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The Five Factors of Knowing Who Will Win

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  • The Five Factors of Knowing Who Will Win

    Truly understanding Sun Tzu's five factors for winning will go a long way towards grokking the essence of the AoW.

    Looking for vulnerability

    03.018 - Therefore, there are five factors of knowing who will win: One who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot fight, will be victorious;

    The right time to fight is when we discover the right place to attack. We must continually be observant for our enemy's point of vulnerability. Having the patience to wait for that moment is another way one can interpret this passage. One will only know if his chances of victory are good when he sees the opportunity to strike. Opportunity can never be created. It can only be discovered.

    Size does not necessarily matter

    03.019 - One who knows how to use both large and small forces will be victorious;

    This verse is revisited in the first verse of chapter five "Unorthodox and Orthodox".

    My viewpoint here is that the rules of the AoW do not change regardless of our size or that of our enemy. Stick to searching for the weak points of our opponent. Keep positioning at the forefront of our minds. Of course the difficulty of filtering down our strategy through the organization is proportionate to the size of the organization, but the message should always be the same.


    There are circumstances in war when many cannot attack few, and others when the weak can master the strong. One able to manipulate such circumstances will be victorious. Tu Yu

    Simply because the situation looks daunting does not mean one is destined to defeat. The opposite is true as well. Simply because victory seems inevitable does not mean you will win in the end. Just because the water looks calm does not mean there are not any alligators under the surface.

    Strategy wins again

    03.020 - One who knows how to unite upper and lower ranks in purpose will be victorious;

    Obviously everyone pulling on the rope at the same time increases our chances for victory. The question becomes how to motivate everyone to do so. I believe that once the strategy has been effectively communicated to all involved and they understand the mission and see clearly the method for achieving success, in most cases, both upper and lower ranks will fall in line with team unity.

    Continuous preparation

    03.021 - One who is prepared and waits for the unprepared will be victorious;

    I think preparation is more of a journey than a destination. Once one has observed the situation and whose mind is in accordance with his surroundings, the job of preparation has just begun. Our enemy will most likely prepare once. Then in the moment of battle not realizing that circumstances have shifted, he will succumb to the continuous preparation of his foe.


    03.022 - One whose general is able and is not interfered by the ruler will be victorious. These five factors are the way to know who will win.

    Every field general should be given a certain amount of autonomy to carry out isolated situations occurring on the battlefield. If I am walking down the hall in my office building and I see a scorpion do I really need the input of my superior on how to handle the situation? Don't I simply grab something and kill it?
    Last edited by Truthseeker; 05-05-2018, 09:30 AM.