The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of War by Sun Tzu
The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of War by Sun Tzu gives you an opportunity to learn about the different facets of warfare without necessarily going to the battleground. Written around the 6th century, this Chinese military treatise was meant to act as a strategic military guide. It shares key principles of war that Sun expected his army to follow. Some of his notable writings include when he advises the army to attack the enemy from high ground, just like water flows downhill. He is also seen directing the same army to only attack the enemy’s weak points while at the same time sealing its own loopholes.


Whereas ancient societies used to win war based on the size of their armies, today war is won based on who has the best strategy. With military strategy, you are basically interested in coming up with ideas and implementing them to gain an edge over the enemy. This is a matter of life or death and you cannot afford to be overtaken. If you want to go back home to your family, then you must be ready to think out of the box and do what others are not willing or incapable of doing. It’s all about taking risks even when you are not sure of where your actions will lead you. That does not imply you should just accept any type of risk because again it is a different case if you suffer a defeat. A lot of these concepts can be found in the novel The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

A good number of people have already read The Art of War. This is because the book is not only short but also very informative. People tend to read more novels that they are bound to complete much faster. In the fast-paced world, it is logical to go for a book that you will be done reading pretty fast while at the same time ending it very informed. Written by the most successful General in the Chinese Military, you can expect The Art of War not to disappoint. Even though it dates thousands of years ago, many still consider it a worthy read.

Its position as one of the most influential books on matters to do with the military is rightfully deserved. Today, military academies across the globe study it as one of the ways to learn about military actions. It is relevant in the twenty-first century just as it was during the original launch.

The book’s area of focus

This book concentrates on different military strategies that can be used to achieve military success. For Sun Tzu and any other strategist for that matter, the best strategy is one that makes you victorious. You have to know when to fight and when not to. Always focus on the weak spots while you leave the stronger ones for a later encounter.

The first chapter, titled Detail Assessment and Planning, takes the reader through five key factors of war, namely: leadership, terrain, the way, management, and seasons. It also provides a detailed discussion on the seven elements which impact how military events will turn out. According to Sun Tzu, placing these factors into consideration and making comparison against each other, it empowers the commander to come up with statistical evidence of how their war will turn out. Since warfare is based on how brilliant your approach, is backed by statistical evidence, failure to pay attention to the said factors culminates into a grave loss. Fear the result is one of the things that might make you act irrationally. Since war is a crucial matter of the state, it must never be entered without due consideration.

Throughout the book, the author presents many other scenarios that pertains to the state making sure it does not succumb in every battle. If you want to maintain your sovereignty, then the country’s army should never operate just on numbers but on intelligence and strategy.

Taking the path of least resistance

One thing that you must understand about this Chinese military treatise is that it is not all about war. Yes, it is written from the perspective of military war, but modernization has redefined its implication to also cut across the business sector. For instance, when the Snapchat CEO felt that Facebook had become a major threat, he purchased The Art of War for each employee. The idea was that they could learn a thing or two about how to progress as a business. Such a clear lesson is the one pertaining taking the path with least resistance. In the case of Snapchat and Facebook war, Facebook had already established a strong name for itself within the newsfeed domain. Thus, Snapchat redefined its approach, focusing on a business model that FB had not yet explored.

Master Sun uses real-world examples to pass his message across. At one time he gives the example of water and military forces. Both are immensely powerful when concentrated and are still able to withstand any blow when settled. Water, just because of its own weight and the force of gravity, it can be an unstoppable force. Similarly, the army can become victorious simply based on the momentum that drives it at a particular time. Sun explains that water normally takes the path of least resistance and so should any strategic plan. Just the same way water normally flow downhill, the army should also attack its enemy from high ground. Furthermore, the army’s target should be the enemy’s weak areas. Under such circumstances, this has nothing to do with the art of war but with the ability to take advantage of situations to win the battle.

Taking the path of least resistance is only possible when you have a detailed understanding of the enemy. As Sun Tzu explains, this knowledge makes you not fear the result of a hundred battles.

The five essentials for victory

According to Sun Tzu, victory does not just happen. Rather, it is based on five key factors: (a) Understanding when to fight and when not to fight. (b) Being aware of how to handle superior and inferior forces. (c) When your army is animated by the same spirit in the ranks. (d) Will win who prepared himself waits to take the enemy unprepared. (e) Possessing military capability that is free from sovereign interference

These kinds of principles are what motivates the saying that if you know the enemy and have a better understanding of yourself, you will become fearless. However, if you just know yourself but not the enemy, you will incur a defeat for every victory. Those who do not know themselves or the enemy will succumb in every battle.

Besides these five essentials, the author maintains that every victorious war is based on deception. For that reason, when we have the energy to attack we must seem unable when using our forces we must seem inactive. And if you encounter an enemy of superior strength evade him.

Using war to keep the peace

As opposed to most texts on war literature, The Art of War does not hide meanings, handle factors indirectly, or present them in a subtle manner. Instead, the text goes directly to mass killing, logistics, and military strategy. The author adopts a number of literary devices to compliment the message being passed across but this only serves the military theory. The book views war as a means to keep the peace. Based on the writings, the author believes that when you engage in a brilliant war, you will set the right pathway for a peaceful living. Sun Tzu may be making quite some accurate arguments right there even though he never experienced World War I and World War II. Take WWI as an example. After the war came to an end, the nations that came together for a peaceful existence could not hold on for long enough. No sooner had they reached an agreement than WWII broke, which was far much worse than the first. This war only came to an end after the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since the bombings were so devastating, the respective countries opted to live in peace rather than continue fighting against each other.

To a greater extent, you can say that war acts as a reminder that we can all easily finish off each other. The more you fight, the more you cause disasters on both sides. The under-dogs lose out the most and must be vigilant on war signs. A country that waits to handle both superior and inferior forces is better-placed not be described as an underdog. You have to put your resources ready so as to get to the enemy unprepared. The ultimate goal of such action should always be to maintain peace. For most generals, this is a far-fetched idea. However, it is one that’s achievable. Just be sure not to use the victory gained as a means to bully others. Rather, like the Allied Nations that won WWII did, take the opportunity. Given that you have an edge in war, the others will follow you because they know they stand to lose if they engaged you in another conflict. This contradicts the saying that you make an enemy for every victory.


Sun Tzu presented the world with a masterpiece. Even though the book dates centuries ago, it is relevant to the modern world as it was to the Chinese military. Army Generals and business leaders all over the world have had an encounter with it in search of knowledge and wisdom to make them successful. This is definitely a book I would recommend you read.


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