Defencelessness is Invincible

When Confucius was alive, it was fashionable to play fighting cocks in the Chinese upper class. Two cocks were set to fight each other, and big money was bet on which would win. In Confucius’s state, Lu, two lords had a quarrel over their fighting cocks. One was armed with sharp metal and the other with mustard powder on its wings. The powder was intended to damage the rival cock’s eyes. When the king joined the quarrel, a civil war broke out. A cock expert apparently adapted a different approach to train the fighting cock for his king. After ten days the king asked if the cock was ready.

“Not yet,” the trainer said. “He is still arrogant and full of fighting energy.”

After another ten days the question came again.

“Not yet. He still responds when he sees other cocks or hears their sounds.”

When another ten days passed the king asked again.

“Not yet. He has mellowed his temper but he is still quick responding to his environment. He has some remaining fighting spirit too.”

Ten more days brought the same question.

“He is almost there.” The trainer said, “He remains apathetic, like a wooden chicken with its eyes staring into the empty air even when another cock crows. He has finally obtained the Tao that is most powerful.”

When he was led to the fighting ground, all challengers ran away. Their fighting energy evaporated and their spirits drooped at the sight of this defenceless cock. Their brains were never programmed to fight such a motionless cock. The conclusion is that defencelessness is invincible. (Story adapted from Chuang Tzu, Chapter 19)