1. Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put
themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then
waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our
own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy
is provided by the enemy himself.
3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat,
but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.
4. Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer
without being able to do it.
5. Security against defeat implies defensive tactics;
ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.
6. Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength;
attacking, a superabundance of strength.
7. The general who is skilled in defense hides in the
most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in
attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven.
Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect ourselves;
on the other, a victory that is complete.
8. To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common
herd is not the acme of excellence.
9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and conquer
and the whole Empire says, "Well done!"
10. To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength;
to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight;
to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.
11. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who
not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.
12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for
wisdom nor credit for courage.
13. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no
mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it
means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
14. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which
makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for
defeating the enemy.
15. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks
battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is
destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
16. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and
strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his
power to control success.
17. In respect of military method, we have, firstly, Measurement;
secondly, Estimation of quantity; thirdly, Calculation; fourthly,
Balancing of chances; fifthly, Victory.
18. Measurement owes its existence to Earth; Estimation of
quantity to Measurement; Calculation to Estimation of quantity;
Balancing of chances to Calculation; and Victory to Balancing
19. A victorious army opposed to a routed one, is as
a pound's weight placed in the scale against a single grain.
20. The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting
of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.