In ancient times skillful warriors
first made themselves invincible,
and then watched for vulnerability
in their opponents.
Invincibility is in oneself,
vulnerability is in the opponent.
Therefore skillful warriors are able
to be invincible, but they cannot
cause opponents to be vulnerable.
That is why it is said that victory
can be discerned but not manufactured.
Invincibility is a matter of defense,
vulnerability is a matter of attack.
Defense is for times of insufficiency,
attack is for times of surplus.
Those skilled in defense hide in the
deepest depths of the earth, those
skilled in attack maneuver in the
highest heights of the sky. Therefore
they can preserve themselves
and achieve complete victory.
To perceive victory when it is
known to all is not really skillful.
Everyone calls victory in battle
good, but it is not really good.
It does not take much strength to
lift a hair, it does not take sharp
eyes to see the sun and moon, it
does not take sharp ears to hear a thunderclap.
In ancient times those known as
good warriors prevailed when it
was easy to prevail.
Therefore the victories of good
warriors are not noted for cleverness
or bravery. Therefore their
victories in battle are not flukes.
Their victories are not flukes because
they position themselves
where they will surely win, prevailing
over those who have already lost.
So it is that good warriors take
their stand on ground where they
cannot lose, and do not overlook
conditions that make an opponent
prone to defeat.
Therefore a victorious army first
wins and then seeks battle; a defeated
army first battles and then
Those who use arms well cultivate
the Way and keep the rules. Thus
they can govern in such a way as
to prevail over the corrupt.
The rules of the military are five:
measurement, assessment, calculation,
comparison, and victory. The
ground gives rise to measurements,
measurements give rise to
assessments, assessments give rise
to calculations, calculations give
rise to comparisons, comparisons
give rise to victories.
Therefore a victorious army is like
a pound compared to a gram, a
defeated army is like a gram
compared to a pound.
When the victorious get their
people to go to battle as if they
were directing a massive flood of
water into a deep canyon, this is a
matter of formation.