Sun Tzu is Alive and Well

From the presentation on Sun Tzu by Jim Gimian and Barry Boyce.  They go into detail on these, and many others, in their new book, The Rules of Victory, How to Transform Chaos and Conflict (Boston: Shambhala, 2008).

[my comments are in square brackets.]

The Five:

1. The Tao — the path to be followed
2. Heaven (the largest possible vision) — View
3. Earth — terrain, the practical realities that any person has to deal with
4. The general — the person who has to take Action
5. The method — Practices

Thus: View, practices, and action – compare to Boyd’s values, doctrine, experience, mission

Five Points of the View

Interconnectedness – web of causes and effects, giving rise to chaos and change
Inevitability of encountering conflict
Taking whole
– as the overarching way of responding to conflict; include the adversary’s view to the greatest degree possible. [Compare to Boyd’s grand strategy]
as the essence of taking whole
Victory, inclusive and without aggression

The Art of War comes out of people who have objectives. The sage commander combines wisdom and effective action to achieve these objectives. How one defines “victory” shifts during the campaign, and to the victory is actually won before the battle.

The Basic Practice – shih (pronounced roughly: shir)

Metaphors from Sun Tzu:

The rush of water, to the point of tossing rocks
Therefore one skilled at battle, his shih is deep
Like a drawn crossbow; the node is pulling the trigger [Boyd – asymmetric fast transients]
The strike of a hawk – the killing snap
Therefore one skilled at battle: His shih is steep; his node is short

We need actions that can capitalize on the release of that energy for advantage.

Natural actions that we take move all the other players.

Configurations hold energy for a period and then release them. [e.g., David Lai on the game of Go]. There are energies building right now that are going to release.


Orthodox – the expected
Extraordinary – surprise!

Forming – establishing an effective container, boundary; confirming to laws, regulations, etc. shapes people’s actions

Transforming – reforming as new situations arise; otherwise become imprisoned by your current forms [cf. Boyd’s orientation]

Formlessness – having no fixed form; spiritlike. Egoless (ego is a huge limitation)

Deception – not conforming to the enemies’ expectations (or remaining wedded to one’s own earnest presentation of oneself), emerging as something beguiling and expected, concealment; able to learn without provoking a response.

Action – Arises when view and practice are brought to bear on what presents itself to you in the moment.

Example: Chapter 9 – Moving the Army

When it has rained upstream, the stream’s flow intensifies
Stop fording. Wait for it to calm.

–Read these lines over, wait 15 seconds, then read over again. Then come up with an example from your own experience.

Example: Chapter 6 – The Solid and the Empty

To go one thousand li without fear, go through unpeopled ground.

–for example, when you have a especially creative and unusual ideas, other peoples’ “opinions” represent “solid” ground. You need to be aware of these opinions, but find ways to work through them.

Example: Chapter 8 – The Nine Transformations

The plans of the wise necessarily include advantage and harm
They include advantage. Thus one’s service can be trusted.
They include harm. Thus adversity can be undone.

Subdue the feudal lords with harm.
Occupy the feudal lords with tasks.
Hasten the feudal lords with advantage.

[“feudal lords” are people with power over your activity who can affect its outcome.]

–harm can mean somebody not getting what they want.

Example:  Chapter 5 – Shih

One who uses shih sets people to battle as if rolling trees and rocks.
As for the nature of trees and rocks-
When still they are at rest.
When agitated, they move.
When square, they stop.
When round, they go.

Thus the shih of one skilled at setting people to battle is like rolling round rocks from a mountain one thousand jen high.

This is shih.

[Although I’ve studied this stuff for years, this presentation drove home — in away that I’ve never experienced — how beholden Boyd was to Sun Tzu.  The examples were not presented not as metaphors but actual applications of the basic principles to various forms of conflict.]

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