The 36 Strategies

Attack The Inside To Defeat The Outside


Exchange The Role Of Guest For That Of Host

Means that you first have to explore and understand the internal camp of your enemy and then you can discover weakness. When the time is right, you can strike immediately at the source strength. If you give an critical attack to the inside, you will disorder and confuse the outside. Then your whole army can attack the outside and that leads to victory.

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.

Whenever there is a chance, enter into the decision-making body of your ally and extend your influence skilfully step by step. Eventually, put it under your control.


Japanese Folk Tale

In feudal Japan there lived a venerable Kendo master who decided to test his three highest-ranking students.

He brought them one by one to an old temple in the nearby mountains where he told each student the following: "You have studied with me many years, now lets see if my teaching has been in vain. There within the temple awaits your test, pass and you will have graduated."

Within the dimly lit temple the Master had hidden four Samurai armed with clubs and instructions to jump anyone who entered the temple. The first student entered the temple and before his eyes could adjust to the light, was surprised and beaten by the Samurai."I am sorry, you have failed." Said the master.

The second student entered the temple and sensed the attackers. He was able to deftly evade their attack and defeat them. The student came out of the temple triumphant, but again the master said, "I am sorry, you have failed'

Finally the third student was brought to the temple and told about the test. The student replied, "But venerable master, protocol dictates that when entering a temple the master must always precede the student, so if you please, I shall follow you in." To which the master replied, "You rascal, you have learned all I can teach you."


During the Northern Song dynasty, general Cao Wei led his troops to fight the Tibetan Dangxiang tribe which set up the Xia Kingdom.

The Dangxiang army suffered a setback. Instead of pursuing the Dangxiang troops, Cao Wei odered his men to take the Dangxiang's cattle and return slowly. He reminded his soldiers often not to hurry but to take their time.

When he Dangxiang heard of this, the commander thought that the Song army was in disarray. The Dangxiang hurried to catch up with the Song forces. Cao Wei told the Dangxiang commander, "You must be tired. We won't take advantage of you, get some rest before we fight again."

After the interval, Cao Wei's men charged into battle and the Dangxiang army was soundly beaten.

Cao Wei later explained, "When they retreated, I pretended to be burdened by their cattle. This encouraged them to return to fight us and having travelled so far, they must be exhausted."

"If we fought immediately, when their fighting spirit had not died down, it would not have been easy to win. After travelling a long distance, when a person gets the chance to rest, he'll feel that his legs are numb and his body will ache. His will to fight would be dissipated."


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