How we change what others think, feel, believe and do

| Menu | Quick | Books | Share | Search | Settings |

The Annotated Art of War (Parts 4.1-7: Defend or Attack)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 4.1-7: Defend or Attack

  Previous chapter << Chapter: 4 >> Next chapter

Previous part | Next part


IV. Tactical Dispositions


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
1. 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 win, you need the right opportunity, which may take time to find. During that time of unreadiness, you may be defeated and so lose. Defense comes first.

In business, if you put all your resources into promoting new products, your cash cows may be exposed to attack.

2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. If you have a good defense, you will survive attacks. If you have a weak defense, then even a moderate attack may well succeed.

The same is true for your enemy. Understand their defense to know how hard or easy it will be to defeat them.

This is the principle of the feint, where a false attack triggers a defensive move that also exposes a weakness.

In business, you can make small competitive moves just to see how your competitors react. You can then plan a more effective campaign.

3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy. The same is true for the individual fighter. If you can block and parry or otherwise avoid their thrusts, you can wait to find an opening through which you can defeat them in a single blow.

In this way, two good fighters circle one another and may fight for a long period before one makes a mistake

4. Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it. If you know how to attack or punch well, yet your opponent can defend against all your attacks, then you will still not win.

Recognizing good strategy and being able to design and implement it are different things.

5. Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive. To avoid losing, you must be able to defend. Knowing this, you can spend too much on building a strong defense.

To win, however, you must be able to attack. And so you must also plan and prepare for winning attacks.

Chang Yu said: "Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack." 

6. Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength. It can be easier to defend than attack, for example by holding a defensible higher position. In this way weaker forces will defend more, hoping perhaps to see a weakness in their attackers into which they can sally forth.

Strong forces can successfully attack a defensive position only if they are strong enough to break through. This may require very significant attacking advantage.

7. 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. The leader must unashamedly know their strengths and weaknesses in both defense and attack and act accordingly.

If they are weak in attack, they should seek an unassailable position which is easy to defend. Concealment is an art that does not literally meet going underground. If the enemy cannot find you, you may hide in plain sight. If they cannot see your strength or know your plans, they may make foolish moves.

If they are strong in attack, then a fast and powerful thrust can overcome many defenses.

Sometimes abilities come from where you live or what you do. People on desirable islands or hilltops may not need to attack, but regularly need to repel invaders, and so develop defensive skills. Those who are aggressive and acquisitive may, through many campaigns, become skilful in attack.



Site Menu

| Home | Top | Quick Links | Settings |

Main sections: | Disciplines | Techniques | Principles | Explanations | Theories |

Other sections: | Blog! | Quotes | Guest articles | Analysis | Books | Help |

More pages: | Contact | Caveat | About | Students | Webmasters | Awards | Guestbook | Feedback | Sitemap | Changes |

Settings: | Computer layout | Mobile layout | Small font | Medium font | Large font | Translate |


You can buy books here

More Kindle books:

And the big
paperback book

Look inside


Please help and share:


Quick links


* Argument
* Brand management
* Change Management
* Coaching
* Communication
* Counseling
* Game Design
* Human Resources
* Job-finding
* Leadership
* Marketing
* Politics
* Propaganda
* Rhetoric
* Negotiation
* Psychoanalysis
* Sales
* Sociology
* Storytelling
* Teaching
* Warfare
* Workplace design


* Assertiveness
* Body language
* Change techniques
* Closing techniques
* Conversation
* Confidence tricks
* Conversion
* Creative techniques
* General techniques
* Happiness
* Hypnotism
* Interrogation
* Language
* Listening
* Negotiation tactics
* Objection handling
* Propaganda
* Problem-solving
* Public speaking
* Questioning
* Using repetition
* Resisting persuasion
* Self-development
* Sequential requests
* Storytelling
* Stress Management
* Tipping
* Using humor
* Willpower


* Principles


* Behaviors
* Beliefs
* Brain stuff
* Conditioning
* Coping Mechanisms
* Critical Theory
* Culture
* Decisions
* Emotions
* Evolution
* Gender
* Games
* Groups
* Habit
* Identity
* Learning
* Meaning
* Memory
* Motivation
* Models
* Needs
* Personality
* Power
* Preferences
* Research
* Relationships
* SIFT Model
* Social Research
* Stress
* Trust
* Values


* Alphabetic list
* Theory types


Guest Articles


| Home | Top | Menu | Quick Links |

© Changing Works 2002-
Massive Content — Maximum Speed