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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 6.1-6: Sustaining Tension)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 6.1-6: Sustaining Tension

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VI. Weak Points and Strong


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
1. Sun Tzu said: 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.

A saying is 'The early bird captures the worm.'

If you arrive at a battlefield first, you have time to settle, survey the ground and pick your positions and routes. You may also attack opponents as they arrive, preventing them from settling.

In business, being first to market gives many advantages, including building market share and establishing your brand as the leader.

2. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him. Taking the initiatives lets you lead the game. When you act first, the other side has to respond. In this way, you can keep them constantly on the back foot.

An effective soldier fights on his own terms or not at all.

3. 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. When pressed, your opponent will grab at what appears as opportunities to gain advantage and take the lead. Their desperation will make them less thoughtful and so miss the trap that you set until it is too late.

You may also make critical strikes on them to disable movement. Taking out their communication ability is a classic such activity.

4. 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. When the enemy seems to be comfortable, find ways to remove that comfort, sustaining their tension and so preventing preparations and exhausting them before they fight.
5. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected.  Act in ways that are economical for you and which are maximally taxing for your opponent. Strike like a snake, in and out quickly. Confuse then and create disarray.

When your efforts are consistently less than those of your opponent, they will tire sooner, at which your fresher troops can more easily defeat them. 

6. An army may march great distances without distress, if it marches through country where the enemy is not. When marching through occupied territory, an army needs constantly to scout around their route and must be in a state of constant readiness.

When there is nothing to fear, they can move at speed without caution.



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