Chapter 7 : Manoeuvre

Sun Zi said :

Genrally in war, the general first receives commands from the sovereign, then recruits soldiers and assembles the army, and moves to the front to fight the enemy army.

In the process, the greatest difficulty is tactical manoeuvering i.e to seize favourable conditions for winning victory. The most difficult part in this manoeuvreing is to turn the devious way into direct one, and the unfavourable situations into favourable.

By purposely taking a roundabout way, and luring the enemy with some advantages to slow them down, one will be able to arrive first to seize the favourable position while setting off later than the enemy.

This is one who knows the strategy of turning the devious way into direct one.

Manoeuvring

Manoeuvring can be both beneficial and dangerous.

If the whole army is sent to seize a favourable position with all its supplies and gear, then one will be too slow to reach the destination in time, whereas if the supplies and gears are leave behind, they will be lost.

If the army is ordered to roll up armour to rush forward, march day and night without stopping, cover double the usual distance at a stretch in order to fight with the enemy one hundred li away form the favourable situation, the commanders of armies could be captured.

The strong and healthy soldiers will arrive first, while the weak will fall behind, with about only tenth of the soldiers being able to reach in destination.

While moving fifty li for the favourable situation, the commanders of the advance troops will be captured or injured, with only one half of the soldiers arrive in time.

In marching thirty li for the favourable situation, only two thirds of the soldiers will arrive. Accordingly, the army will be defeated without gear and supplies. It cannot survive without provisions, nor can it last without accumulation of supply.

Knowing The Situations

One cannot enter alliances with neighbouring countries without a clear understanding of their strategy. Nor can one march through a country without knowing its mountains and forests, all the dangers and difficulties of the route and marshes. One will be incapable of using the terrain to advantage without using native guides.

Military Operations

In military operations , one need to use crafty and flexible strategies so that one's army can get a firm foothold; one takes an action if there is a real advantage to be gained; one adapts oneself to the changeable situation with tactics of using scattered forces or concentrated forces.

Therefore , an army in a rapid motion is as quick as a hurricance; in a slow motion , it is as compact as the trees in the forest.

In attacking it is as fierce as raging fire and in immovability it is as still as a mountain.

While concealing itself, it is as invincible as the Sun, the Moon and the stars in cloudy skies,and when taking actions, as terrible as thunderbolt.

Principle Of Manoeuvring

When seizing the grains and properties of the enemy's territory, one should divide one's spoil among one's soldiers and the people; when capturing new territory, cut it up into allotments for the benefit of the officers and soldiers.

Before taking any action, one should make careful comparisons between the enemy's conditions and ours.

Only he who understand the strategy of turning the devious way into direct one can talk about winning victory.

This is the principle of manoeuvring.

The Book of Army Management

The Book of Army Management says : Spoken words cannot be heard in battlefield, hence the institution of gongs and drums; gestures cannot be seen clearly in battles, hence the use of banners and flags.

Both drums and banners are used for the soldiers to hear and see so as to unify the military force in battle.

When the battle are unified, the brave soldiers will not be able to march forward individually, while the cowardly one will not be able to retreat by themselves.

This is the art of directing large armies.

Accordingly, one should use more fires and drums at night battles; and more banner in the daylight. All these changes are made to suit the soldiers' visual and hearing abilities.

Morale

The morale of enemy troops can be dampened and their commander's determination can be shaken. It is common knowledge that when the battles first starts, the army's morale is usually very high; after a while, it declines, and towards the end, the soldiers will be exhausted to fight and inclined to return.

From this perspective, a wise commander always tries to avoid the enemy until they are idle and inclined to return.This is the way to keep an army's morale up.

To meet the enemy's confusion with one's disciplined army, and to meet enemy's panic with one's own calmness are ways to maintains the soldiers' morale.

One tries to be bear the battlefield , while the enemy must come from a long distance; one has had a through rest and has reorganised, while the enemy is exhausted after a long march; one is well fed and still have sufficient food supplies, while the enemy soldiers are starving and no more food supplies.

This is the way to conserve one's strength. One will not meet in battle with enemies whose banner's and deployments are in order; nor will one attack powerful enemies in disciplined manner.

This is the way to vary battle strategy in accordance with the enemy's situation.

Attacking The Enemy

Do not attack an enemy who has seized high ground if it means advancing uphill;

do not oppose an enemy when it comes downhill.

Do not pursue the enemy when he pretends to retreat.

Do not attack the enemy when he is in good battle trim.

Do not taken in by the enemy when he tries to lure you with baits.

Do not stop the enemy when he is withdrawing to his own country.

When surrounding an enemy army. one should always leave an opening; one should nit force the enemy to fight to the death when he is in desperate situations.

These are principles one should know in directing military operations.

English Translation by C.C Low.Disclaimer


Copyright 1996
Chin Yong Lee