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Summary of The Art of War 

Short summary

War is an ancient act that has created and destroyed towns, villages, and cities. It is the existing structure on which some nations are developed and some are not. In this tidbit, the tactics of famous war general Sun Tzu are discussed. This summary focuses on the DOs and DON’Ts of war. Sun Tzu wrote this classic book of military strategy 2500 years ago, based on Chinese military thought and warfare. It has since been adopted by civilizations for use in politics, business, and daily life. In both the boardroom and the battlefield, The Art of War should be utilized to achieve an edge. Sun Tzu was an Eastern Zhou dynasty Chinese commander, military strategist, writer, and philosopher. “All warfare is based on deception.” Sun Tzu

Key points


The art of war is very crucial to the government because it is a path either to security or destruction

War is an issue of life and death. And as such, it is a matter of scrutiny which can not be ignored on no account. The art of war is overseen by five constant elements one must put into consideration when looking to infer the circumstances happening in the field. These include:

• The Moral Law. It compels the population to be in full compliance with their leader so that they will obey him, not discouraged by any danger
• Heaven. Heaven points to seasons and time, day and night, heat and cold.
• Earth. Earth includes distances, whether small or great, possibilities of life and death, narrow passes and open ground, security, and danger.
• The Commander. The Commander signifies benevolence, sincerity, strictness, quality of wisdom, sincerity, and courage.
• Method and Discipline. Method and discipline must be utilized in the assemblage of the army in its formal subdivisions, the division of rank among the officials, the upkeep of roads by which supplies can get to the army, and the supervision of military expenses.
All battles are founded on deception. Therefore, when you are prepared to strike, you must appear unprepared.
All generals must be aware of these five elements: he who understands them will be triumphant; he who fails to understand them will fail.
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
Make use of the moment when your opponent is not ready; attack where you are not expected. These military tools, guiding to triumph, must not be divulged beforehand.

The general who wins a battle makes lots of analyses in his sanctuary where the war is fought. The general who forfeits a battle makes just a few analyses beforehand. Therefore, if lots of analyses lead to success and few analyses to defeat: how then will a general with no analysis win? By reading up to this point, you can predict who has the potential of winning or losing.

In the subsequent chapters, you’ll learn more about military techniques, and how to successfully plan a battle.

Did you know? According to the New York Times, at least 108 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century.

Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting

In the rational art of war, the decent thing to do is to seize the enemy’s country unscathed; destruction and total obliteration is not the best way to go. It is also better to regain an entire army than to destroy it, to seize a battalion, a division, or an entire institution than to destroy them.
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Employ the direct and indirect method of fighting to secure victory


To win, use your strengths against your enemy’s weaknesses


Think of ways to put your enemy at a disadvantage, then tinker your approach as you take action


As you implement your fight strategy, modify your tactics based on real-time feedback


Secure a strong position and use it as a strategic base for your attacks



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