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
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
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
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
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 of chances.
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.