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The Art of War
MacKiDo by David K. Every by David K. Every     [INDEX]

I think the biggest problem with understanding Sun Tzu and the Art of War, and much of Asian Culture in general has to do with fundamental translation issues. How do you explain blue to someone who is blind? Sometimes the perspective is so fundamentally different, that it is (near) impossible to find common ground, and the foundation on which to build.

One of the biggest areas of this is in Westerners (Americans) understanding something simple and common -- like a simple book written thousands of years ago (2500 to be roughly precise), by a relatively uneducated (by today's measure) peasant philosopher (and General) by the name of Sun Tzu.

A simple test

When asked by a local King (Ho Lu) for proof of what he knew (a Resume of a General), Sun Tzu created the text of "The Art of War" to explain (or gave him a copy of what was already written). Even then the King did not fully understand. Ho Lu said that while he read the texts he wanted to put the book (and the Philosopher General) to a test. So the King brought out 180 concubines and basically challenged Sun Tzu to turn them into an army -- after all, the Art of War implied that the right philosophy (strategy) could win any war, so certainly the right philosopher-general could make an army out of anything.

Sun Tzu divided the concubines up into two groups, and told them how to turn and march. Upon the command to turn left, the girls (being girls and not soldiers) only giggled. So Sun Tzu had the leaders of each group beheaded, and had the second in commands put in charge. When next he ordered the command to turn left (and march) there was no hesitation, and no giggling -- the "soldiers" had become hardened, and understood the costs of failure and understood war. They proceeded to act like soldiers and obey commands.

The King had protested his two favorite concubines losing their heads (before the act) -- but Sun Tzu was intending to teach the King as much as the girls. He explained that Generals have certain obligations -- and once things are in motion, some "orders" or "requests" by their kinds can not (and will not) be obeyed. He had them beheaded anyway. At the end Sun Tzu explained that the girls were now soldiers and much more prepared to fight than before -- and more importantly he explained to the King that now the King better understood the costs of war as well. The King of course was smart enough to appoint Sun Tzu as General of his armies.

For a more literal translation, you can read Making Warriors. But try to filter out the flowery words of poets (and diplomatic philosophers) and get to the core principles.

The point

Well the point to all these metaphorical stories are amazingly applicable to us all. An important lesson here (and throughout the text) is that the Western culture (by and large) is like the ignorant King. He wanted power and to play "war" games -- without understanding the costs. He did not know what war was (for real) -- so he was too willing to get involved and too willing to say "enough" once he was going to have to the price. But as was explained in the third chapter of The Art of War, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." Well the King did not know his enemy, himself, or even the rules of the game in which he was playing -- and it cost him his favorite concubines (something dear to him). We all need to learn the rules of engagement, understand ourselves, and understand those we are dealing with before we get involved in any "games" of conflict.

Which brings me to the point. Most westerners (who are not, or who have not been warriors) are so ignorant (as the King was) that it is hard to explain to them even the most basic of concepts of that which they are involved. This is clearly demonstrated in how they read (and interpret) the title of this book itself. The title is "The Art of War" (or more literally "War Art") -- but most westerners don't even understand what is "war" (and we could debate about what is "art" as well).

Read a western (English) Dictionary and you get the definition:

War (wor) n. 1.a. A state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties. b. The period of such conflict. c. The techniques and procedures of war; military science. 2.a. A condition of active antagonism or contention. b. A concerted effort or campaign to combat or put an end to something considered injurious.
This definition demonstrates a fundamental failure to understand what Sun Tzu was talking about (and what is "war"). Fighting and open conflict is such a trite and trivial aspect of war as to be secondary. Open warfare is the costs of fighting a war (and fighting a war poorly) but is not war itself. War to Sun Tzu was more the concept of influence (force, coercion, fighting, politics, business, and so on) in order to achieve an ends in the quickest and least costly way possible. In most cases, to get to the fighting stage of war is a failure, and means that you failed to win without fighting (or failed to win in the least costly way possible).

A better definition for the western mind (though less literal) would be to call the book "The study of control" (or maybe domination) or just "how to win". It is an ancient guide to leaders (and men) -- it is the ancient eastern equivalent (more raw form) of the book, "How to make friends and influence people". It is about learning to control others, to control yourself, to control a situation -- and the potential costs of failure. It is more than just learning how to win, it also trying to teach people to think of the costs and consequences of their actions before hand.

War is an absolute conflict. It is all out, no holds barred, must win or be destroyed kind of thing. I don't personally agree with casually using the win-at-any-cost attitude that is necessary for war. Resorting to "war" and this attitude is way to easy for some -- and is something I associate with youth (and a black and white attitude on life). There are times when you may have to resort to war -- but the older (more mature) you get, the more you learn how to avoid it (because you know the costs). So I opt to not use many techniques and behaviors of war -- but by knowing about war, I can make these decisions from a point of understanding (and choose). At least knowing about them allows me to see how the techniques may be used by others (wittingly or unwittingly). So it is worth exploring the mindset, even if many techniques will rarely (if ever) be employed. Heck I studied martial arts, and learned how to disarm people who had guns or knives, or how to strike deadly blows, but I seriously doubt there will ever be a circumstance where I would have to employ them.
Some westerners feel that some forms of control, or ways of winning are "sneaky" or "manipulative" -- but that is their failure as well, they don't even understand the rules of the game (the game of life) that they are playing. Then they are failing to take responsibility for that ignorance -- and instead blaming others. It is not someone else's fault if you are ignorant -- especially when the information to enlighten is available. The Art of War has been available for 2500 years (and many centuries to Westerners) -- the failure to learn and understand belongs with those who fail to grow, not with the world because it failed to spoon feed key knowledge to them.

Philosophers can often debate about "why is" -- but many men that have sought the answer to "what is" have often found it. The reason why many "warriors" or Martial Artist (or men who've faced combat) have ideals that are similar is not because it requires the same personality or beliefs to be put in those situations -- it is because those situations force them to reflect on themselves, their surroundings, and the truth. This often causes men to reach many of the same conclusions (to see the same truths). Once one sees war (combat) and what is life (and death), cause and effect, and sees into the hearts and minds of others (and society), then certain truths becomes clear.

The Art of War

I am including my interpretations of The Art of War. And after each of my summaries, I include a translation of the original text. It is not a hard text to read -- 13 small chapters. But reflecting on what each chapter means (and means to you) can take a lot more time. My interpretation is including not to tell others the only way things are meant -- but how I see them. They are a way for me to clarify my own views -- and challenge them. Every person can get their own lessons from life and literature.

I'll finish the other 7 chapters at some later date.

The Art of War
MacKiDo by David K. Every by David K. Every     [INDEX]

One day, King of Wu asked Sun Tzu, "I have carefully perused your thirteen chapters.  May I submit your theory of managing soldiers to a slight test?"

Sun Tzu replied, "You may."

The king asked, "May the test be applied to women?"

The answer was again in the affirmative, so arrangements were made to bring 180 ladies out of the palace.  Sun Tzu divided them into two companies and placed one of the king's favorite concubines at the head of each.  He then made them all take spears in their hands and addressed them thus: "I presume you know the difference between front and back, right hand and left hand?"

The girls replied, "Yes."

Sun Tzu went on.  "When I say 'eyes front,' you must look straight ahead.  When I say 'left turn,' you must face toward your left hand.  When I say 'right turn,' you must face toward your right hand.  When I say 'about turn,' you must face right around toward the back."

Again the girls assented.  The words of command having been thus explained, he set up the halberds and battle-axes in order to begin the drill.  Then to the sound of drums he gave the order "right turn," but the girls only burst out laughing.

Sun Tzu said patiently, 'If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame.  But if his orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers."  So he ordered the leaders of the two companies to be beheaded.

Now the King of Wu was watching from the top of a raised pavilion, and when he saw that his favorite concubines were about to be executed, he was greatly alarmed and hurriedly sent down the following message: "We are now quite satisfied as to our general's ability to handle troops.  If we are bereft of these two concubines, our meat and drink will lose there savor.  It is our wish that they shall not be beheaded."

Sun Tzu replied even more patiently: "Having once received His Majesty's commission to be general of his forces, there are certain commands of His Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept."  Accordingly, and immediately, he had the two leaders beheaded and straightaway installed the pair next in order as leaders in their place.  When this had been done the drum was sounded for the drill once more.  The girls went thorough all the evolutions, turning to the right or to the left, marching ahead or wheeling about, kneeling or standing, with perfect accuracy and precision, not venturing to utter a sound.

Then Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the king saying: "Your soldiers, sire, are now properly drilled and disciplined and ready for Your Majesty's inspection.  They can be put to any use that their sovereign may desire.  Bid them go through fire and water and they will not now disobey."

But the king replied: "Let our general cease drilling and return to camp.  As for us, we have no wish to come down and inspect the troops."

Thereupon Sun Tzu said calmly: "The king is only fond of words and cannot translate them into deeds."

After that the King of Wu saw that Sun Tzu was one who knew how to handle an army, and appointed him general.


The Art of War
Chapter 1
MacKiDo by David K. Every by David K. Every     [INDEX]

This is my interpretations of what the chapter means (summarized). Afterwards is the literal translation of the text.

Laying Plans

Understanding motivations, influence, and learning how to control (ones self, ones allies and ones enemies) is necessary to every individual or organization. It is easy to focus on the external and the shallow -- to see the surface (facade) and miss the truths -- but there are truths, and it is our responsibilities (as leaders or followers) to understand them, accept them, and follow them.

The truth includes that men desire (and need) an order to all things -- and men need to understand the order of things around them. Without that security, you can not lead effectively or achieve goals. The fundamentals are:

  1. Men must understand the rules (and the consequences)
  2. Men must understand their environment
  3. Men must understand their situation
  4. Men must know when to follow (and know the pecking order)
  5. The rules must have a purpose, and they must be effective in order to be followed
When judging two leaders, the way to decide which is more effective leader is by examining who understands and controls these fundamentals (and who is better at creating security and order).

Control is also managed through communication. You can control (manipulate another) through communications. False information and controlling what another sees is a way to control how they will act. Never trust the information that someone else (adversarial to your position) tells you -- be skeptical! Be deceptive when necessary -- and when being deceptive do it well -- never let an adversary know the truth until it is too late. Keep them off balance and try to retain yours. Expect the unexpected. Use your advantages and exploit their weakenesses -- never give in, and never give an adversary a rest.

The key to successfully achieving an end is having thought of all the options ahead of time. Planning, cross checking those plans against every opportunity, will have everyone prepared for all possibilities and allow them to deal with situations much better.

Enlightenment and knowledge are the key to good decisions. Communications is the key to getting others to accomplish your goals.

Literal Translation of Sun Tzu (Chapter 1)

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. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.

The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are:

  1. The Moral Law
  2. Heaven
  3. Earth
  4. The Commander
  5. Method and discipline.
The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.

Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.

Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.

The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.

By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.

These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:

  1. Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
  2. Which of the two generals has most ability?
  3. With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
  4. On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
  5. Which army is stronger?
  6. On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
  7. In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?
By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat:--let such a one be dismissed!

While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.

According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one's plans.

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 he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.

If your opponent is of choleric temper, 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.

Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.

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.


The Art of War
Chapter 2
MacKiDo by David K. Every by David K. Every     [INDEX]

This is my interpretations of what the chapter means (summarized). Afterwards is the literal translation of the text.

Waging War

Any battle (conflict) has a high price -- you need to know that ahead of time. War is a battle that you must win in order to survive (long term) -- therefor the battle must be absolute, and almost any cost must be paid. Because of the high costs, you should avoid "war" (emotional, spiritual or physical) if possible -- and when it can not be avoided, the only thing you can do is win as quickly as possible (to minimizze the costs of prolonged battle). Every move must have a purpose, every action must be to end the conflict quickly and decisively (no one wins when conflict is prolonged). The entire focus of the individual or state (in conflict) must be to win this conflict quickly because the only kindness that can be offered once a conflict is starting, is to end it (and stop what is happening). Go over the opponent, go around opponent or go through the opponent, but get to the end!

When using resources (emotional, spiritual or physical) make sure you are using the opponents resources (whatever those resources are) -- use his energy against him -- that not only costs him, but it also saves you those resources (reserves).

Make sure those that aide you are appreciated and remembered, and make sure those that oppose you never forget. This is not the last battle ever to be fought -- and some actions are for the future. Make sure everyone knows that you want peace (and to avoid fights). But also make sure that if you are forced to fight, that you will win and they will lose -- and that all who go against you in war, will not wish to do so ever again. The way to insure peace is to increase the price of war (for your opponents).

Literal Translation of Sun Tzu (Chapter 2): Waging War

Sun Tzu said: In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand li, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.

When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. 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 damped, 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.

Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

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

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

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

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs.

Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished.

On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be drained away.

When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions.

With this loss of substance and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare, and three-tenths of their income will be dissipated; while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantles, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue.

Hence 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, and likewise a single picul of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one's own store.

Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.

Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.

This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.

In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

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.


The Art of War
Chapter 3
MacKiDo by David K. Every by David K. Every     [INDEX]

This is my interpretations of what the chapter means (summarized). Afterwards is the literal translation of the text.

Strategy of Agression

Use what the opponent has against him. Contol his assets, sway his allies, bend his will and make them your own. Avoid siege and attricion -- get to the goals. Fight when it is to your advantage, and avoid it when it is not. Don't win battles by a little -- win them by a lot. Demoralize through total domination -- war is no place for compassion. Destroy his will to fight, destroy his allies will to fight. Make all involved realize that there is nothing they can do, the outcome is innevitable (and you will win) -- so they must bend to your will, and the quicker the better for all.

The way to lose a fight is to have a compassionate leader try to micromanage that which he doesn't understand. Being ignorant of the "rules" and being "nice" is not the way to win. Politics and diplomacy are for before a fight -- once in a war the rules are different. There can be no distractions from the goals, no playing by "nice" rules -- the way to win is to win at any cost. It is the most committed and driven that will win -- war is about a battle of spirit. Keep your eye on the prize (which is winning and THEN peace). Once you show distraction from the goals, others will exploit that weakness against you.

Know when to avoid a fight, and when you have no other choice. Know how to fight from a position of strength or weakness. Know how to unite others with you (and divide others from your opponents). Be prepared for anything -- and how to deliver the unexpected. Know how to delegate (set attainable goals) and get the hell out of the way (and get your men everything they need to achieve those goals). If you leave any openings, the opponent will use them to his advantage -- and you must exploit those oppenings in your opponent.

Know the enemy, know the situation (and the rules) and know yourself! The variable you do not know is the one that will be used against you (ultimately to your own defeat).

Literal Translation of Sun Tzu (Chapter 3): Strategy of Agression

Sun Tzu said: 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 capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

Hence 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.

The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided. The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds over against the walls will take three months more.

The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants, with the result that one-third of his men are slain, while the town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous effects of a siege.

Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.

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.

It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.

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.

Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force.

Now the general is the bulwark of the State; if the bulwark is complete at all points; the State will be strong; if the bulwark is defective, the State will be weak.

There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:--

  1. By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.

  3. 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.

  5. 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.
But when the army is restless and distrustful, trouble is sure to come from the other feudal princes. This is simply bringing anarchy into the army, and flinging victory away.

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:

  1. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  2. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
  3. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
  4. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
  5. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
Hence the saying: 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 Art of War
Chapter 4
MacKiDo by David K. Every by David K. Every     [INDEX]

This is my interpretations of what the chapter means (summarized). Afterwards is the literal translation of the text.


Learn from the past -- make failure a non-option, then the only option left is winning. Don't be overly agressive, don't over extend -- just wait for openings and exploit them. Don't seek fame or fortune (and let those detract you from the goals) -- seek to win. The best offense is a good defense. Be realistic, way the odds, know the situation, assess the information -- don't take uneccessary risks, always take necessary ones. Be patient and be persistant -- and once the conflict is started, make sure that all options will lead to your victory (and momentum will build on your side).

Literal Translation of Sun Tzu (Chapter 4): Tactical Dispositions

Sun Tzu said: 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.

Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.

Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.

Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength.

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. Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect ourselves; on the other, a victory that is complete.

To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence.

Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and conquer and the whole Empire says, "Well done!"

To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.

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

Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.

He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.

Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.

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.

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

In respect of military method, we have, firstly, Measurement; secondly, Estimation of quantity; thirdly, Calculation; fourthly, Balancing of chances; fifthly, Victory.

Measurement owes its existence to Earth; Estimation of quantity to Measurement; Calculation to Estimation of quantity; Balancing of chances to Calculation; and Victory to Balancing of chances.

A victorious army opposed to a routed one, is as a pound's weight placed in the scale against a single grain.

The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.


The Art of War
Chapter 5
MacKiDo by David K. Every by David K. Every     [INDEX]

This is my interpretations of what the chapter means (summarized). Afterwards is the literal translation of the text.


Management is not an issue of quantity of the people managed, but your actions in managing them. To manage well, you must first learn to listen (and see) -- to understand.

Conflict can be both direct or indirect -- and you need to know how to handle (and deliver) both. Just because that sounds simple, does not mean that it is simple. Mastery of the simple can take as much time as mastery of the complex. Energy is potential, like the cocking of a crossbow. Decision is the action, like releasing of a trigger.

Never let the opponent know what he is up against.

Use your tools well, both the potential and the action. If you use the tools (and people) at what they are good at (and what they want to do), then they will be easier to manage, and their goals will be your goals.

Literal Translation of Sun Tzu (Chapter 5): Energy

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

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.

To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken-- this is effected by maneuvers direct and indirect.

That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg--this is effected by the science of weak points and strong.

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

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.

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 (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.

There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.

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?

The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones along in its course.

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

Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his onset, and prompt in his decision.

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

Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat.

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

Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply a question of subdivision; concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy; masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical dispositions.

Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.

By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.

The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy.

When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped, to go rolling down.

Thus the energy developed by good fighting men is as the momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain thousands of feet in height. So much on the subject of energy.


The Art of War
Chapter 6
MacKiDo by David K. Every by David K. Every     [INDEX]

This is my interpretations of what the chapter means (summarized). Afterwards is the literal translation of the text.

Weak and Strong

If you have to fight, make it on your own terms (turf). Control helps define the outcome. Keep the opponent off balance -- make him respond to your actions (and avoid allowing him to force you into responding to his). Work hard and play hard -- allow relaxation and peace to refresh yourself to renew the fray. If you keep hitting where it is unexpected, you will keep the opponent reacting to you (you will be controlling him) and you will have more effect for less expenditure -- you will keep him off balance. If you are in control (and good at offense) then your opponent will not know what to defend and (because you are so good at defense) the opponent will not know what to attack.

If the opponent has brilliant defenses, then go around them -- he'll have to abandon those defenses and respond. Don't fight when he is strong (or where he is strong). If he has a brilliant plan of attack (and force) then hit him somewhere else and force him to abandon those plans. Focus your energies one where the enemy is weak -- and defocus his energies (and distract) so he can never be strong.

Probe and prod, and learn the enemy. Learn how he thinks, and lay waste to all his plans. Resist his attempts to do the same to you. Learn to use everything to your advantage.

Literal Translation of Sun Tzu (Chapter 6): Weak and Strong

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.

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

By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy to approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage, he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.

If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him; if well supplied with food, he can starve him out; if quietly encamped, he can force him to move.

Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected.

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 attacked.

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.

O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands.

You may advance and be absolutely irresistible, if you make for the enemy's weak points; you may retire and be safe from pursuit if your movements are more rapid than those of the enemy.

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.

By discovering the enemy's dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy's must be divided.

We can form a single united body, while the enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to the enemy's few.

And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.

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.

For 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 weak.

Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us.

Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle, we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order to fight.

But if neither time nor place be known, then the left wing will be impotent to succor the right, the right equally impotent to succor the left, the van unable to relieve the rear, or the rear to support the van. How much more so if the furthest portions of the army are anything under a hundred LI apart, and even the nearest are separated by several LI!

Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yueh exceed our own in number, that shall advantage them nothing in the matter of victory. I say then that victory can be achieved.

Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover his plans and the likelihood of their success.

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

Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.

In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them; conceal your dispositions, and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies, from the machinations of the wisest brains.

How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy's own tactics--that is what the multitude cannot comprehend.

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

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

Military tactics are like unto 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 to strike at what is weak.

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.

The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth) are not always equally predominant; the four seasons make way for each other in turn. There are short days and long; the moon has its periods of waning and waxing.

The Art of War MacKiDo by David K. Every by David K. Every     [INDEX]

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