bīng xíng xiàng shuǐ 兵形象水
Troops Should Charge Forward like the Flow of Water.
Troops should charge forward like the flow of water. This military concept was formulated by Sunzi (545?-470? BC), the ancient military strategist. It means that in directing a battle, one must not adhere to a predetermined plan. Depending on the specific situation, rapid adjustments must be made to make the best use of one’s strengths and to avoid one’s weaknesses, just as water assumes different shapes as its flow follows the lie of the land. This is what is known today as using flexible tactics and strategies to gain the initiative on the battlefield.
Troops should charge forward like water. Water takes its shape by flowing from high to low; troops attack weak points and avoid the strong. Water flows according to the shape of the land; troops achieve victory according to the situation of the enemy. Hence there is no set formation for troops and no set shape for water. The one who can win by understanding the enemy’s situation can be called a godlike commander. (The Art of War)