I first came across a book on 36 stratagems in my teenage years. At that time I felt disgust towards the book, as it looked to me more like a collection of dirty tricks and villainy tactics, than a book on the art of war, even less so as a book on business, politics or social communications.
Because of the frame I put the work in back then, I never really paid attention to multiple mentions of the work in relation to business and other activities I’ve been involved in.
As a side note, around 8 years ago I got interested in a martial art called ILiqChuan, and has been practicing and even teaching it since. The art is based on the principles of Tao and Zen, and with years of practice I started to appreciate how simple principles of yin, yang and their balance can be applied at different levels and plains and lead to very interesting results.
Recently I came across the 36 stratagems again and found that they are based on the same basic Tao principles I appreciate in the martial art I’m practicing. You can see the traces of the principles everywhere in the 36 statements. Here are just a few examples: “Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west”, “Deceive the heavens to cross the ocean” and “In order to capture, one must let loose”. There are many more examples that show that you need to capture attention of your opponent with something to move him out of a neutral situation to later apply something opposite to your original action, making it very difficult for the opponent to cope with the situation.
Another thing that I realized is that the order in which the stratagems are typically listed, most probably is not the one that was used originally to memorize them. At least for me it makes much more sense if the stratagems are organized in a different sequence. And ideally, it should be done not in a linear manner most texts are written, but non-linearly, using spatial locations and hints for them.
I organized the stratagems in SpatialNote to demonstrate how they could be located to make memorization of the stratagems a much easier task. Feel free to explore the document and make your own copy if you want. I added the spatial metaphors I used while organizing info in the “Show More” areas of the notes, so that you could take your own guesses or create your own spatial metaphors before looking at mine. Linear navigation of the document is also possible, I kept the original numbers for this.
And I have to admit that my values are still in a strong disagreement with some of the stratagems. E.g. the “Obtain safe passage to conquer the State of Guo” that recommends to borrow resources from an ally to attack a common enemy, and after its defeat to use the borrowed resources against the ally.
Nevertheless, I appreciate the wisdom of the stratagems now more than before, even if I observe some of the behaviour in politics or others, and would not use those myself.
That is why I’d be glad if the document I created would be of interest and help to you.
P.S. This is the first post that contains an embedded SpatialNote document. We had a major product update today, featuring user interface improvements, and what is more important, ability to share your SpatialNote documents with others and embed the documents into web pages. Share your knowledge!