The 36 Strategies

Give A Chance To Your Enemy To Give A Chance For Perfect Victory


To Catch Something, First Let It Go

Means that you first have to give hope to your desperate enemy when they are surrounded and want to launch a final desperate attack. Then the enemy will rather flee than fight on. Then when you again prove that your enemy really can't escape, he will be afraid and will surrender without a fight. Then you will win WITHOUT fighting that leads to the perfect victory.

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.

Press the enemy forces too hard and they will strike back fiercely. Let them go and their morale will sink. Follow then closely, but do not push them too hard. Tire them out and sap their morale; capture them when they are in panic and flee helter-skelter. In this way, victory is won without shedding blood. In short, careful delay in attack will help to bring destruction to the enemy.


Six Dynasties Period China

During the Southern Song period, general Tan Dao-Ji launched an attack against the north on behalf of the emperor.

Throughout the campaign he seized cities and destroyed fortifications, taking more than four thousand prisoners. His advisors suggested that he should execute them all and erect a victory mound with the dead.

Tan Dao-Ji replied: "At this time we have attacked the guilty and consoled the people. The army of a true king takes the upright as its position, so why is it necessary to slay the people?" He released all the prisoners and sent them back to their homes.

These former prisoners told their kinsmen of their capture and release and of the fair treatment they received at the hands of general Tan. Thereupon the barbarians dwelling in the region were elated, and wherever general Tan, went a great many came forward to give their allegiance to the emperor.


In the year 506 BC, Wu joined forces with two other states and overwhelmed the army of Chu. The king of Wu, He Lu led troops in pursuit until they reached Qingfa.

He was about to attack when his younger brother Fu Gai stopped him, "A cornered beast will fight to the finish, what more armed troops? If the Chu troops have no choice but to fight for their survival, they'll put up a spirited defence and it'll be difficult to vanquish them."

The king took his brother's advice and gave them a chance to cross the river. The Chu soldiers were so busy running for their lives that they lost the morale to fight.

Five successful attacks were launched against Chu and its capital Yingdu fell.


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