The Art of War: The Nine Situations

Greeting Barbarians! Long days and pleasant nights!

And it has been long days for me indeed. It is always sad when someone dear passes away, but life goes on. Death much like life happens when it happens.

Despite a heavy heart, writing has always been a place of refuge. So, writing is what I did. With nothing but grit and a sense of determination to finish what was started. Deep in my heart, writing is what I know to be true, regardless of the condition and circumstances.

So, without any more delays than there already is, I present to you chapter 11 of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: The Nine Situations…

Nine Varieties of Ground

“Sun Tzu said: The art of war recognizes nine varieties of ground: (1) Dispersive ground; (2) facile ground; (3) contentious ground; (4) open ground; (5) ground of intersecting highways; (6) serious ground; (7) difficult ground; (8) hemmed-in ground; (9) desperate ground.”

Your own territory (home) is what one would call dispersive ground. It often entails the advantage of familiarity and support.

The facile ground denotes to the ground occupied right after breaking through enemy territory. Acquired after a great struggle.

The ground that provides benefits to both parties represents the contentious ground.

Open grounds offer both sides with freedom of movement.

The ground of intersecting highways enables the control of routes. Thus, enable you to control supply lines and prevents the enemy from traversing. It is also an excellent position to launch campaigns in different directions.    

Serious ground resides the components crucial to the enemy’s strength.  It lies deep into the enemy territory.  

Difficult grounds are grounds that are problematic to traverse.

The hemmed ground that is narrow and often torturous to take. An excellent stronghold when fortified but leaves no room to fall back in case of a breach.

Desperate ground leaves you no other choice but to fight for your dear life.

Nine Ground Tactics

“On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not.”

Avoid internal conflict inside your territory (dispersive ground), have unity and stand guard. Make the enemy realize that you are well guarded and confident.

Continue to move forward and gather momentum when you broke through enemy grounds. Doing so will allow you to have a buffer against your own territory. It is imperative to cover as much ground as possible. Losing momentum would result in the loss of covered ground.  

On instances that both you and the enemy benefits from the contentious ground, defend. Attacking only when there is a clear advantage to be gained.

In open ground, sway your enemy away from helpful positions. Avoid direct confrontation with the enemy.

On intersecting highways are often overwhelming as attacks can come from all direction. It would be wise to have plenty of allies to watch your back, as well on propagating your campaign.

On serious ground wherein the enemy is behind, you cannot afford to be caught. Do your goal and move on.

Use hemmed ground to its advantage, fortify your position.

When there is no way out, then you must fight. It is always better to outmaneuver and apply superior tactics to win. Fighting should always be the last resort.

Division, Moves, and Speed

“Those who were called skillful leaders of old knew how to drive a wedge between the enemy’s front and rear; to prevent co-operation between his large and small divisions; to hinder the good troops from rescuing the bad, the officers from rallying their men.”

Divide the enemy’s attention and resources. A solid unified front is always difficult to breakthrough. Prevent the enemy from regaining order and composure by confusing and overwhelming him. Destabilize the enemy by breaking them down and attacking two fronts.  

Much can be said on anything about life, attacking both direct and indirect fronts. Breaking down overwhelming challenges into more manageable pieces. Life much like war is fought and won in those conditions.

Seize what you deemed critical to your enemy. By breaking down every element of the enemy or challenge, you can analyze and use it to your advantage. Make the enemy amenable to your will by figuring out weak spots. Something that gives a sense of permanent loss.

Exploit the enemy’s thoughtless actions. Take advantage of the enemy when he’s unprepared, make your methods unexpected.

Motivating Soldiers

“The following are the principles to be observed by an invading force: The further you penetrate into a country, the greater will be the solidarity of your troops, and thus the defenders will not prevail against you.”

Make a habit of focusing not on perfection but in progress, even by baby steps. Allow yourself to revel in small victories and keep your spirits high. Unfaithfulness is often the result of discontent and lack of results. Make sure that all needs are met, study your own well-being as well as of your allies and resource. Do not ask for more than what could be given and keep on moving forward. Stay focused and conserve your strength. Make an appeal to your allies’ own self-interest as well on yours. Respect and loyalty cannot be demanded.

Expel fear and cast aside doubt in your heart. Have courage when you are fearful and have confidence when you are doubtful. Live life with meaning and purpose, have no regrets…

Mutual Support and the Shuai-Jan Snake

“The skillful tactician may be likened to the Shuai-Jan. Now the Shuai-Jan is a snake that is found in the Chung mountains. Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.”

What could happen will happen. It is not a question of if, but a question of when. Those who could expect and make the necessary preparation are those who could succeed in life. Just because you are in a secure place right now does not mean you are ineffable.

Avoid being complacent, put everything into careful consideration. It is often the punch that you did not see coming is the one that knocks you out.

Leading Everyone

“The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach.”

It is crucial not only in war but also in life to know what works and what does not. A great leader knows how to identify strengths and weaknesses.  To achieve success, one must play its strengths while at the same time improve its weaknesses. There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward despite what others might say.  It is much better to start strong and dwindle halfway, than starting weak and hope to get better.


“It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain order.”

Silence is golden, your enemies will use every means (fair and foul) to beat you. Good communications do not mean utter transparency. Say only what was necessary and avoid oversharing of information. Divulge only in your most trusted of all circles.

No Way Back

“At the critical moment, the leader of an army acts like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks away the ladder behind him. He carries his men deep into hostile territory before he shows his hand.”

A man is committed to his cause, he sets his mission and pursues it as if his life depended on it. He does not backpedal and abandons a mission. A man must be faithful to his mission, he does not allow himself to be distracted. He is what his mission is, and his mission is what defines him. Abandoning it will only leave a gaping void in the heart of hearts, which cannot be filled by any vices. A man cannot spend his life wondering “what if”.

Nine Ground Measures

“The different measures suited to the nine varieties of ground; the expediency of aggressive or defensive tactics; and the fundamental laws of human nature: these are things that must most certainly be studied.”

One cannot expect to succeed when he is clueless about his situation, it is critical to study each with care. Life is a series of interconnected situations, ups and downs, and twists and turns. Hence, situational awareness is of grave importance.


“We cannot enter into an alliance with neighboring princes until we are acquainted with their designs. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country–its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides.”

Everyone needs a helping hand. There is truth to the adage “No man is an Island”, one cannot go on living being alone. Cultivate friendships and cherish your relationships, they are one of your valuable resources. One cannot oppose someone that have many powerful allies. There is truth to the saying “strength in numbers”, as they overwhelm you when they have unity. Pick your fights and apply superior tactics when dealing with oppositions.

Confusing Leadership

“Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders without regard to previous arrangements; and you will be able to handle a whole army as though you had to do with but a single man.”

Allies must also be taken by surprise; an unexpected gift has a more profound impact than an expected one. The same thing can also be said to discipline, the more unconventional it is the more it is ingrained to them.

Bolster their morale by positivity and avoid the negative as it demoralizes them. Uplift their spirits as if they are your own. Be their source of strength, the last thing you want is for your friends to be crippled by bleakness.

More Tactics

“Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose.”

In life, it is paramount to be aware of one’s self and his surroundings. You must know what you are capable of, your strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, one must also be aware of where he stands. He must know the presence of others; he must know the difference from his friends and enemies. He must know how to distinguish harm from safety.

To succeed, one must know that the direct approach is often futile. Instead, one must know how to navigate himself in various situations. Direct confrontation is always the last resort, use sheer cunning. One must be creative and always unexpected and open to see a different perspective.

He is subtle, yet his presence is felt all over. He is stern, cannot be swayed by a loud voice nor the subtlest of whispers. He knows what he wants and how to get it, he is not fickle-minded.

He knows when and what to strike and he strikes hard and swift when the opportunity presents itself.

He is disciplined, he is not vain.

He is focused and reserved, looking for the opportune moment to strike… and it will be too late for the enemy.

We all need to be strong, especially at moments like this. We all want to be somebody in life because the truth is, we all live in a borrowed time and the rent is due every day. I am certain that we all came to this life to succeed and be well until the time is due. This series began as a simple project but has become more profound in more ways that I can imagine. It has opened my eyes to the simplest of truths about life and its intricacies. There is more to life than waking up, working, eating and sleeping. Life itself demands to be conquered, the only question is, do we have what it takes?

To the man who lived his life with COURAGE and FREEDOM, cheers!

‘til we meet again, uncle…

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25 thoughts on “The Art of War: The Nine Situations

Add yours

    1. Hi NZ! Nice to hear from you again!
      It was a demanding week for me. But everything is ok now 😄

      Thank you, I glad to know that this series allows you to see that!

      To uncle! Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aww. You miss my tmis?
        Well my uncle/godfather died, my aunt needed all the support she could get.
        There is some dispute over the cause of death.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Up to my eyeballs in weeds and butterflies! Thanks for asking. All good. Been really considering the direction of my blog. This nine situations-also gets me thinking…what am I doing? Where am I going?

        Liked by 2 people

      3. If I wasn’t ok (I am well) this just made it all better. 🙏🏻
        I hope your daughter likes the video from my garden—in the last post. Experimenting with video blogging for kids. 🐥

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m sorry to hear your sad news.
    Well written … a series of events can carry out without fighting but unspoken words within a family, by using similar techniques.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree kabayan!
      Great job on your blog the way. Thou I don’t usually like talking about politics in our country, but you made really good points in your blog!

      Props to you! Cheers! 🍸

      Liked by 1 person

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