Sun Tzu Quotes, The Art of War Quotes

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Sun Tzu Quotes, The Art of War

Sun Tzu Quotations

Sun Tzu quotes and quotations, Sun Zi

Sun Tzu / Sun Zi
Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher and the author of the Art of War
Lived: c.500–320. B.C

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Famous Sun Tzu Quotes

Military Related Sun Tzu Quotes, from The Art of War

The Sun Tzu quotes are from “The Art of War”.
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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
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

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.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

“The art of using troops is this:
……When ten to the enemy’s one, surround him;
……When five times his strength, attack him;
……If double his strength, divide him;
……If equally matched you may engage him;
……If weaker numerically, be capable of withdrawing;
……And if in all respects unequal, be capable of eluding him,
……….for a small force is but booty for one more powerful.”
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.
Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!”
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to w in or lose.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue… In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

Though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy… use the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

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.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

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.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army: By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey; This is called hobbling the army. By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army; This causes restlessness in the soldier’s minds. By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

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.
- Sun Tzu

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.
- Sun Tzu quotes

Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
- Sun Tzu quotes

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.
- Sun Tzu quotes

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.
- Sun Tzu

In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack – the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle – you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?
- Sun Tzu

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.
- Sun Tzu

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.
- Sun Tzu

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.
- Sun Tzu

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.
- Sun Tzu

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.
- Sun Tzu

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.
- Sun Tzu

In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them.
- Sun Tzu

Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards… Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.
- Sun Tzu Quotes

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.
- Sun Tzu

The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.
- Sun Tzu

Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.
- Sun Tzu

We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.
- Sun Tzu

Do not interfere with an army that is returning home. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.
- Sun Tzu

The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.
- Sun Tzu

When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is INSUBORDINATION. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is COLLAPSE. When the higher officers are angry and insubordinate, and on meeting the enemy give battle on their own account from a feeling of resentment, before the commander-in-chief can tell whether or no he is in a position to fight, the result is RUIN.
- Sun Tzu

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
- Sun Tzu

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.
- Sun Tzu

If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, but are unaware that our own men are not in a condition to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, and also know that our men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the nature of the ground makes fighting impracticable, we have still gone only halfway towards victory.
- Sun Tzu

If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.
- Sun Tzu

On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy’s way. On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies. On serious ground, gather in plunder. In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. On desperate ground, fight.
- Sun Tzu

If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in orderly array and on the point of marching to the attack, I should say: “Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.” Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
- Sun Tzu

Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.
- Sun Tzu

If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity.
- Sun Tzu

Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders without regard to previous arrangements; and you will be able to handle a whole army as though you had to do with but a single man.
- Sun Tzu

Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.
- Sun Tzu

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.
- Sun Tzu

No leader should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no leader should fight a battle simply out of pique. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. Hence the enlightened leader is heedful, and the good leader full of caution.
- Sun Tzu quotes

Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity; (2) They cannot be properly managed without benevolence and straight forwardness; (3) Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of the truth of their reports; (4) Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind of warfare; (5) If a secret piece of news is divulged by a spy before the time is ripe, he must be put to death together with the man to whom the secret was told.
- Sun Tzu quotes

The enemy’s spies who have come to spy on us must be sought out, tempted with bribes, led away and comfortably housed. Thus they will become double agents and available for our service. It is through the information brought by the double agent that we are able to acquire and employ local and inward spies. It is owing to his information, again, that we can cause the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy.
- Sun Tzu quotes

“To capture the enemy’s entire army is better than to destroy it; to take intact a regiment, a company, or a squad is better than to destroy them. For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the supreme of excellence. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence.”
- Sun Tzu quotes

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