36 strategies
   
     

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36 Strategies

The 36 Strategies are attributed to General Wang Jingze.
They are similar in nature to the strategies found in Sun Tzu's The Art of War or Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings.
Incorporate them into your
taijiquan applications:

Winn
ing strategies

  1. Deceive the sky to cross the ocean

  2. Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao

  3. Kill with a borrowed knife

  4. Substitute leisure for labour

  5. Loot a house on fire

  6. Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west

Enemy dealing strategies

  1. Create something from nothing

  2. Sneak through the passage of Chencang

  3. Watch the fires burning across the river

  4. Hide a knife behind a smile

  5. Sacrifices the plum tree to preserve the peach tree

  6. Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat

Attacking strategies

  1. Startle the snake by hitting the grass around it

  2. Borrow another's corpse to resurrect the soul

  3. Entice the tiger to leave its mountain lair

  4. In order to capture, one must let loose

  5. Tossing out a brick to get a jade

  6. Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief

Chaos strategies

  1. Remove the firewood under the cooking pot

  2. Catch a fish while the water is disturbed

  3. Slough off the cicada's shell

  4. Shut the door to catch the thief

  5. Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighbour

  6. Obtain safe passage to conquer the State of Guo

  7. Replace the beams with rotten timbers

  8. Point at the mulberry tree while cursing the locust tree

  9. Play dumb

  10. Remove the ladder when the enemy has ascended to the roof

  11. Deck the tree with false blossoms

  12. Make the host and the guest exchange roles

Defeat strategies

  1. The honey trap

  2. The empty fort strategy

  3. Let the enemy's own spy sow discord in the enemy camp

  4. Inflict injury on one's self to win the enemy's trust

  5. Chain strategies

  6. If all else fails, retreat


Deceive the sky to cross the ocean

Moving about in the darkness and shadows, occupying isolated places, or hiding behind screens will only attract suspicious attention.
To lower an enemy's guard you must act in the open and hide your true intentions under the guise of common every day activities.

Repeatedly doing these activities will eventually lower the enemy 's guard, allowing one to carry out one's true objective.


Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao

When the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, then attack something he holds dear.
Know that in all things he cannot be superior.

Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead.


Kill with a borrowed knife

Attack using the strength of another (in a situation where using one's own strength is not favourable).
Trick an ally into attacking him, bribe an official to turn traitor, or use the enemy's own strength against him.


Substitute leisure for labour

It is an advantage to choose the time and place for battle.
In this way you know when and where the battle will take place, while your enemy does not.

Encourage your enemy to expend his energy in futile quests while you conserve your strength.
When he is exhausted and confused, you attack with energy and purpose.


Loot a house on fire

When a country is beset by internal conflicts, when disease and famine ravage the population, when corruption and crime are rampant, then it will be unable to deal with an outside threat.
This is the time to attack.


Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west

In any battle the element of surprise can provide an overwhelming advantage.
Even when face to face with an enemy, surprise can still be employed by attacking where he least expects it.
To do this you must create an expectation in the enemy's mind through the use of a feint.


Create something from nothing

You use the same feint twice.
Having reacted to the first and often the second feint as well, the enemy will be hesitant to react to a third feint.
Therefore the third feint is the actual attack catching your enemy with his guard down.


Sneak through the passage of Chencang

Attack the enemy with two convergent forces.
The first is the direct attack, one that is obvious and for which the enemy prepares his defence.
The second is the indirect, the sneak attack that the enemy does not expect and which causes him to divide his forces at the last minute leading to confusion and disaster.


Watch the fires burning across the river

Delay entering the field of battle until all the other players have become exhausted fighting amongst themselves.
Then go in full strength and pick up the pieces.


Hide a knife behind a smile

Charm and ingratiate yourself to your enemy.
When you have gained his trust, you move against him in secret.


Sacrifices the plum tree to preserve the peach tree

There are circumstances in which you must sacrifice short-term objectives in order to gain the long-term goal.
This is the scapegoat strategy whereby someone else suffers the consequences so that the rest do not.


Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat

While carrying out your plans be flexible enough to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, however small, and avail yourself of any profit, however slight.


Startle the snake by hitting the grass around it

When preparing for battle, do not alert your enemy to your intentions or give away your strategy prematurely.


Borrow another's corpse to resurrect the soul

Take an institution, a technology, or a method that has been forgotten or discarded and appropriate it for your own purpose.
Revive something from the past by giving it a new purpose or to reinterpret and bring to life old ideas, customs, and traditions.


Entice the tiger to leave its mountain lair

Never directly attack an opponent whose advantage is derived from its position.
Instead lure him away from his position thus separating him from his source of strength.


In order to capture, one must let loose

Cornered prey will often mount a final desperate attack.
To prevent this you let the enemy believe he still has a chance for freedom.
His will to fight is thus dampened by his desire to escape.

When in the end the freedom is proven a falsehood the enemy's morale will be defeated and he will surrender without a fight.


Tossing out a brick to get a jade

Prepare a trap then lure your enemy into the trap by using bait.
In war the bait is the illusion of an opportunity for gain.
In life the bait is the illusion of wealth, power, and sex.


Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief

If the enemy's army is strong but is allied to the commander only by money or threats, then take aim at the leader.
If the commander falls the rest of the army will disperse or come over to your side.
If, however, they are allied to the leader through loyalty then beware, the army can continue to fight on after his death out of vengeance.


Remove the firewood under the cooking pot

When faced with an enemy too powerful to engage directly you must first weaken him by undermining his foundation and attacking his source of power.


Catch a fish while the water is disturbed

Before engaging your enemy's forces create confusion to weaken his perception and judgement.
Do something unusual, strange, and unexpected as this will arouse the enemy's suspicion and disrupt his thinking.
A distracted enemy is thus more vulnerable.


Slough off the cicada's shell

When you are in danger of being defeated, and your only chance is to escape and regroup, then create an illusion.
While the enemy's attention is focused on this artifice, secretly remove your men leaving behind only the facade of your presence.


Shut the door to catch the thief

If you have the chance to completely capture the enemy then you should do so thereby bringing the battle or war to a quick and lasting conclusion.
To allow your enemy to escape plants the seeds for future conflict.
But if they succeed in escaping, be wary of giving chase.


Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighbour

It is known that nations that border each other become enemies while nations separated by distance and obstacles make better allies.
When you are the strongest in one field, your greatest threat is from the second strongest in your field, not the strongest from another field.


Obtain safe passage to conquer the State of Guo

Borrow the resources of an ally to attack a common enemy.
Once the enemy is defeated, use those resources to turn on the ally that lent you them in the first place.


Replace the beams with rotten timbers

Disrupt the enemy's formations, interfere with their methods of operations, change the rules in which they are used to following, go contrary to their standard training.
In this way you remove the supporting pillar, the common link that makes a group of men an effective fighting force.


Point at the mulberry tree while cursing the locust tree

To discipline, control, or warn others whose status or position excludes them from direct confrontation; use analogy and innuendo.
Without directly naming names, those accused cannot retaliate without revealing their complicity.


Play dumb

Hide behind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a madman to create confusion about your intentions and motivations.
Lure your opponent into underestimating your ability until, overconfident, he drops his guard.
Then you may attack.


Remove the ladder when the enemy has ascended to the roof

With baits and deceptions lure your enemy into treacherous terrain.
Then cut off his lines of communication and avenue of escape.
To save himself he must fight both your own forces and the elements of nature.


Deck the tree with false blossoms

Tying silk blossoms on a dead tree gives the illusion that the tree is healthy.
Through the use of artifice and disguise make something of no value appear valuable; of no threat appear dangerous; of no use appear useful.


Make the host and the guest exchange roles

Defeat the enemy from within by infiltrating the enemy's camp under the guise of cooperation, surrender, or peace treaties.
In this way you can discover his weakness and then, when the enemy's guard is relaxed, strike directly at the source of his strength.


The honey trap

Send your enemy beautiful women to cause discord within his camp.
This strategy can work on three levels.
First, the ruler becomes so enamoured with the beauty that he neglects his duties and allows his vigilance to wane.
Second, other males at court will begin to display aggressive behaviour that inflames minor differences hindering co-operation and destroying morale.
Third, other females at court, motivated by jealousy and envy, begin to plot intrigues further exacerbating the situation.

Beautiful women are only an example.
Anything that intoxicates your enemy and fuels his lust will serve just as well.
Play on the greed, ambition and selfish nature of your adversary, then strike him when he is preoccupied.



The empty fort strategy

When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretence of military preparedness and act casually.
Unless the enemy has an accurate description of your situation this unusual behaviour will arouse suspicions.
With luck he will be dissuaded from attacking.


Let the enemy's own spy sow discord in the enemy camp

Undermine your enemy's ability to fight by secretly causing discord between him and his friends, allies, advisors, family, commanders, soldiers, and population.
While he is preoccupied settling internal disputes his ability to attack or defend, is compromised.


Inflict injury on one's self to win the enemy's trust

Pretending to be injured has two possible applications.
In the first, the enemy is lulled into relaxing his guard since he no longer considers you to be an immediate threat.
The second is a way of ingratiating yourself to your enemy by pretending the injury was caused by a mutual enemy.


Chain strategies

In important matters one should use several strategies applied simultaneously after another, as in a chain of strategies.
Keep different plans operating in an overall scheme.
If any one strategy fails, discard it and choose another. The chain remains unbroken because there is always another option.


If all else fails, retreat

If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat then retreat and regroup. When your side is losing there are only three choices remaining: surrender, compromise, or escape.
Surrender is complete defeat, compromise is half defeat, but escape is not defeat.
As long as you are not defeated, you still have a chance.


Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 19 December 2016