The Art of War – Sun Tzu (5th Century BC) – Chapter 11 – Nine Terrains

The Art of War – Sun Tzu (5th Century BC) – Chapter 11 – Nine Terrains

  • Different types of terrain:
    1. Dispersive terrain – when feudal lords fight in their own territory
      • Don’t engage the enemy here
    2. Light terrain – entering into another’s territory but not deeply
      • Don’t stop here
    3. Contentious terrain – advantageous to whomever occupies the territory
      • Don’t attack here
    4. Traversable terrain – where anyone can come to the territory
      • Don’t allow forces to be isolated here
    5. Focal terrain – Feudal Lords’ land surrounded on 3 sides & the land will hold the masses of All heaven to the first army arrived
      • Formal alliances with local feudal lords
    6. Heavy terrain – penetrating deeply into enemy territory by passing several cities
      • Plunder for provisions here
    7. Entrapping terrain – with mountains, forests, ravines, wetlands, difficult roads
      • Move through here quickly
    8. Encircled terrain – constricted entrance, circuitous return – with a small number, the enemy can strike our masses
      • Use strategy here
    9. Fatal terrain – where you only survive if you fight with intensity
      • Engage in battle here
  • In the old days, the best armies kept the enemy’s front & rear from uniting, isolated small groups, sow distrust in the enemy’s ranks & caused chaos
  • If the enemy is large, disciplined & moving your way:
    • Take something they love or want
    • Take advantage of the enemy’s absence
    • Travel unanticipated roads
    • Attack when they aren’t alert
  • Tao of an invader – when deep in enemy territory, the army is united & defenders can’t conquer you
  • Forage in the countryside, you’ll have enough to eat
    • Nourish them & don’t overwork them & they’ll be their maximum
    • Be unfathomable
    • Put them into a position where there is nowhere to go & they will fold
      • When there’s no alternative, they’ll fight
      • They’ll fight without being told & willing to do so
      • Eliminate doubts
    • Doing nothing, they mope or panic
      • Putting them to action gives them courage
  • Excelling at employing the army is like being a snake
    • Strike the head & the tail responds
    • Strike the tail & the head responds
    • Strike the middle & both the head & tail respond
  • Unify courage by the Tao of administration
    • Learn the soft & hard touch in use of terrain
    • Take them by the hand so they can’t avoid it
    • Be calm & obscure, upright & disciplined, keep things from officers & troops to keep them in the dark
    • Stop people from being able to anticipate you
    • Guide them but don’t let them know where they’re going
  • 9 terrains give you advantages of contraction & expansion – also causes human emotions
    • Tao of the invader:
      • Deep in enemy territory, troops will be united but if only weakly, they’ll scatter
      • Leaving your territory, you’re in isolated terrain
        • Four sides open to others is open terrain
        • Advancing deeply is heavy terrain
        • Advancing shallowly is light terrain
        • With strongholds behind you & constrictions in front is encircled terrain
        • With nowhere to go is fatal terrain
      • With respect to the 9 terrains:
        1. Dispersive terrain – unify their will
        2. Light terrain – group them together
        3. Contentious terrain – move rear elements forward
        4. Traversable terrain – focus on defense
        5. Focal terrain – solidify alliances
        6. Heavy terrain – ensure continuous supply of provisions
        7. Entrapping terrain – advance quickly on roads
        8. Encircled terrain – obstruct openings
        9. Fatal terrain – show them we will not live
  • It’s natural for the army to defend when encircled, fight when it’s unavoidable & follow orders when compelled
    • You don’t know the plans of feudal lords who can’t make alliances
    • If you don’t know the topography of a terrain, you can’t maneuver an army
    • If you don’t get guides, you can’t use the terrain’s advantages
      • You’ll never succeed
  • When a hegemon or true attacks a great state, the masses can’t assemble
    • When the enemy is enormous, alliances can’t be sustained
    • Apply your awesomeness to the enemy
  • Give rewards not required by law. Only impose government orders exceptionally
    • Use one commander for an army
    • Put the army to use but don’t explain too much
    • Make them work for prospective gain but don’t tell them about the potential
    • Use them in fatal terrain to fight for their lives & win
  • Execution of military affairs is in learning the enemy’s intentions
    • If you focus on the enemy & kill its general from hundreds of miles away, you’ll look like a champ
  • When mobilization occurs, put your men & information on lock down
    • Make your strategy solid
    • If the enemy opens the door, race through it
    • Attack what they love first
    • Don’t fix a time for battle – react to the enemy for battle

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