The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, June 18, 2010

Applying the Art of War to Your Training

This is a guest post from The Dao of Strategy blog. Please pay a visit.

Strategic Assessment:  Improving Your Training with the Art of War Principles
Mr. Matz recently asked me to write an article on how to apply the Art of War in the training of martial arts

My name is Mike.  I am a student of various Asian and western martial arts for many years.

Professionally, I managed a strategic consulting boutique that specializes in strategic assessment and strategic decision management.  Much of my strategic background is consisted of my understanding of Chinese strategic classics and my experience in various games of skill and chance.

Since most of the readership of this blog is consisted of well-read martial artists of various levels, I decided to focus the premise of this article on the process of strategic assessment by presuming that the majority has read the Sunzi's Art of War and understood the premise behind this essay..                 

Click here for an introduction article on the Sunzi's The Art of War.

My recent research told me that some of the readers selectively viewed the Art of War and preferred to focus their time and the attention on the building of the plan, the strategic maneuverability and the engagement of the conflict.  

Professionally, I have always considered the initial chapter- Strategic Assessment as the most relevant chapter of the book.   It is one of those sections that people read quite often, but not knowing how to apply it strategically.

The key purpose of this chapter is to understand the big picture of one's settings before doing anything relevant.  One can only improve their own future performance by properly assessing the big picture of their grand terrain and the obstacles that are within it.

How does one use the strategic assessment process in the training of the martial arts?

Assess and Reflect

Following is a set of 13 Sunzi principles-related questions that I have given to my martial art associates who are trying to assessing their current state of training: 
  • Did my strategic assessment process include a stage of gathering intelligence?
  • Did the act of intelligence gathering improve the decision-making points of my training?
  • Has my current decision making process always helped me in prevailing in the various situations?
  • Was my position in those situations based on my initial understanding of the entire terrain?
  • Did my comprehension of the entire terrain show in my strategic maneuverability?
  • Did my strategic maneuverability improve my adjustment to the situation?
  • Did my adjustment enable me to prevail during the engagement of various obstacles?
  • During my engagement of obstacles, was I able to pinpoint its weaknesses and strengths?
  • After the strengths and weaknesses were pinpointed, did my strategic influence prevail?
  • Was my strategic influence based on my initial strategic disposition?
  • How much of my strategic disposition was delineated in my initial plan?
  • How much of my own plan was based on my initial understanding of the challenge?
  • Was my grand understanding of the challenge based on my initial strategic assessment?
(The list has been slightly altered for this audience.)

After reviewing the response to those 13 questions, you can determine whether the specifics of your strategic assessment approach needs to be improved.

After each major training session, you should spend a moment to assess your experience. 

Reflect on your overall experience. Focus on your strategic disposition, your strategic influence, your weaknesses and your strength.

Transforming the Assessment to Relevancy

“In planning no useless move.  In strategy, no step is in vain."- Chen Hao

Once you understand yourself and your strategic disposition within your settings, it becomes easier for you to improve your training.  The key to transforming the assessed data to something with value is to understand your goal. Knowing his or her goals and objectives enables one to focus their time and effort in a positive and constructive way..

 You can read more about applying various strategic views in everyday scenarios at    

Good luck with your martial art training.

Thanks for your time and attention.


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