Book Review: The Art of War by Sun Tzu | GXBooks

 GXBooks Brief Review:  The Art of War  by  Sun Tzu 

As we know, we all are fighting or facing our problems in our day to day life."The Art of War" by Sun Tzu is a classic Chinese book of military strategies. The strategies could be implemented in daily life, from the interpersonal to the international, or in wars.

Over Two thousand years ago Sun Tzu compiled "The Art of War" book which is still one of the most prestigious books of strategy in the world. A lot of military leaders and even ordinary people influenced by Sun Tzu's book "The Art of War". The Strategies of the book which are given by Sun Tzu can be utilized in the war zone, business, politics and even on a regular day to day survival.

Sun Tzu's strategies help us to use our powers or strengths in the right way at the right time when to attack and where to attack with which force, how to plan and how to defend ourselves.

Let's jump into the content of this book. It has 13 strategies with each dedicated Chapters.

  1. Strategic Assessments
  2. Doing Battle
  3. Planning a siege
  4. Formation
  5. Force
  6. Emptiness and Fullness 
  7. Armed Struggle
  8. Adaptations
  9. Manoeuvring Armies
  10. Terrain
  11. Nine Grounds
  12. Fire Attack
  13. On the Use of Spies

 Strategic Assessments 

The nation depends on military action. It is a matter of death and life. So it is necessary to examine carefully.

The five major factor before entering conflict:

  1.  The way - It means leaders and people have the same aim, so they can ready to die and live together.
  2.  The weather - It means the seasons. Don't attack the opponent at an unfavourable season.
  3.  The terrain - It means the land where you are going to battle, how far, difficult or easy to travel and safety. 
  4.  The leadership - It means the leader should be trustworthy, intelligent, kind-hearted, courageous and severe.
  5.  Discipline - It means the organization, command, and logistics.
These are the keys to measure before going into the battle - first, you have to know yourself and then your opponent. Seek all the advantages and the disadvantages then you will know who is superior, who has possibilities to win the battle. When to defend and when to attack. Everyone must know and deeply understand these five keys to win every battle. 

To compare you and your opponent, there are seven conditions or questions to find out who has more advantages:

  1.  Who has the favour of the climate and terrain?
  2.  Who has a strong general? 
  3.  Who has well-trained soldiers?
  4.  Who has the better political leadership? 
  5.  Whose system of punishment and rewards is more transparent?
  6.  Who has effective discipline? 
  7.  Who has strong troops?
This is how you can predict who will win.

 Doing Battle 

According to your advantage, you can plan and coordinate your forces and supplement them in extraordinary tactics. Authorities should be structured strategically. Without deception, the strategy is incomplete. And When your policy is deep and wide-ranging, then you can win the battle. But when your strategy is shallow and narrow-ranging, then you will definitely lose. The real warrior wins the battle in his mind first and wins the battle. Therefore planning leads to victory.

 Planning a siege 

This section focused on the expense of the war. If war continues for an extended period, soldiers will be tired, weapons will blunt, and your strength will be exhausted. Also, scarcity of supplies, then the opponent will take advantage of your debility and rise. If you continue fighting, you will lose. So do not keep your army in the field for an extended period because it is not profitable even you have a skilful command. Hence those who are not fully aware of the disadvantages of the utility of arms, will not aware of the advantages too. Filled your army with anger which may help to kill the enemy and influences them by rewards. Take food from the enemy and captured the opponent's soldier, then your strength will increase. And use the enemy for the enemy, those who are arrested treat them well and make them yours, and you will be more durable. Victory relies on swift, not persistence. If the leader is wise, the nation is safe.


Raise your army and penetrate deeply to the opponent's territory, blocking their supplies from other nations, cutting off the communication with other countries, then if the opponent surrenders completely, that is best. But if you attack and destroy the opponent's territory, captured by forcefully, that is not profitable. Hence the winners are not always skilful, and you can win without fighting or killing people. Attack them while they are not prepared. It means winning by intelligence. Attack their alliances, it means winning by intimidating. Next attack the army, it means winning by fighting. Then siege the small city or town to get the resources and shelter for the military. Only use this if it is necessary at the last resort. Then don't rush to attack because it is essential to wait and attack at the right time. If the General can not overcome his impatience and attacks the enemy, this will hurt or kill soldiers. Hence, who is good at overcoming anger and impatience, will win the battle in less effort. Win the battle without fighting or using bloodying blades is the best strategy. The General is the strength of the nation. When the General is intelligent and capable, the country is safe and robust.  When the General is greedy and stubborn, the country is weak. The leader and soldier have to be the same aim and clear vision. When you know yourself, you will able to defend. When you see the opponent, you will able to attack them. But when you know neither the art of defence nor the art of attack, you will lose in the battle.


Leaders must know the possibility of defeat and then seek the opportunity to attack the enemy. First, guard yourself than wait for the chance to defeat them. Defending ourselves is all in our hands, but the opportunity to attack is relies on the enemy. Defend yourself when you do not see any way to attack the enemy and confused them by silence. But when you see the opportunity to attack than quickly take action unexpectedly. Victory is not always good because you have to pay the cost of it. The wisdom and ability of a leader lay an in-depth plan which is not figured out by the ordinary people. When attacking the enemy, you must know the weaknesses for the enemy and attack them to the defects so you can win easily. By understanding the gaps, when to attack, when to defend, and these measurements will help you to know where victory and defeat lie.

 Emptiness and Fullness 

While attacking it does not matter how large or few forces you have, but it depends on how you will combine them as their ability. So even if you have the small forces, this will help you to use your full strength and attack effectively to the enemy. In battle, there are two types of ways to attack the opponent direct and indirect, so the opponent will be confused. These combinations give an unlimited range of tactics. The quality of action will save you're time and strength. The movement has to be quick, so the enemy does not detect. Use traps by sacrificing something so the opponent will snatch, and trapped. By picking up the right men and combining their energies, your attack will be effective. But do not rely on individuals.

 Armed Struggle 

On the battlefield, whoever is first and waits for the opponent they are relaxed and prepared. If the opponent has an advantageous position, you should withdraw the attack and move to a different place, so the opponent thinks that you have no strategy and will come after you to an attack. Cause opponent to go after you so they will be tired and then attack. When opponents come to fight to you, their force will always empty, and you defend yourself, your army will still full. This the art of emptying opponents and filling yourself. Guard yourself more and use few troops to attack so the opponent can distract and attack unexpected direction with large soldiers. If the opponent is in the defensive mode and they don't fight. Cutt off all the supplies or if you are in the opponent territory then attack their civilian leadership So they surely Come to rescue and fight with you. According to the enemy change and adapt your strategy so you can gain victory.


In war, the General gets his command from the sovereign. Before pitching the camp, the General should harmonize an army according to their ability. When to concentrated or divide your troop must be decided by the circumstances. Even though you have large forces, but you do not know the place and time where you are going to fight. You won't be able to attack or defend yourself. If you are aware of the area and time of the battle, then you can always win. The General should take care of his soldiers, so they perform well. The time of the fight is necessary because, in the morning, soldier's spirit is keen, midday is slumpy and in the evening recedes because they think of returning camp. Don't attack the opponent when they are returning home because, in this situation, the opponent will fight to the death.

 Manoeuvring Armies 

Do not stick to the fixed methods, but change according to the situation. Because some battleground is not in your favour when you are attacking uphill or downhill towards the enemy, you will lose the battle. When you are in steep terrain, don't make camp. Do not stay in critical, isolated positions. If you are in a desperate situation, fight.


There are six types of terrains:

  1. Easily passable
  2. entangling ground;
  3. temporizing ground;
  4. narrow passes
  5. steep heights
  6. wide-open

Sun Tzu also listed the four severe mistakes of a general: 

  1. Recklessness, 
  2. Short temper,
  3. The delicacy of honour and 
  4. Concerned of his men. 
When you are crossing the opponent's territory, cut off the mountains and stay by the valley. When you are fighting in the mountains, stay on the heights. After crossing a stream, stay away from it.
Stay on a high place and dry ground, so your forces do not get ill and depressed. Take care of your troops and stay where there is plenty of resources.

 Nine Grounds 

Sun Tzu introduced the nine types of ground:

  1. a gound of dissolution 
  2. light ground
  3. ground of contention
  4. open ground
  5. intersecting ground
  6. heavy ground
  7. bad ground
  8. rounded ground
  9. dying ground

 Fire Attack 

Sun Tun said there are five ways of attacking with fire:

  1. Burning People
  2. Burning Supplies
  3. Burning Equipment
  4. BurningStorehouses
  5. Burning Weapons
There are appropriate times for attacking with fire when the weather is dry and windy. Only attack when a fire attack can damage the opponent. A fire attack also used to confuse the opponent. If the wind is against you, do not use a fire attack. If daytime is windy, then the wind will stop at night. Amry must know how to attack with fire and also how to prevent fire attack. So you should know about the weather patterns and the principle of sitting fire attack only on suitable windy days. Fire helps you to attack, so you can win clearly. But Water can be used to divide the opponent's army, So their forces divided and you will be secure. Attack only when there is no choice. Do not use arms by your emotions because the dead can not be restored to life. 

 On the Use of Spies 

The wise leader knows how to find out the information about the opponent and as well as using spies. Because the greedy will betray for wealth.

There are five kinds of spy:

  1. The local spy - hired from the locality
  2. The inside spy - hired from among the enemy
  3. The reverse spy - hired from among the enemy's spies
  4. the dead spy - to transmitting the false information to the enemy
  5. The living spy - come and go with information.
So the leader must know about the five kinds of spying knowledge. The reverses spy has the primary role or superior to other spies because they are double agents and must be treated well. Without spying, it is impossible to know the opponent's condition and act on them. So these are the strategies of Sun Tzu from "The Art of War" Book.

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