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A Masterpiece On Military Strategies

Updated: December 11, 2010 1:15 pm

The book is a practical and pragmatic guidance with brilliant insights into the text. Containing 13 chapters, the book provides clear evidence and a robust example that Chinese General Sun Tzu’s wisdom lineage lives on today. Written 2500 years ago, it is a poetic and potent treatise on military strategy still in use in war colleges around the world. For, its principles transcend warfare and have practical applications to all the conflicts and crises we face in our lives—in our workplaces, our families, even within ourselves. NO wonder, today Sun Tzu’s great work has been translated into every major language in the world, and the number of editions is growing every year.

                Reflecting Sun Tzu’s original division of The Art of War, the book focuses on a primary theme or element of strategy, just like Sun Tzu’s original work. However, it’s important to note that reading the book isn’t a simple step-by-step approach to conflict management. Rather, Sun Tzu synthesised his insights in an organic way, sometimes building on previous concepts, sometimes repeating information, sometimes relying on the reader to interpret and reflect on his poetic, shorthand manner of describing things. In this way, the book itself is somewhat deceptive: it is short enough to be read in an afternoon, but subtle and nuanced enough to be studied for years, decades, a lifetime.

                In chapter 1, Sun Tzu presents five chief factors that determine the outcome in any conflict. By knowing these factors, you can predict whether you’ll be able to overcome your adversary even before you take the first step. Chapter 2 discusses the heavy toll you would incur should you want to confront your adversary. If you must, the chapter advises you to act swiftly, to avoid running out of energy and resources. In the next chapter, you will/earn that the highest excellence is winning without fighting, not decimating every adversary you encounter. Since destruction clearly isn’t your goal and victory is, leaving things intact maximizes your gains and helps you to mend your fences with your adversary. The chapter 4 highlights the importance of early preparation and securing a position of invincibility. Another chapter explains the concept of achieving unstoppable momentum through concentration and variability (mixing’ common and uncommon methods). The book also shows you how to overcome your adversary even if you are the weaker side. Through formlessness—being imperceptible to the opposite side—you can surmount even the most powerful of adversaries.

                The book also define and outline strategies for sixteen types of grounds, which represent the environment you and your adversary operate in, including the freedoms and limitations in each environment. Finally, the book explores the five types of spies and discusses how invaluable they are in gathering reliable information. Throughout the book, the protagonist is called “the general”, which refers to a military leader—ancient or modern, Chinese or non-Chinese—who follows Sun Tzu’s principles. As a general who followed these principles himself, Sun Tzu naturally used this language. But a “general” can also simply mean a leader. You don’t have to be formally appointed to become a leader; you automatically become the de facto leader when you step up and guide others out of a dilemma and into a better situation. Therefore, your leadership ability depends more on your actions than on your official title, rank or station in life.

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By Ashok Kumar

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