Tao Te Ching – Verse 69 – Rather than make the first move it is better to wait and see.

69
The generals have a saying:
“Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.”

This is called
going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.
There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.

When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.

(translation by Stephen Mitchell, 1995)
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In using the military, there is a saying:
“I dare not be the host, but prefer to be the guest
I dare not advance an inch, but prefer to withdraw a foot.”

This is called marching in formation without formation
Raising arms without arms
Grappling enemies without enemies
Holding weapons without weapons
There is no greater disaster than to underestimate the enemy
Underestimating the enemy almost made me lose my treasures

So when evenly matched armies meet
The side that is compassionate shall win

(translation by Derek Lin, 2006)
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The fighter must become the strategist,
And the strategist, the fighter.
In retreat and change is victory here.

(translation by Jeremy M. Miller, 2013)
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from I Ching Online

 

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