movement and development of troops – chapter 9 – the art of war

The Art of War

Chapter 9

Movement and Development of Troops

Generally, on positioning the army and observing the enemy:
  • To cross mountains, stay close to the valleys;
  • Observe on high ground and face the sunny side.
  • If the enemy holds the high ground, do not ascend and do battle with him.

This is positioning the army in the mountains.

After crossing a river, you must stay far away from it. If the enemy crosses a river, do not meet him in the water. When half of his forces has crossed, it will then be advantageous to strike.

If you want to do battle with the enemy, do not position your forces near the water facing the enemy; take high ground facing the sunny side, and do not position downstream. This is positioning the army near rivers.

After crossing swamps and wetlands, strive to quickly get through them, and do not linger. If you do battle in swamps and wetlands, you must position close to grass, with the trees to your back. This is positioning the army in swamps and wetlands.

On level ground, position on places that are easy to maneuver with your right backed by high ground, with the dangerous ground in front, and safe ground to the back. This is positioning the army on level ground.

These are the four positions advantageous to the army, which enabled the Yellow Emperor to conquer four rulers.

Generally, the army prefers high ground and dislikes low ground, values the sunny side and despises the shady side, nourishes its health and occupies places with resources, and avoids numerous sicknesses. These factors mean certain victory.

Where there are hills and embankments, you must position on the sunny side, with the hills and embankments to your right back. These are advantages to the army.

Use the ground for assistance. When the rainwater rises and descends down to where you want to cross, wait until it settles. Where there is ground with impassable ravines, Heaven’s Wells, Heaven’s Prisons, Heaven’s Nets, Heaven’s Pits, and Heaven’s Fissures, you must march quickly away from them. Do not approach them.

When we distance from them, draw the enemy to approach them. When we move to face the enemy, he will have them at his back. When the army is flanked by high ground, wetlands, tall reeds and grass, mountain forests, or areas with thick undergrowth, you must search carefully and thoroughly, because these are places where men lie in ambush or where spies hide.

If the enemy is close and remains quiet, he occupies a natural stronghold. If the enemy is far away and challenges you to do battle, he wants you to advance, because he occupies level ground that is to his advantage.

If trees move, he is advancing; if there are obstacles placed in the undergrowth, he wants to make us suspicious; if the birds take flight, he is lying in ambush; if the animals are in fear, he is preparing to attack; if dust is high in straight columns, his chariots are advancing; if dust is low and wide, his infantry is advancing.

If the dust is scattered, he is gathering wood; if the dust is sparse, coming and going, he is encamping.

If he speaks humbly, but increases warfare readiness, he will advance. If he speaks belligerently and advances aggressively, he will retreat.

If he speaks apologetically, he needs a rest. If his light chariots move first and take position on the flanks, he is setting up for battle. If he seeks peace without a treaty, he is calculating.

If he sets up his troops rapidly, he is expecting reinforcements. If half of his troops advances and half of his troops retreats, he is trying to lure you.

If the troops lean on their weapons, they are hungry. If the troops who draw water drink first, they are thirsty. If he sees advantage but does not take it, he is tired.

If birds gather, he is not there. If his troops cry at night, they are afraid. If the army is unsettled, the general is weak. If the enemy’s flags and pennants move about, he is in chaos. If the officers are irritable, they are exhausted.

If his horses are fed grain and his men meat, no longer hangs up cooking pots, and does not return to camp, he is desperate. If troops constantly gather in small groups and whisper together, he has lost his men. If he gives out rewards frequently, he is running out of resources.

If he gives out punishments frequently, he is in dire straits. If he is brutal at first, and then fears the masses, he is the extreme of ineptitude.

If he comes with offerings, he wants to rest. If his troops confront you with anger, but do not do battle or leave their position, he must be investigated.

In warfare, numbers may not necessarily be an advantage; do not advance aggressively. It is enough to consolidate your strength, calculate the enemy, and get support from your men. One who lacks strategic planning and underestimates the enemy will be captured.

If one punishes the troops before their loyalty is formed, they will be disobedient. If they are disobedient, they will be difficult to use. If one does not punish the troops after their loyalty is formed, they cannot be used. Therefore, if he commands them by benevolence, and unifies them by discipline, this is called certain victory.

If commands are consistently enforced when training men, they will be obedient; if commands are not consistently enforced when training men, they will be disobedient. If commands are consistently executed, they are in accord with the general.

(main review)