Chapter 1: Winning Stratagems
crossing the sea under camouflage
Mask your real goals, by using the ruse of a fake goal, until the real goal is achieved. Tactically, this is known as an open feint : in front of everyone, you point west, when your goal is actually in the east.
relieving the state of Zhao by besieging the state of Wei
When the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, then attack something he holds dear. Know that he cannot be superior in all things. Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead. The idea here is to avoid a head-on battle with a strong enemy, and instead strike at his weakness elsewhere. This will force the strong enemy to retreat in order to support his weakness. Battling against the now tired and low-morale enemy will give a much higher chance of success.
killing someone with a borrowed knife
When you do not have the means to attack your enemy directly, then attack using the strength of another. Trick an ally into attacking him, bribe an official to turn traitor, or use the enemy s own strength against him.
waiting at one s ease for the exhausted enemy
It is an advantage to choose the time and place for battle. In this way you know when and where the battle will take place, while your enemy does not. Encourage your enemy to expend his energy in futile quests while you conserve your strength. When he is exhausted and confused, you attack with energy and purpose.
plundering a burning house
When a country is beset by internal conflicts, when disease and famine ravage the population, when corruption and crime are rampant, then it will be unable to deal with an outside threat. This is the time to attack.
making a feint to the east and attacking in the west
In any battle the element of surprise can provide an overwhelming advantage. Even when face to face with an enemy, surprise can still be employed by attacking where he least expects it. To do this you must create an expectation in the enemy s mind through the use of a feint.
Chapter 2: Enemy Dealing Stratagems
creating something out of nothing
You use the same feint twice. Having reacted to the first and often the second feint as well, the enemy will be hesitant to react to a third feint. Therefore the third feint is the actual attack catching your enemy with his guard down.
advancing secretly by an unknown path
Deceive the enemy with an obvious approach that will take a very long time, while surprising him by taking a shortcut and sneak up to him. As the enemy concentrates on the decoy, he will miss you sneaking up to him.
watching a fire from the other side of the river
Delay entering the field of battle until all the other players have become exhausted fighting amongst themselves. Then go in at full strength and pick up the pieces.
covering the dagger with a smile
Charm and ingratiate yourself with your enemy. When you have gained his trust, move against him in secret.
palming off substitute for the real thing
There are circumstances in which you must sacrifice short-term objectives in order to gain the long-term goal. This is the scapegoat strategy whereby someone else suffers the consequences so that the rest do not.
picking up something in passing
While carrying out your plans be flexible enough to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, however small, and avail yourself of any profit, however slight.
Chapter 3: Attacking Stratagems
beating the grass to frighten the snake
Do something unaimed, but spectacular (“hitting the grass”) to provoke a response of the enemy (“startle the snake”), thereby giving away his plans or position, or just taunt him.
Do something unusual, strange, and unexpected as this will arouse the enemy s suspicion and disrupt his thinking.
More widely used as “[Do not] startle the snake by hitting the grass”. An imprudent act will give your position or intentions away to the enemy.
resurrecting a dead soul by borrowing a corpse
Take an institution, a technology, a method, or even an ideology that has been forgotten or discarded and appropriate it for your own purpose.
Revive something from the past by giving it a new purpose or bring to life old ideas, customs, or traditions and reinterpret them to fit your purposes.
luring the tiger out of his den
Never directly attack an opponent whose advantage is derived from its position. Instead lure him away from his position thus separating him from his source of strength.
letting the enemy off in order to catch him
Cornered prey will often mount a final desperate attack. To prevent this you let the enemy believe he still has a chance for freedom.
His will to fight is thus dampened by his desire to escape. When in the end the freedom is proven a falsehood the enemy s morale will be defeated and he will surrender without a fight.
giving the enemy something to induce him to lose more valuable things
Bait someone by making him believe he gains something or just make him react to it (“toss out a brick”) and obtain something valuable from him in return (“get a jade gem”).
capturing the ringleader first in order to capture all the followers
If the enemy s army is strong but is allied to the commander only by money, superstition or threats, then take aim at the leader.
If the commander falls the rest of the army will disperse or come over to your side.
If, however, they are allied to the leader through loyalty then beware, the army can continue to fight on after his death out of vengeance.
Chapter 4: Chaos Stratagems
extracting the firewood from under the cauldron
Take out the leading argument or asset of someone; “steal someone s thunder”. This is the very essence of indirect approach: instead of attacking enemy s fighting forces, the attacks are directed against his ability to wage war.
muddling the water to catch the fish; fishing in troubled waters
Create confusion and use this confusion to further your own goals.
slipping away by casting off a cloak; getting away like the cicada sloughing its skin
Mask yourself. Either leave one s distinctive traits behind, thus becoming inconspicuous, or masquerade as something or someone else.
This strategy is mainly used to escape from enemy of superior strength.
catching the thief by closing / blocking his escape route
To capture your enemy, or more generally in fighting wars, to deliver the final blow to your enemy, you must plan prudently if you want to succeed. Do not rush into action. Before you “move in for the kill”, first cut off your enemy s escape routes, and cut off any routes through which outside help can reach them.
befriending the distant enemy while attacking a nearby enemy
It is known that nations that border each other become enemies while nations separated by distance and obstacles make better allies.
When you are the strongest in one field, your greatest threat is from the second strongest in your field, not the strongest from another field.
attacking the enemy by passing through a common neighbor
Borrow the resources of an ally to attack a common enemy. Once the enemy is defeated, use those resources to turn on the ally that lent you them in the first place.
Chapter 5: Proximate Stratagems