Sun Tzu:125 Art of War Quotes

The Greatest Strategist For all Times


“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”


“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”


“A leader leads by example not by force.”


“The wise warrior avoids the battle.”


“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”


“Move swift as the wind and closely-formed as the wood. Attack like the fire and be still as the mountain.”


“A commander who advances without any thought of winning personal fame and withdraws in spite of certain punishment, whose only concern is to protect his people and promote the interests of his ruler, is the nation’s treasure.”


“It is the unemotional, reserved, calm, detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune.”


“It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.”


“The skillful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man. For the wise man delights in establishing his merit, the brave man likes to show his courage in action, the covetous man is quick at seizing advantages, and the stupid man has no fear of death.”


“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”


“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”


“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”


“All warfare is based on deception.”


“Some people think insufficiency means weakness and surplus means strength, but this impression is wrong.”

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“Conform to the enemy’s tactics until a favorable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that shall prove decisive.”


“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”


“There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general:


“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”


“When we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”


“Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before they fight, while the ignorant fight to win.”


“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .”


“The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach.”


“The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties is knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can only be derived, in the first instance, from the converted spy. Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated with the utmost liberality.”


“Who does not know the evils of war cannot appreciate its benefits.”


“Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack.”


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”


“Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.”


“There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.”


“When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination.”


“He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish.”


“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”


“No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.”


“Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.”


“A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.”


“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.”


“Rewards for good service should not be deferred a single day.”


“Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.”


“If we wish to wrest an advantage from the enemy, we must not fix our minds on that alone, but allow for the possibility of the enemy also doing some harm to us, and let this enter as a factor into our calculations.”


“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”

These art of war quotes are so important for every aspect of life


“He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.”


“He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.”


“He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.”


“He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”


“Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”


“It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.”


“One may know the condition of a whole army from the behavior of a single man.”


“When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.”


“If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, then will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless.”


“To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”


“It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.”


“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster”


“When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men, and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganization.”


“Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.”


“[If a commander] fusses over his men as if they were infants, they will accompany him into the deepest valleys; because he fusses over his men as if they were his own beloved sons, they will die by his side.”

Art of war quotes like this help you to think strategically


“When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home.”


“If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak. „


“Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.”


“Those skilled at making the enemy move do so by creating a situation to which he must conform; they entice him with something he is certain to take, and with lures of ostensible profit they await him in strength.”


“Disorder came from order, fear came from courage, weakness came from strength.”


“Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.”


“In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to capture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.”


“If those who are sent to draw water begin by drinking themselves, the army is suffering from thirst.”


“Mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy.”


“Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.”


“The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.”


“Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.”


“If you will not begin with stratagem but rely on brute strength alone, victory will no longer be assured.”


“Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.”


“He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.”


“If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.”


“Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.”


“Excessive rewards are a sign of desperation. Excessive punishments are a sign of exhaustion.”


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.”


“Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.”

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“If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve.”


“Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.”


“For the wise man delights in establishing his merit, the brave man likes to show his courage in action, the covetous man is quick at seizing advantages, and the stupid man has no fear of death.”


“What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”


“Bravery without forethought, causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull. Such an opponent, must not be encountered with brute force, but may be lured into an ambush and slain.”


“Thus the expert in battle moves the enemy, and is not moved by him.”


“We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.”


“Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.”


“Whether in an advantageous position or a disadvantageous one, the opposite state should be always present to your mind.”


“If you do not take opportunity to advance and reward the deserving, your subordinates will not carry out your commands, and disaster will ensue.”


“All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”


“The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.”


“We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country — its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.”


“The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.”


“Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose.”


“You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.”


“When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell them nothing when the situation is gloomy.”


“So long as victory can be attained, stupid haste is preferable to clever dilatoriness.”


“The rising of birds in their flight is the sign of an ambuscade. Startled beasts indicate that a sudden attack is coming.”


“Conceal your dispositions, and your condition will remain secret, which leads to victory; show your dispositions, and your condition will become patent, which leads to defeat.”


“Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands.”


“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.”


“The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations.”


“The art of war is of vital importance to the State.”


“By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.”


“Where there are repeated wars, the people are weakened; when they score repeated victories, rulers become haughty. Let haughty rulers command weakened people, and rare is the nation that will not perish as a result.”


“Plan for what it is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.”


“In difficult ground, press on; In encircled ground, devise stratagems; In death ground, fight.”


“One may know how to conquer without being able to do it. „


“Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.”


“He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.”


“When an invading force crosses a river in its onward march, do not advance to meet it in mid-stream. It will be best to let half the army get across, and then deliver your attack.”


“The opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”


“The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.”


“In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed.”


“Foreknowledge cannot be gotten from ghosts and spirits, cannot be had by analogy, cannot be found out by calculation. It must be obtained from people, people who know the conditions of the enemy.”


“He who only sees the obvious, wins his battles with difficulty; he who looks below the surface of things, wins with ease”


“You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.”


“In a similar way, The Art of War pinpoints anger and greed as fundamental causes of defeat.”


“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.”


“Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.”


“Who wishes to fight must first count the cost.”


“Opportunistic relationships can hardly be kept constant. The acquaintance of honorable people, even at a distance, does not add flowers in times of warmth and does not change its leaves in times of cold: it continues unfading through the four seasons, becomes increasingly stable as it passes through ease and danger.”


“We become one body; the enemy being separated into ten parts. We attack the divided ten with the united one. We are many, the enemy is few, and in superiority of numbers there is economy of strength.”


“Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy.”


“Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting without delay, is desperate ground.”


“There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.”


“It is best to keep one’s own state intact; to crush the enemy’s state is only second best.”


“The worst calamities that befall an army arise from hesitation.”


“If you fight with all your might, there is a chance of life; whereas death is certain if you cling to your corner.”

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