Chinese Idiom Stories
One Strike Fires Up The Spirit
During the Spring and Autumn Period, the state of Ch'i attacked the state of Lu. Lord Juang and Tsau Guei led the army to resist the Ch'i troops.
The soldiers of both states were lined up in battle array, and Lord Juang was preparing to strike his drum, ordering his army to advance, when Tsau Guei said, "Wait a minute!" He waited until the enemy had struck their drum three times, before ordering his army to advance. And surprisingly, they fought so well that the Ch'i army scattered in all directions.
Afterwards, Lord Juang asked Tsau Guei why he had waited until the enemy had struck their drum three times before ordering the Lu army to strike their once. Tsau Guei answered, "The most important thing, when fighting a war, is morale. The first time the drum is struck, the soldiers all have high morale. The second time, their morale declines some, and by the third time, their morale is already gone. Therefore, by waiting until the Ch'i army hand struck their drum three times before striking ours once, our soldiers were in high spirits when their soldiers morale was gone. Naturally we won the war."
Today, this idiom can be used to describe a situation in which a person accomplishes a task or project all in one go, as opposed to working at it gradually.