The Art of War Summary


Timeless strategies for smartest battles that lead you to victory. The Art of War – Sun Tzu

I postponed reading Sun Tzu ’s book – The Art of Warseveral times. I wasn’t very sure that this is the kind of lecture I was looking for. After reading it, I discovered impressive ideas and timeless advice in The Art of War written by Sun Tzu. I selected best nuggets (visual quotes from books) and put them in the summary below.


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

The Art of War Summary

Of course, I heard in many contexts talking about Sun Tzu ’s book – The Art of War. I’m not a big fan of military field – so definitely this was not my main source of information. What really surprised me was the fact that I heard or read about it in various contexts. So much different from the military type.

The time for sieges and city defenses is long gone. However totally neglecting the concept of war, shows your illiteracy, because even now, the threat of attack exists.
We think everyone would agree with the theory that today’s battles are fought behind closed curtains.

This book summary offers insights into ancient warfare, and how these tactics can be used in the Digital Age.

Who Should Read “The Art of War”? And Why?

For the majority of times, you cannot just limit a book to a particular qualified audience that can quickly grasp author’s enigmatic style. Once in awhile, an easily digestible book is the first choice overshadowing the complex, mind-altering classics.

Why? – Stay with us to find the answer:

It is significant that you have some fundamental understanding of war or at least be passionate about it. However, even these qualifications are not mandatory, but they are necessary so that the author can easily guide the reader throughout the book.

Ralph D. Sawyer with Sun Tzu’s perspective ignites the inner fire from within that encourages students, adults, people in business, from different races-nationalities-religions, to reconsider their approach towards life and implement traditional ancient technique into the digital era.

About Sun Tzu & Ralph D. Sawyer

Sun TzuSun Tzu date of birth varies between 540 and 545 BC and according to numerous historians, he died at the age of 50 around 495 BC. As a famous Chinese general, author, war strategist, and philosopher he brought new meaning to the word strategy not just in China but throughout the world. China’s greatest general is the author and the creator of “The Art of War” a widely prominent masterpiece of military tactics and Warfare that change the course of Eastern and Western War History.

Ralph D. Sawyer
Translator Ralph D. Sawyer is an American historian, an expert in ancient Chinese Warfare and he is one of the eminent scholars of Chinese War Culture.

“The Art of War Summary”

Well-renowned Chinese General Sun-Tzu advises armies, rulers, and other military commanders to spot the perfect opportunity to start a strategical combat. All they need to do is to understand and grab the perfect timing for such an action and back away when such approach is required.

Here’s the case:

It is kinda funny that even in the 21st century, the concept of war, tactics, and the military strategies is present as well. Modern Warfare is composed of an intelligent, strategic, and diplomatic way of thinking in protecting national and corporate interests. “The Art of War” is a short and intriguing book for all historians and military admirers, it explains the essence of Sun-Tzu’s classic treatise. This book is translated and interpreted by Ralph D. Sawyer who is an expert on ancient and middle ages Chinese military strategies. He as an interpreter tries to provide sufficient amount of materials to put the work in context.

What is the deal with war nowadays?

We are witnessing many classic representatives and contemporary adapters of Sun-Tzu’s work and view, Sawyer distinguishes from them by trying not to copy Sun-Tzu’s words and perspective, and yet learn from him and his ancient and at the same time modern military approach.

Passionate by history? This is the book you should definitely read.

Business. Sports. Philosophy. Economics. Psychology. You’ll find The Art of War useful in various fields.

13 chapters will keep you awake, strongly connected to your full capacity of mind. Developing a sharp attention to the others. But even much more attention to yourself.

We present a brief description to help you have a small preview of what are you going to find in this book.

  1. Detail Assessment and Planning: Be prepared to deal with five fundamental concepts: the Way, seasons, terrain, leadership, and management.
  2. Waging War: Decision-making process is a challenging one. So, you have to take into account which will be the costs for engaging in a conflict.
  3. Strategic Attack: is defined by Sun Tzu through five factors that are needed to succeed in any war: Attack, Strategy, Alliances, Army, and Cities.
  4. Disposition of the Army: This chapter is a lesson about the importance of defending and also about the relevance of recognizing strategic opportunities.

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

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

  1. Forces: Time, creativity and sharp minds. Those are the main tools for leading an army
  2. Weaknesses and Strengths: Sun Tzu is playing with these two key-concepts in order to underline that there is an extraordinarily powerful tool that may help you turn everything in your favor: seeing the opportunities.

So, relating to the enemy you’ll learn from this book that:

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

And, relating to your own army, you’ll find out that:

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

Sun Tzu Disorder came from order,

  1. Military Maneuvers: Which will be the risk of a direct conflict? How can you win this kind of confrontations? The “Military Maneuvers” chapter will provide you the answers to your questions.
  1. Variations and Adaptability: A war is full of unexpected. Maybe you cannot anticipate which will be the next move of your enemy. But what you can do is to expect the unexpected and be prepared for it

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

  1. Movement and Development of Troops: focusing on your enemies’ intentions. This should be part of your strategy. Analyze and anticipate will help you understand better the situations you’ll find yourself and to make intelligent moves through new enemy territories.
  2. Terrain: You’ll find out here which are: the three general areas of resistance (distance, dangers, and barriers) and the six types of ground positions that arise from them.
  3. The Nine Battlegrounds: In this chapter, Sun Tzu describes the nine common stages in a campaign, and explains how a commander should act in order to successfully navigate them.
  4. Attacking with Fire: Are the weapons the only tools in order to obtain the victory? A strategic mind will see further than this. The general should use weapons but also he should take into account using the environment as a weapon, too.
  1. Intelligence and Espionage: Information and intelligence are in perfect harmony and complementarity. In this chapter, Sun Tzu specifies five types of intelligence sources and which will be the best approach to managing each of them.

A great lesson I learned from this book is that a strategic mind derives from a complex introspection.

It doesn’t matter what kind of battle you take. The rules remain the same. The enemies are still enemies. The victory will still taste the same.

It’s up to you the strategy you choose. The weapons you use. But, above all this it’s up to you to avoid the mistake you may be able to make.

“There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general:
(1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction;
(2) cowardice, which leads to capture;
(3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults;
(4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame;
(5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.“

Even if I was fascinated by the historical part of this book, what I really loved was to see the other face of this coin. The other interpretation of Sun Tzu’s approach. His pieces of advice are not only timeless but also priceless.

How useful Has The Art of War proving to be at the time?

Maybe you’ll not be surprised to find out – but definitely, you’ll find this at least interesting – that during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, General Vo Nguyen Giap successfully implemented tactics described in The Art of War. On the other hand, it seems that the strategy of deception from The Art of War was also studied and widely used by the KGB.

Key Lessons from “The Art of War”

  1.       Essential skills are required from a military commander and strategist
  2.       Intelligent military generals always respect their enemy, even if they seem weak at first glance
  3.       Wise generals disregard old approaches and adopt more flexible attitude in Wartime situations

Essential skills are required from a military commander and strategist

Many terms are overlapping; a large portion of ancient philosophers considered that the concept of betrayal or the idea of deception (treachery) is a fundamental skill required for every warrior and military general that wishes to outsmart his opponent. In pursuance of final victory, a strategist must choose his battles carefully to win efficiently, to do, so an imperative is to manipulate the enemy subtly.

Intelligent military generals always respect their enemy, even if they seem weak at first glance

These two lessons are intertwined, but they are not the same. The greatest generals share one common attitude- they wait, and remain passive –(this approach makes them look “invincible and weak” into the eyes of the enemy); when they notice that an opportunity present itself they strike like a snake with full force when the enemy is more likely to feel defeat. This approach shows that wise generals do not underestimate their opponents, on the contrary, they lay down, always ready to strike if such thing is required with enormous respect for the opponent.

Wise generals disregard old approaches and adopt more flexible behavior in Wartime situations

The reader must grasp that smart and vigorous generals must combine both traditional and modern strategies to deceive their opponents. It is natural to learn from the past, that is why the majority of military generals engage and guide themselves according to their traditional perspective, but for a final victory a more open approach is required that carries greater risk. They distinguish between one thing- wise ones abandon old, and familiar tactics and adopt more flexible approach that is subjected to change depending on the circumstances.

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“The Art of War” Quotes

Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak. Click To Tweet Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting Click To Tweet Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win Click To Tweet The greatest victory is that which requires no battle Click To Tweet There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

The only thing missing from this easy-to-read kind of book is deep pull – meaning that the point doesn’t reach beyond the simple life lessons and probably some business practices. Nevertheless, our advice is overall, this is a good classic to read.

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