A Person Skilled at Warfare Controls His Opponents and Is Not Controlled by Them.

A person who is skilled at warfare controls his opponents and is not controlled by them. The key point here is an emphasis on controlling the initiative in a battle. On the battlefield, a prerequisite for victory is the troop commander’s ability to determine the course of battle and steer it in the desired direction. Initiative in a battle is based on various objective conditions and subjective commands, and it constantly changes along with the changing balance of the opposing forces and the correctness of command concepts. During a battle, both sides try to take the initiative by controlling the time and place of engagement and the balance of forces. The main way to gain the initiative is to use flexible strategies and tactics to disrupt a situation which favors the opponent, to create weaknesses in him, to break his fighting spirit, and to thwart his plans. The concept of controlling the initiative is not only a manifestation of great military wisdom; it also offers insights for other areas of work and even for everyday behavior.


Whoever is first on the battlefield and awaits the foe will be rested, and whoever arrives late and rushes into battle will be tired. Hence one who is skilled at war can control his opponents instead of being controlled by them. He may use some small advantage to lure the enemy to a battlefield of his own choosing; or he may put the enemy at a disadvantage by preventing him from reaching the battlefield. Thus a rested enemy can be made exhausted, a well-fed enemy can be made hungry, and a settled enemy can be made to move.


If the enemy wants to attack me where I am weak, I make my forces pretend to be weak; if he tries to avoid me where I am strong, I make my forces appear to be strong. But in fact the enemy will not be attacking me where I am weak, nor will he be avoiding me where I am strong. Thus if the enemy is relaxed I will try to exhaust him, and if he is well-fed I will try to make him go hungry. This is known as controlling one’s opponent and not being controlled by him.


I will use every means possible to entice the enemy into battle, where I await him at a place where the terrain is favorable to myself. This way I am assured of victory. As the book on warfare says, “Control others and do not be controlled by them.”