In ancient times, those skilled in warfare make themselves invincible and then wait for the enemy to become vulnerable. Being invincible depends on oneself, but the enemy becoming vulnerable depends on himself. Therefore, those skilled in warfare can make themselves invincible, but cannot necessarily cause the enemy to be vulnerable. Therefore it is said one may know how to win but cannot necessarily do it.
One takes on invincibility defending, one takes on vulnerability attacking. One takes on sufficiency defending, one takes on deficiency attacking. Those skilled in defense conceal themselves in the lowest depths of the Earth. Those skilled in attack move in the highest reaches of the Heavens.
Therefore, they are able to protect themselves and achieve complete victory.
Perceiving a victory when it is perceived by all is not the highest excellence.
Winning battles such that the whole world says “excellent” is not the highest excellence.
For lifting an autumn down is not considered great strength, seeing the sun and the moon is not considered a sign of sharp vision, hearing thunder is not considered a sign of sensitive hearing.
In ancient times, those who are skilled in warfare gained victory where victory was easily gained. Therefore, the victories from those skilled in warfare are not considered of great wisdom or courage, because their victories have no miscalculations.
No miscalculations mean the victories are certain, achieving victory over those who have already lost. Therefore, those skilled in warfare establish positions that make them invincible and do not miss opportunities to attack the enemy.
Therefore, a victorious army first obtains conditions for victory, then seeks to do battle. A defeated army first seeks to do battle, then obtains conditions for victory.
Those skilled in warfare cultivate the Way, and preserve the Law, therefore, they govern victory and defeat.
The factors in warfare are:
Measurements are derived from Ground, quantities are derived from measurement, calculations are derived from quantities, comparisons are derived from calculations, and victories are derived from comparisons. A victorious army is like a ton against an ounce; a defeated army is like an ounce against a ton! The victorious army is like pent up waters released, bursting through a deep gorge.
This is formation.