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 opponent's fate.
All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
If fighting is sure to result in victory, than you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler's bidding.
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.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy.
Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.
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.
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.
The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.
For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.
Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and you know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and you know Earth, you may make your victory complete.
Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.
There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.
He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.
Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.
Now the reason the enlightened prince and the wise general conquer the enemy whenever they move and their achievements surpass those of ordinary men is foreknowledge.
The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
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.
If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.
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 good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
Quickness is the essence of the war.
Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.
Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move.
He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and to bribe them to serve you. Give them instructions and care for them. Thus doubled agents are recruited and used.
There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.
To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence.
If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near.
When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.
If your opponent is of choleric temper, irritate him.
Balk the enemy's power; force him to reveal himself.
Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.
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.
The enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution.
Victory usually goes to the army who has better trained officers and men.
Hence that general is skilful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skilful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.
For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards.
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.
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.
A good commander is benevolent and unconcerned with fame.
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.
It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.
Of all those in the army close to the commander none is more intimate than the secret agent; of all rewards none more liberal than those given to secret agents; of all matters none is more confidential than those relating to secret operations.