The following is this writer’s rendering of Chapter Four of “The Art of War”, by Sun Tze. As usual, comments are in italics. Sun Tze has started us out with Calculations, discussed Waging War, and then explained Guerilla Warfare. Let’s proceed to the actual Battle, shall we?
1. The Master Generals of Ancient Times first made themselves invincible, and then waited for the Enemy to become vulnerable.
2. Becoming invincible is our own responsibility, but the Enemy provides its own vulnerability.
One would think, that this implies waiting for the Enemy to err.
3. Thus, although the Master General is able to avoid defeat, but cannot cause the Enemy to become vulnerable.
This would involve being very careful.
4. Hence the saying: “One can perceive the opportunity for victory, but one cannot create it.”
5. Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the Enemy means taking the offensive.
In other Words, if you can’t win, set up your Defense!
6. Defend, when you have insufficient strength to attack; attack, only when you have a superabundance of strength.
Nowadays, we say, “Choose your Battles wisely.”
7. The General who is skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses of the earth; one 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. Therefore, they are able to protect themselves until they are able to achieve complete victory, when the advantage is clear.
The idea here seems to be “conceal yourself until the Time is right”. This is not just good for the Military, but also, Life-changing advice for us in the Modern World.
8. To see victory when it is easily seen is not the pinnacle of excellence. .
9. Neither is it the pinnacle of excellence if you fight and conquer and the whole Empire says, "Well done!"
10. Picking up a fallen hair is no sign of great strength, nor is seeing the sun and moon a sign of sharp sight, nor is hearing the noise of a thunderclap a sign of a quick ear. Don’t try to hear something subtle.
11. What the Ancients called a Master General is one who not only wins, but who wins with ease.
12. Hence do the Master General’s victories bring neither reputation for wisdom, nor credit for courage.
This might remind us of the Tao Te Ching, Chapter Thirteen.
Accept neither favor nor disgrace; trouble is a part of being human.
What does this mean, “Accept neither favor nor disgrace”? Favor and disgrace are based on the opinions of others.
hat does this mean, “trouble is a part of being human”? Trouble comes from selfishness and attachment to one’s own body. Without selfishness, what trouble can there be?
Therefore, only let those who value the empire as themselves be entrusted to govern the empire. Those who love an empire as themselves are the only ones who should rightly be allowed to administer the empire.
13. The Master General wins 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.
This probably means, by taking no chances.
14. Hence the Master General takes a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the Moment for defeating the Enemy.
Timing and positioning are both, apparently, of equal importance. What an impact this would have on our lives if we followed this Technique!
15. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas one who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
Once again, Sun Tzu discourages battle unless absolutely necessary. Strategy is thus more important than troop strength.
16. The Master General cultivates moral law, and strictly adheres to Method and Discipline; thus having Power to control success.
17. In reference to Military Method, we have first, measurement, second, quantity, third, calculation, fourth, comparison, and fifth, victory.
18. Measurement owes its existence to Ground; Numbers to Measurement; Calculation to Numbers; Decisions to Calculation; and Victory to Decisions.
Did you notice the Five Elements here, in the Mutual Generation Sequence?
19. A victorious army opposed to a defeated army, is as a picul of rice placed on a scale against a single grain.
20. The onrush of a conquering force is like water bursting forth from a dam, flowing down into a deep chasm.