This is the next installment of my commentary on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for personal self-defense. What are the five constant factors necessary for successful defense?
The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.
The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger. [Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying: “Without constant practice, the officers will be nervous and undecided when mustering for battle; without constant practice, the general will be wavering and irresolute when the crisis is at hand.”]
Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.
Here Sun Tzu is mentioning time and weather. These play a factor in your self-defense strategy. In the cold part of the year, baggy jackets can hide pocket sticks and other self-defense weapons. During warmer times, you need to have another place to store your weapon.
Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.
Know the layout of the land, the room or alley. This is part of your situational awareness.
The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness. [The five cardinal virtues of the Chinese are (1) humanity or benevolence; (2) uprightness of mind; (3) self-respect, self- control, or “proper feeling;” (4) wisdom; (5) sincerity or good faith. Here “wisdom” and “sincerity” are put before “humanity or benevolence,” and the two military virtues of “courage” and “strictness” substituted for “uprightness of mind” and “self- respect, self-control, or ‘proper feeling.’”]
By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure. These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.
Total self-defense entails knowing where your supplies are and having them ready. This survivalist point of view may scare the general population but it is essential. Sun Tzu mentions that part of warfare is the maintenance of roads for your supplies. On a personal level, you need to have food, water, radio, fire starters and blankets for disasters. We all know that nature strikes on her own whim. We can not plan for a particular date of an earthquake or hurricane but we can plan for its randomness.
Therefore, I suggest that a modern warrior knows where his or her weapons are, has a survival pack, and is trained to defend himself or herself.