them. When they are at rest, it is
possible to move them.
Appear where they cannot go,
head for where they least expect
you. To travel hundreds of miles
without fatigue, go over land
where there are no people.
To unfailingly take what you attack,
attack where there is no
defense. For unfailingly secure defense,
defend where there is no attack.
So in the case of those who are
skilled in attack, their opponents
do not know where to defend. In
the case of those skilled in defense,
their opponents do not know
where to attack.
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
To advance irresistibly, push
through their gaps. To retreat
elusively, outspeed them.
Therefore when you want to do
battle, even if the opponent is
deeply entrenched in a defensive
position, he will be unable to
avoid fighting if you attack where
he will surely go to the rescue.
When you do not want to do battle,
even if you draw a line on the
ground to hold, the opponent cannot
fight with you because you set
him off on the wrong track.
Therefore when you induce others
to construct a formation while you
yourself are formless, then you are
concentrated while the opponent
When you are concentrated into
one while the opponent is divided
into ten, you are attacking at a
concentration of ten to one, so you
outnumber the opponent.
If you can strike few with many,
you will thus minimize the number
of those whom you do battle.
Your battleground is not to be
known, for when it cannot be
known, the enemy makes many
guard outposts, and since multiple
outposts are established, you only
have to do battle with small squads.
So when the front is prepared, the
rear is lacking, and when the rear
is prepared the front is lacking.
Preparedness on the left means
lack on the right, preparedness on
the right means lack on the left.
Preparedness everywhere means
The few are those on the defensive
against others, the many are those
who cause others to be on the
defensive against themselves.
So if you know the place and time
of battle, you can join the fight
from a thousand miles away. If you
do not know the place and time of
battle, then your left flank cannot
save your right, your right cannot
save your left, your vanguard cannot
save your rearguard, and your
rearguard cannot save your vanguard,
even in a short range of a few to a
few dozen miles.
According to my assessment, even
if you have many more troops than
others, how can that help you to victory?
So it is said that victory can be made.
Even if opponents are numerous,
they can be made not to fight.
So assess them to find out their
plans, both the successful ones and
the failures. Incite them to action
in order to find out the patterns of
their movement and rest.
Induce them to adopt specific
formations, in order to know the
ground of death and life.
Test them to find out where they
are sufficient and where they are lacking.
Therefore the consummation of
forming an army is to arrive at
formlessness. When you have no
form, undercover espionage cannot
find out anything, intelligence
cannot form a strategy.
Victory over multitudes by means
of formation is unknowable to the
multitudes. Everyone knows the
form by which I am victorious, but
no one knows the form by which I
Therefore victory in war is not
repetitious, but adapts its form endlessly.
Military formation is like water --
the form of water is to avoid the
high and go to the low, the form
of a military force is to avoid the
full and attack the empty; the flow
of water is determined by the
earth, the victory of a military
force is determined by the opponent.
So a military force has no constant
formation, water has no constant
shape: the ability to gain victory
by changing and adapting according
to the opponent is called genius.