Strategy Secrets from Sun Tzu


I recently got a Kobo ebook reader from this classifieds site called Kijiji. It’s the basic original version, not the one with Wi-Fi, which I actually wanted, because it won’t fry my nuts and kill all my little soldiers if I fall asleep with it on my lap.

Certified Nuts-Friendly. 🙂

The other reason I forsook (is that a word?) Wi-Fi for the communication-impaired version is because I don’t want to be distracted when I’m reading.

When I read, I read. That’s why people are shocked when I tell them I read 80-100 books each year.

When most people read, they’re eating, texting, checking email or even watching TV.

How the hell can you concentrate on your book if the anchorman is telling you how 2 people who live near you just got shot to death, Lady Rihanna is telling you how much of a hoe she is, and your buddy is texting you about how he banged some random drunk girl from the club last night?

‘Nuff said.

Plus, more and more I’m seeing the benefits of ebooks vs. traditional paperback or, gasp, hardcovers, such as:

  • They’re thinner, lighter and sometimes smaller (sometimes not).
  • Better for the environment – you can store 1000’s of books on one… How many trees die for 1000’s of books to fill a bookworm’s library? Plus, how much gas is used getting the book into your hands?
  • eBooks tend to be cheaper, so the thing pays for itself if you read enough.

I only had to get over the attachment to the feel and sound of flipping pages, which I’ll admit, I’m still not 100% over.

Anyway the Kobo I bought (which I got for $50, score) came preloaded with a hundred classic titles and one of them was Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’.

If you don’t know who Sun Tzu is, here’s an artist’s interpretation of him:


"I am Sun Tzu. Don't fuck with me."

One bad ass mofo, eh? 🙂

I don’t remember where, but I also heard that the title could be interpreted as ‘Art of Strategy’ instead of ‘Art of War’. I think this is a better interpretation myself, because the strategies in this book can be applied to many different scenarios, one of which that is uber-important to both you and I which is MMA fighting.

I’d been meaning to read this book for at least 2 years now, but never got into it.

By fate, ‘Art of War’ was the first book I noticed in the list, so I dug in.

The book is short and will probably take you far less than an hour (of focused reading) to finish, but I suggest you spend 10 x that amount and read slowly, thinking about the points he makes.

I’m still reading through it and I’ll share more later, but for now, here are a couple of points he makes and my thoughts on how they can be applied to MMA on each:

“All warfare is based on deception.”

A big part of Sun Tzu’s strategy is deception and faking out your enemy. Think of how UNDERUSED feints and fakes are in MMA.

If you become a master of making your opponent think one thing then do another, you will have amazing success and be far ahead of your opponents and training partners. Here’s what to do:

Advanced Training Tip: Come up with some feints in your head, then try them out with some buddies and ask them what they would do when you do the feint. When they respond, think of what you would do FOLLOWING the feint to capitalize on the opening they leave or even more dangerous, come up with another feint and capitalize on their response to THAT one.

Bruce Lee taught feinting as a critical part of combat, so you can see that this is sound Chinese philosophy. Read Tao of Jeet Kune Do and you’ll be amazed at the depth of Lee’s knowledge of strategy. Here’s a page from it:

Pretend that you are weak, that he may grow arrogant.”

Again, part of Sun Tzu’s philosophy of deception, but I think this one in particular is one to train because of the common mistake of going for the kill and exerting all your energy too early or when you feel you’ve got the opponent hurt.

Advanced Fighting Tip: If you’re confident in your defense and ability to tie your opponent up on the ground while they unleash a barrage of punches and hammerfists at your head, you can use this strategy to gas your opponent out then capitalize on it by either knocking them out because their hands are low or just fighting for a submission.

Take a look at how Edgar covered up vs. Maynard when he got rocked in the first round – the way he defended himself while he was half out of it was masterful and earned him the draw.

“There is no instance of a country having benefitted from prolonged warfare.”

Seems so basic, but when it’s said out loud, it makes so much sense. Always do your best to finish the fight. Always look for offense and ways to end it early. Obviously in war, you’re going to have more deaths, more money being spent, more lonely wives back home, which are simply a drain on the soldiers and society. If you just let the enemy keep attacking you, sooner or later you’re going to lose your castle.

Here’s how this applies to MMA…

#1) You should never fight someone you don’t think you can beat. There’s no point in that. If you’re not confident in your ability to win, don’t take the fight. A good record and progressing the skill level of your opponents is vital to a long, lucrative career. It’s not worth a few hundred bucks to sacrifice these things.

#2) This allows the second point to happen, which is that when you are confident you may win, you can come up with strategies on what you want to do to win. So do it.

If you’re not confident, you’ll say to yourself “that’s not gonna work, he’s just gonna do this and this” to every strategy you come up with, and that mindset won’t help you win the fight.

Going in thinking that you’ll fight based on reaction and what’s going on in the moment ONLY, leaves out one of the most powerful weapons you have – STRATEGY.

#3) When you’re in the fight, you must be working towards doing the things that you think will win you the fight. If something presents itself then obviously capitalize on it, but if a sub or KO doesn’t just land in your lap, work your plan.

Don’t forget, if you let the enemy keep attacking you, you’re going to lose your castle.


These are just 3 examples of the wisdom in this book. I’ve got pages and pages of notes like this and stuff I’m going to be sharing with my top fighters.

If you’ve read it already, read it again, but this time, take your time and think about how this applies to MMA. Forget about any other applications for the moment, focus on MMA.

If you haven’t read it yet, do it now. It’ll have a positive impact on your career, I guarantee it… But only if you actually do what I said and spend time and brain power thinking about it.

Here’s a FREE download to it. Just right click the link or image and choose ‘Save As’:

Sun Tzu – Art of War [FREE DOWNLOAD]


Now, There Are 2 Things I’d Appreciate You Do…

1) Share one of the tenets of Sun Tzu’s philosophy and how you think you can use it for MMA below… Let’s start some intelligent discussion!

2) Hit ‘Like’ if you want me to keep posting shit like this. I pay attention to the # of Likes I get for each post and write more about stuff that more people like. Cast your vote and participate! That way YOU get the content YOU want. I please to aim… 🙂

– Eric

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KirbyhenandrionlyjuanregelioKevin Recent comment authors
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Good write up! Sun Tzu is a must read for any martial artist. I like how it states the importance of deception. How many times have we seen a street fight won with a sucker punch?


nice martial arts


Sun Tzu’s Art of War simply means The Art of WINNING!


Thanks for the link! I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since I read Tao of Jeet Kune Do, but never got around to it. Awesome insight as well, like always!


knowing is not enought we must do willing is not enought we must apply…………..


Thanks for this great post Eric. As talented as the fighters in the UFC are at all the disciplines they train in, I still see that there is still a ways to go in the evolution of mma. One of the first books I read ever read on martial arts was Bruce Lee’s TAO of Jeet Kune Do and at the time it became my bible. I have still yet to see many mma fighters really using basic ‘JKD concepts’ as far as feinting, really understanding the five methods of attack e.g. attacks by drawing, attacks by feinting, direct attacks, progressive indirect attacks etc. Also Bruce’s ideas on rhythm and timing are brilliant and the only one Ive seen in the cage that even comes close and looks as though he uses these principles ‘consciously’ would have to be Anderson Silva. And I am dying to see someone that doesnt… Read more »


Unfortunately, many people who train MMA, have virtually no traditional background, and see traditional martial arts like JKD, TKD, or Karate as a joke, claiming they are impractical in the cage or on the street. Silva and Machida got people rethinking that with their recent knockouts.

I’m not too familiar with JKD myself, but I do see a lot of application in traditional grappling arts like Hapkido or Judo, that just doesn’t get the spotlight in MMA. However, grabbing hands and arms while standing is much easier said than done. especially with gloves on, and sweat pouring out, grabbing the hand or arm of a trained fighter is extremely difficult. However, when I’m able to pull it off, my opponents don’t really know what hit them.


If you’re interested in JKD read Tao of Jeet Kune Do. There’s a HUGE reason why a lot of posts here mention it. Personally, I applied the principles to my game, and it made me a better martial artist, and a better person. I definitely get where you’re coming from about grabbing the arm, I found ways to decieve opponents(applying one of the five methods of attack) and trick them into throwing strikes that make those type of grabs slightly easier when I slip the strike.


“The one who really masters the art of war, urges his enemy and doesn’t let his enemy urge him”
I’m not sure if I have translated correctly from Spanish. It comes to say that you should play your cards, take your advantages and never let your opponent drive the fight wherever he is more comfortable or skillful than you. Fight when YOU want to fight, fight the way YOU want to fight. Don’t let anybody provoke you.
Take care guys, and don’t forget about good ol’ Sun Tzu!!


Good call Eric,
I think one of my favourite bits in that book (apologies for paraphrasing)” is to never completely surround your enemy, as it will only give them the option of fighting to the death (which will cause you many causalities), instead leave a noticeable gap so that they think they can escape, then attack them as they are fleeing”.
In my limited grappling experience, I will let a guy think he can escape a submission attempt and then submit him with a different technique when he’s mid-way to escaping. If a guy you are rolling with knows what submission you are trying to use, then you could spend 5 minutes trying to arm bar a guy and get nowhere.
It’s been a few years since I read the book so I must look at it again…


excellent post eric. I have been meaning to read this book as well

Garrett "Ka`ili" Wells Jr.
Garrett "Ka`ili" Wells Jr.

“These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.” I think GSP has this down. He probably read “The Art of War” too. It seems to be his forte. He feigns pending defeat in that he’s constantly working to improve himself and is never satisfied with the status quo of his ability. To most, this seems like distrust and low confidence in one’s own ability, but when applied properly, can be one’s greatest weapon. And in GSP’s case, I think it is. He’s not the most naturally ripped, healthy, or even talented guy out there. He’s gotten to where he is by working, that’s it. Hall-of-Fame material is what he’s made of only because he’s put in his time to acquire it, and doesn’t let his opponents in on his strategy against them. I think that’s why he’s so loyal to Greg Jackson’s gym: because Greg Jackson is… Read more »


Hey Eric, NICE POST! (Bruce Lee was probably my biggest inspiration to me. If you enjoy reading, you should definitely pick up “Striking Thoughts”, by Bruce Lee. That book literally! I mean LITERALLY changed my life and my perspective of it.


“Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself so as to find out his vulnerable spots.”

Ala 99% of Anderson Silva’s first rounds…find out how he reacts, and adjust your game around it.


the book of five rings is also a great suggestion