CHAPTER SUMMARY (5.01-5.18): Creating Overwhelming Momentum
Strive to establish an invincible position, one your adversary cannot overcome, then to establish overwhelming momentum with your troops. For repeated victories, resolve problems while they're small, before they flare into open conflict. When they do so, prepare thoroughly; wait patiently for your adversary to divulge a weakness; then strike. Guard against overconfidence. If your opponent is as strong or stronger than you, wait. If you are stronger, you can attack. Make one area strong enough to protect when your aim is defense. When it's offense, enlarge your army enough to divide it, so that it can both attack and defend itself. Move speedily and with full strength. Subordinate your desire for self-glory or reward to the goal of victory. Confront only an adversary you can handle; if you decide you cannot, settle the conflict without fighting. Knowing that luck is a factor, do your best to calculate which side will likely win: Consider "Ground," your environment and its values. What prized attributes does your side have (advantages)? what despised attributes (disadvantages)? Calculate the same for your adversary. Gauge which side is superior (has more advantages). Seek a position of overwhelming advantages so your adversary refrains from fighting you at all.
[5.01] Generally, commanding many is like commanding a few.* It is a matter of dividing them into groups. Doing battle with a large army is like doing battle with a small army. It is a matter of communications through flags and pennants.
[5.02] Due to common and uncommon maneuvers, an army can withstand the enemy's attack and not be defeated.
[5.03] The army will be like throwing a stone against an egg;* it is a matter of weakness and strength.
[5.04] Generally, in battle, use the common to engage the enemy and the uncommon to gain victory. Those skilled at uncommon maneuvers are as endless as the heavens and earth, and as inexhaustible as the rivers and seas.*
[5.05] Like the sun and the moon, they set and rise again.* Like the four seasons, they end and begin again. There are no more than five* musical notes, yet the variations in the five notes cannot all be heard. There are no more than five basic colors, yet the variations in the five colors cannot all be seen. There are no more than five basic flavors, yet the variations in the five flavors cannot all be tasted.
[5.06] In battle, there are no more than two types of attacks: Common and uncommon, yet the variations of the common and uncommon cannot all be anticipated.*
[5.07] The common and the uncommon produce each other,* like an endless circle. Who can comprehend them?
[5.08] The rush of torrential waters tossing boulders illustrates force. The strike of a bird of prey breaking the body of its target illustrates timing.
[5.09] Therefore, the force of those skilled in warfare is overwhelming and their timing precise.
5.01 commanding many is like commanding a few. The point is you need to apply the same measures to large and small forces; a large force needs to be subdivided.
5.03 like throwing a stone against an egg. The simile illustrates an uncommon maneuver (i.e., a maneuver the enemy would not expect).
5.04 as endless as the heavens and earth....as inexhaustible as the rivers and seas. Whatever the situation, there are many possible uncommon approaches.
5.05 Like the sun and the moon, they...rise again. The reference here is to the two kinds of maneuvers—the common and the uncommon. They're dependable, invariable tools that a general has.
5.05 five. A symbolic number in Chinese folklore, which names five directions (center, west, east, south, north) and five elements (earth, metal, wood, fire, water)/types of chi (life force) that dominate at various times. Note the comparison in 5.05 and 5.06 of musical notes (and so forth) to common and uncommon attacks.
5.06 common and uncommon [attacks] cannot all be anticipated. If your opponent expects a conventional tactic, employ the unconventional. Combine the two in unanticipated ways to disorient the enemy.
5.07 The common and the uncommon produce each other. One determines the other; the ordinary maneuver in a situation, or for a general, determines what is extraordinary.