# Cycle decomposition theorem for permutations

(Redirected from Cycle decomposition theorem)

## Statement

### Statement for a finite set

Any permutation on a finite set admits a cycle decomposition: it can be expressed as a product of a finite number of pairwise disjoint cycles.

Moreover, this cycle decomposition is unique.

## Importance

This result has several close analogues. One close analogue is for the general linear group, with the existence of a rational canonical form and a Jordan canonical form. A common framework that unifies results in both contexts is the framework of APS theory. In this framework, we say that the permutation IAPS admits unique class factorization.

Further information: permutation IAPS admits unique class factorization

## Proof

Let $S$ be the finite set and $\sigma:S \to S$ be a permutation.

Pick $a \in S$. Then, consider the sequence $a, \sigma(a), \sigma^2(a), \dots$. This sequence must eventually repeat, so there exist $k < l$ such that $\sigma^k(a) = \sigma^l(a)$, so by the definition of group action, we have $\sigma^{l-k}(a) = a$. Let $r$ be the smallest positive integer such that $\sigma^r(a) = a$. Then, we have a cycle:

$(a, \sigma(a) ,\sigma^2(a), \dots, \sigma^{r-1}(a))$

Thus, every element of $S$ is part of a cycle. Moreover, any cycle containing $a$ has to be of the above form (up to a cyclic re-ordering).

It thus suffices to show that any two cycles obtained this way are either equal or disjoint. Suppose $a,b \in S$. Then, if the cycles of $a$ and $b$ are not disjoint, there exist $j,k$ such that $\sigma^j(b) = \sigma^k(a)$. This forces $b = \sigma^{k-j}(a)$, so $b$ is in the cycle of $a$. But then, starting the cycle at $b$, we see that the cycle of $b$ is the same as the cycle of $a$.