97+ Best Art of War Quotes: Exclusive Selection

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the Late Spring and Autumn Period. The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, is composed of 13 chapters. Profoundly inspirational art of war quotes will brighten up your day and make you feel ready to take on anything.

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Famous Art of War Quotes

The opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. — Sun Tzu

He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious. — Sun Tzu

Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted. — Sun Tzu

When the soldiers stand leaning on their spears, they are faint from want of food. — Sun Tzu

A leader leads by example not by force. — Sun Tzu

Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called entangling. — Sun Tzu

If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity. — Sun Tzu

If we know that the enemy is open to attack, but are unaware that our own men are not in a condition to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. — Sun Tzu

With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them first, let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy. — Sun Tzu

You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war. — Napoleon Bonaparte

Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance. — Sun Tzu

Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm — Sun Tzu

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate. — Sun Tzu

With regard to precipitous heights, if you are beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots, and there wait for him to come up. — Sun Tzu

When I have won a victory I do not repeat my tactics but respond to circumstances in an infinite variety of ways. — Sun Tzu

Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night. — Sun Tzu

If the enemy has occupied them before you, do not follow him, but retreat and try to entice him away. — Sun Tzu

He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. — Sun Tzu

The general must be the first in the toils and fatigues of the army. In the heat of summer he does not spread his parasol nor in the cold of winter don thick clothing. In dangerous places he must dismount and walk. He waits until the army’s wells have been dug and only then drinks; until the army’s food is cooked before he eats; until the army’s fortifications have been completed, to shelter himself. — Sun Tzu

The value of time, that is of being a little ahead of your opponent, often provides greater advantage than superior numbers or greater resources. — Sun Tzu

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign. — Sun Tzu

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. — Sun Tzu

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans, the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces, the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field, and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities. — Sun Tzu

Should the enemy forestall you in occupying a pass, do not go after him if the pass is fully garrisoned, but only if it is weakly garrisoned. — Sun Tzu

He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign. — Sun Tzu

From a position of this sort, if the enemy is unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him. But if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you fail to defeat him, then, return being impossible, disaster will ensue. — Sun Tzu

He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. — Sun Tzu

It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on. — Sun Tzu

When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise. — Sun Tzu

No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. — Sun Tzu

Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled against another ten times its size, the result will be the flight of the former. — Sun Tzu

Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never peril. — Sun Tzu

When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move. — Sun Tzu

The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success. — Sun Tzu

Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain — Sun Tzu

The world has a way of undermining complex plans. This is particularly true in fast moving environments. A fast moving environment can evolve more quickly than a complex plan can be adapted to it. By the time you have adapted, the target has changed. — Carl von Clausewitz

Know thy self, know thy enemy. — Sun Tzu

It is the rule in war, if ten times the enemy’s strength, surround them; if five times, attack them; if double, be able to divide them; if equal, engage them; if fewer, defend against them; if weaker, be able to avoid them. — Sun Tzu

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak. — Sun Tzu

Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind of business. — Sun Tzu

With regard to ground of this nature, be before the enemy in occupying the raised and sunny spots, and carefully guard your line of supplies. Then you will be able to fight with advantage. — Sun Tzu

If quick, I survive. If not quick, I am lost. This is death. — Sun Tzu

Birds rising in flight is a sign that the enemy is lying in ambush; when the wild animals are startled and flee he is trying to take you unaware. — Sun Tzu

Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated. — Sun Tzu

When a general, unable to estimate the enemy’s strength, allows an inferior force to engage a larger one, or hurls a weak detachment against a powerful one, and neglects to place picked soldiers in the front rank, the result must be rout. — Sun Tzu

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. — Sun Tzu

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity. — Sun Tzu

There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune on his army: By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army. By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldier’s minds. By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers. — Sun Tzu

Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity. — Sun Tzu

If those who are sent to draw water begin by drinking themselves, the army is suffering from thirst. — Sun Tzu

In order to know your enemy, you must become your enemy. — Chris Bradford

The good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy. — Sun Tzu

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy… use the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength. — Sun Tzu

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. — Sun Tzu

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. — Sun Tzu

The skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting. — Sun Tzu

Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. — Sun Tzu

Who does not know the evils of war cannot appreciate its benefits. — Sun Tzu

Subjugating the enemy’s army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence. — Sun Tzu

Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is called accessible. — Sun Tzu

In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns. — Sun Tzu

These are six ways of courting defeat, which must be carefully noted by the general who has attained a responsible post. — Sun Tzu

They [spies] cannot be properly managed without benevolence and straightforwardness. — Sun Tzu

Knowledge of the enemy’s dispositions can only be obtained from other men. — Sun Tzu

The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable. — Sun Tzu

At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you. — Sun Tzu

He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. — Sun Tzu

If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak. If the banners and flags are shifted about, sedition is afoot. If the officers are angry, it means that the men are weary. — Sun Tzu

He who knows his enemy and himself well will not be defeated easily. — Sun Tzu

Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders without regard to previous arrangements; and you will be able to handle a whole army as though you had to do with but a single man. — Sun Tzu

When the position is such that neither side will gain by making the first move, it is called temporising ground. — Sun Tzu

Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment – that which they cannot anticipate. — Sun Tzu

There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen. — Sun Tzu

He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. — Sun Tzu

If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things. — Sun Tzu

Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards… Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain. — Sun Tzu

And therefore those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him. — Sun Tzu

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. — Sun Tzu

When the higher officers are angry and insubordinate, and on meeting the enemy give battle on their own account from a feeling of resentment, before the commander-in-chief can tell whether or not he is in a position to fight, the result is ruin. — Sun Tzu

Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will. — Sun Tzu

O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! — Sun Tzu

There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: recklessness, which leads to destruction; cowardice, which leads to capture; a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; a delicacy of honour, which is sensitive to shame; over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble. — Sun Tzu

If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in orderly array and on the point of marching to the attack, I should say: Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will. Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots. — Sun Tzu

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle — Sun Tzu

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. — Sun Tzu

Rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him — Sun Tzu

When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce. If the enemy’s troops march up angrily and remain facing ours for a long time without either joining battle or removing demands, the situation is one that requires great vigilance and circumspection. To begin by bluster, but afterward to take fright at the enemy’s numbers, shows a supreme lack of intelligence. — Sun Tzu

If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve. — Sun Tzu

Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak. — Sun Tzu

To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence. — Sun Tzu

On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy’s way. On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies. On serious ground, gather in plunder. In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. On desperate ground, fight. — Sun Tzu

The natural formation of the country is the soldier’s best ally; but a power of estimating the adversary, of controlling the forces of victory, and of shrewdly calculating difficulties, dangers and distances, constitutes the test of a great general. — Sun Tzu

Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is never bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is never at a loss. — Sun Tzu

Concentrate your energy and hoard your strength. — Sun Tzu

If you are situated at a great distance from the enemy, and the strength of the two armies is equal, it is not easy to provoke a battle, and fighting will be to your disadvantage. — Sun Tzu

The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain. — Sun Tzu

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. — Sun Tzu