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
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;
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.