Aikido and the Vitruvian man #2

First, let’s try a simple description of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing.

The man has his feet together on the base of the square, his arms forming a horizontal cross touch both sides of the square, his head touches the upper side of the square. He is therefore perfectly square, ie static, he stands still.

In this position the centre of his body, determined by the two diagonals is located on his genitals, symbolic of procreation, of his link to matter, his anchorage in the physical world:

That man then splits his feet apart which climb up on the circle’s circumference and he rises his hands which touch that circle. He has just moved, the Vitruvian man is now in motion. That simple observation has to be made. From static to dynamic, he goes from the square, an image of stillness, to the circle which is the reverse, an image of mobility.

In this dynamic state, the centre of his body has shifted from his genitals to his navel, the centre of the circle and this links him — via the thread of successive generations — to the origin of the world:

These very simple observations can be done by everyone but I’d like to draw the attention on one point: his feet are in hito e mi position, not only in static, in the square but also when in motion, in the circle.

We had evoked in HV #1 Leonardo’s plausible desire to illustrate the proportions defined by Vitruvius (the foot being a sixth of the body height) and the fact this could explain his choice to draw the profile of the foot in a static position. But in a dynamic position, that explanation loses any relevance.

But the Aikido practitioner can notice the perfect similarity between the man’s feet position and O sensei’s feet position when executing Aikido movements.

The Vitruvian man moves exactly as one should in Aikido and this pledges for an interpretation of the drawing linked with the movement and the hito e mi position as follows:

The first teaching to emerge from Leonardo’s drawing could be formulated as follows:

Through the nature of his physical body, man belongs to earth and its elements, therefore to the square. It is only within this frame, between birth and death, that he has the ability to move (as it can be checked in the drawing, the man fits in both the square and the circle). He therefore belongs to the square by nature and to the circle by his movement. He belongs to both these geometrical figures. However moving up from the square to the circle is impossible without a corporal principle. That principle is clearly shown in the drawing whether in the static or the dynamic representation: in the triangle and more precisely the right angle triangle formed by the man’s feet when he moves according to the laws which determined Vitruvius’ harmonious proportions as illustrated by Leonardo.

The Founder of Aikido tells us the same in a perfectly clear and concrete manner:

From a material point of view, is the Sky / Heaven (Ten). The Sky/heaven is the principle and the corporal principle. — Morihei Ueshiba, Takemusu Aiki, vol.1, p153, Ed Cénacle de France

For O sensei and Leonardo da Vinci, the corporal principle which governs the physical movement is without ambiguity the triangle.

In the same text, O sensei defines the movement as:

Ka Sui, the harmonious union of Fire and Water through which the balance between Heaven and Earth is reached (matsuri).

And he adds that in the circle, the role of the Fire is to “completely fuse the principle” (ie the triangle) to the Water channeling the action of Fire (what he calls politeness)

For the Founder of Aikido, the harmonious movement is born out of the fusion of triangle to the circle; an idea clearly expressed by the triangular position within the circle in Leonardo’s drawing.

Eventually, according to O sensei, the place where this balance between Heaven and Earth is not to be found somewhere far. This “place” where Heaven acts is earth (Chi)


Earth is the place where the Power of Heaven appears — p.154


People think that Heaven is a transcendental place but in reality Heaven and Earth are just one. — Morihei Ueshiba, Takemusu Aiki, vol.3, p 48, Ed Cénacle de France

That specific point is precisely the teaching of Leonardo’s drawing which shows that the triangle-man 5heaven) acts in the circle without leaving the square 5Earth)

So it seems we have discovered that The Vitruvian man drawn by Leonardo da Vinci looks like a very good illustration of the Aikido cosmogony foundation.:

The sacred dance (“furumai”) of Takamimusubi and Kamimusubi.

There are still more elements to bring when trying to decode Leonardo’s drawing as far as we can. We are not at the end of our surprises…

Philippe Voarino, Septembre 2013

What is Traditional Aikido?

Aikido is not a sport, it is a martial art which laws (takemusu) are in harmony with the laws of the universe. Studying them allows the practitioner to understand his place in the universe. Aikido was born in Iwama, O sensei achieved in that village the synthesis of tai jutsu, aiki ken and aiki jo.

Where to practice Traditional Aikido?

The International Takemusu Aikido Federation (ITAF) brings to the practitioner the structure he needs in order to work as close as possible to the reality O sensei MU defined. The official national representations are the guarantee of a teaching faithful to the Founder's.

The weapons of Aikido, aiki ken and aiki jo

In modern Aikido, weapons are hardly taught, if taught at all. In O sensei's Aikido, on the contrary, aiki ken, aiki jo and tai jutsu are unified and form together a riai, a family of harmonious techniques stemming from one unique principle. Each techniques helps understand all the others.

Aikido, a martial art or an art of peace?

Peace is a balance between a human being and the world around him. The true martial art's goal is not to become stronger than one's opponent but to find in that opponent a way to realize harmony. There is no enemy anymore as such, but an opportunity offered to reach unified ki.
Copyright TAI (Takemusu Aikido Intercontinental)