The Art of War: The Attack By Fire

Greeting Barbarians! Long days and pleasant nights!

Today is all about visualizing our flash point and how to deliver the final blow. Oftentimes, the problem is not the lack of opportunity but rather our inability to capitalize on it; our incapacity to spring into action when a door opens, only to regret it as soon as it closes.

On my previous The Art of War post, we have an in-depth talk on various outcomes and how to act on it; In dividing the enemy and obstacle and the importance of attacking on two fronts; on motivation and the general approach in making a defense; of leadership, secrecy, motivation, and alliances, and the importance of everything that I have mentioned and how it all works together in harmony.

Now, I present Chapter 12; The Art of War: The Attack by Fire…

Five Ways

“Sun Tzu said: There are five ways of attacking with fire. The first is to burn soldiers in their camp; the second is to burn stores; the third is to burn baggage trains; the fourth is to burn arsenals and magazines; the fifth is to hurl dropping fire amongst the enemy.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Fire as destructive as it can be, is also crucial for our survival as species. It offers light when it gets dark, give us warmth when it gets cold. It cooks our food and it forges our weapons & tools. Fire is already a weapon in itself; the most basic of its kind and the most effective.

Now, for the sake of not having you around burning things, remember that war is a metaphor, and the fire is as well. It may be anything that you could use with the greatest efficiency. It could be your physical strength, intellect, or skill mastery. It might even be traits like kindness or resources like money. It can be anything that you could use to apply pressure and attack.

But much more important than the tools, are the targets. To maximize the effect, Sun Tzu provided us with a list of things to aim for:

“Burn” their camp – a place or thing they consider their home or close to it.

“Burn” their stores – a place or thing where they keep their reserves.

“Burn” their baggage trains – their process.

“Burn” their arsenals and magazine – their means or confidence.

Dropping “fire” amongst the enemy – direct to them.

Again, preparedness is key. “Fire” is a weapon of opportunity and readiness is vital for successful execution.

Seasons

“There is a proper season for making attacks with fire and special days for starting a conflagration.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It is difficult to start a “fire” when it is raining, hence appropriate timing is important.

It is easier to start a “fire” when the tinder is dry. Rising winds fan the flames causing more “damage”.

To where the wind blows also plays an important factor in setting a “fire”. Position the fire from the direction to where the wind is blowing towards your enemy. Smoke can hinder the enemy’s vision and can also cause suffocation.

Five Developments

“In attacking with fire, one should be prepared to meet five possible developments:”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There are 5 developments when attacking with fire.

When “fire” breaks out inside the enemy’s camp – respond at once.

If there is an outbreak of “fire” but the enemy remains quiet – observe but do not attack.

If an attack is not possible due to the rage of the fire – stay where you are.

If it is possible to set “fire” from the outside – do not wait for it to break out to attack, but timing is of importance.

When attacking with “fire” – attack from the windward direction, use everything to your advantage.

Attack with “fire” during nighttime, when the wind is downward – focus and organize your attack, do not scatter.

Make sure you are familiar with these principles, remember fire is a tool as well as a weapon. 

Using Water

“Hence those who use fire as an aid to the attack show intelligence; those who use water as an aid to the attack gain an accession of strength.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Unlike fire, water is more difficult to control. Hence, attack with the use of water signifies strength.

Remember, a fast-flowing river is difficult to cross. It can cause floods as well as mud that could make movement difficult.

Water may not destroy things the same as fire does, but it can still be quite destructive.

Encouraging Enterprise

“Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Do not attempt to win any battles for the sake of winning, do not move when there is nothing to gain. Bragging rights or trying to prove something is not enough of an excuse to start a conflict. Pick your battles and work towards your goal.

Waste Not

“Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Do not attempt to win any battles for the sake of winning, do not move when there is nothing to gain. Bragging rights or trying to prove something is not enough of an excuse to start a conflict. Pick your battles and work towards your goal.


There you have it, The Attack by Fire from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It teaches us how to seize every opportunity that passes and the importance of great timing. On not wasting efforts to where to focus your attention – on preparedness and observation. I have come a long way since chapter 1 and I am proud to say that I have learned a lot. From knowing what your heart desires, on taking the initiative in making the first step. The importance of secrecy and of valuable friends are my favorites lesson of all. There is still one chapter left, and I hope this series has been as profound to you as to me.

To Courage and Freedom.


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5 thoughts on “The Art of War: The Attack By Fire

Add yours

  1. This is my favorite part, “Do not attempt to win any battles for the sake of winning, do not move when there is nothing to gain”.

    Makes you think to ensure that every step we take should have purpose.

    Thank you for this Mr. A 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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