Saturday, January 23, 2016

Assessing Kirosawa's Seven Samurai Movie by Using the Sunzi's Victory Temple Methodology

(updated on 1.25.16)

An associate recently saw Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and asked us to review the strategy used by film by utilizing the  Sunzi's Victory Temple assessment strategy.

I do not think any one of us could written a superior review compared to the New York Times. Click here for that film review..

“Before the contest, the successful strategists resolve in their operations room (temple) that they will be victorious, have determined that the majority of factors are in their favor. … If those who find that the majority of factors favor them, will be victorious.  … When observing from this viewpoint, victory and defeat will be apparent.” 
- Art of War 1 (Paraphrased from the Sawyer's translation) 

Is it that simple to know what factors are in play?

Assessing the Possibility of Victory "Those who excel in warfare contend for advantage with others only after determining through temple calculations that they will be successful. Attacking the rebellious and embracing the distant, toppling the lost and solidifying the extant and uniting the weak and attacking the benighted are all manifestations.  The interior and exterior becoming estranged, as in the case of the Shang and Chou armies, is what is referred to as having determined victory through temple calculations before engaging  in combat.  

According to T'ai-yi Tun-chia assessment method, anything above sixty a majority, anything below sixty is  a minority.  ... In all these  cases, victory and defeat are easily seen. "      
Li Quan's  T'ai-pai Yin-ching

# The Factors

The "Evolving Technology" Factor 
Technology always evolves. Strategic situation changes.  Man must adjust to it. One should never be a victim of the latest technology.

All four dead samurai(s) were eradicated by gunfire not by bladeplay.

The "Reward and Punishment" Factor
It is not a good idea for a skilled and reputable contractor to work for a meal of minimum value (a bowl of rice).

The farmers and Kambei had a difficult time to recruit "alpha class" contractors (samurai) for a "rice bowl" expedition. The only samurai who had alpha-class combat (sword) skill was Kyuzo while Kambei Shimada possessed tangible strategic experience .

The "Team Unity" Factor
When the farmers and the other samurai(s) believed in the plan, they became unified on defeating the bandits.

The "Experience" Factor
Regardless of the "extensive" combat training to any of the farmers, "relevant" field experience counts.

The "Near-Perfect Planning" Factor
When operating under a rice bowl budget, all planned strategic moves must never be useless and no implemented tactical steps are deployed in vain.

Knowing the "Tactical Specifics" Factor 
Knowing the configuration of the terrain and the opposition's motives and the methods usually determines the tactical specifics of each combating strategist.

(Kambei Shimada, the leader of the Seven Samurai, spent a great deal of time understanding the configuration of the client's terrain before developing the strategy of molding the terrain to their advantage.)

The "Attack and Defense" Factor 
The best defense is a good counter offense. Regardless of the terrain, one does not constantly play the "defending by preventing" game. View each of the battles carefully and you might understand this lesson.

Kambei Shimada: Go to the north. The decisive battle will be fought there.
Gorobei Katayama: Why didn't you build a fence there?
Kambei Shimada: A good fort needs a gap. The enemy must be lured in. So we can attack them. If we only defend, we lose the war

The "Survival of the Fittest" Factor 
Going from square one of a "chaotic" campaign to its final endpoint in "one piece" is always a grind.  The "Survival of the Fittest" principle prevails for those who are smart and tough.

The "Happy Client" Factor 
The victory of any strategic situation always belong to the client not to the consulting contractors. In most instances, the surviving contractors usually move on to the next project. (Look at the last scene.)

Kambei Shimada: So. Again we are defeated.
[Shichiroji looks puzzled at Kambei]
Kambei Shimada: The farmers have won. Not us.

The "Contradiction" Factor
Regardless of the numbers game and the terrain that favored the villagers, the bandits had the advantage of the technology (firearms), the battle experience and the horses.

Understanding the contradictions that were operating within a strategic situation usually enables the experienced strategist to gain a better perspective of whether a strategic advantage can be developed.

The "Professional Experience" Factor 
(A lesson from the "Kambei Shimada" character) One climbs the economic-social food chain by not being on the losing side of a competition regardless of the quantity of quality experience

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