The 36 Strategies

Defend Direct, Attack Indirect


Kill With A Borrowed Sword

Means that you have to put much power in defending and also let the enemy knows that. The enemy will think you have all your forces in defending. Then you must also put some power in attacking; but it must be indirect; via somebody else. Then the enemy won't know that, so that you can attack with a surprise that leads to victory.

When you do not have the means to attack your enemy directly, then attack using the strength of another. Trick an ally into attacking him, bribe an official to turn traitor, or use the enemy's own strength against him.

Your enemy's situation is clear but your ally's stand is uncertain. At this time, induce your ally to attack your enemy in order to preserve your strength. In dialectic terms, another man's loss is your gain.


Warring States Era China

Chang Tuo defected from Western Zhou and went to Eastern Zhou where he revealed all of Western Zhou's state secrets.

Eastern Zhou rejoiced while Western Zhou was furious.

Minister Feng Chu said to the king of Western Zhou: "I can assassinate that man if your highness will give me thirty catties of gold." The king consented and the next day Feng Chu sent an agent to the Eastern Zhou court bearing the gold and a letter addressed to Chang Tuo.

The letter read: 'This is to remind Chang Tuo that you must complete your mission as soon as possible for the longer the delay the more likely you will be found out.' Before the first agent departed, Feng Chu then sent another agent to the Eastern Zhou border guards informing them that a spy would be crossing the border that night.

When the second agent arrived at the border he was stopped and searched. The border guards found the gold and the letter to Chang Tuo and turned them over to the Zhou court officials. Shortly afterwards Chang Tuo was executed


During the Spring and Autumn period, the duke of Zheng wanted to attack Kuai state. The duke knew he had to get rid of Kuai's loyal officials and able generals. He ordered his spies to find out who are the capable officials and generals in Kuai.

His spies manage to obtain a list of the outstanding officials and generals in Kuai.

The duke showed the list to his people and said, "This is the list of people who will help me defeat Kuai. Once Kuai is conquered, I will give them high posts and Kuai's land will be distributed among them." The duke then built a tall sacrificial tower and had the name list buried under it.

The duke also held a grand ceremony with animal sacrifices and vowed to Heaven that he will keep his word.

The ruler of Kuai soon learned about the matter. Thinking that his people had betrayed him, he arrested and executed all his capable officials and generals.

After the execution, Zheng's forces attacked. With no one to lead the defence and no one to provide sound stratagies, Kuai was easily crushed by Zheng.


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