Master the core fundamentals of a technique before you branch off into the details. Focus on depth before breadth.
Making Smaller Circles is a concept described by Josh Waitzkin in his excellent book The Art of Learning.
When learning a new technique, Josh recommends developing a deep understanding of the basic core movements before branching out into the details and variations. These are the “smaller circles” he’s referring to: you are narrowing your area of focus to the things that are truly foundational, and upon mastering them, then you can begin to broaden your horizons.
To summarize the concept:
- Focus on depth of technique over breadth.
- Master the foundational concepts and movements of a technique before worrying about details and variations. Narrow your focus, or “make a smaller circle.”
- Once you have mastered the fundamentals, broaden your horizons by including advanced details and variations. Learning will be easier once the fundamentals are mastered.
In Jiu-Jitsu, an example of making smaller circles would be fully mastering the concept of alignment before shifting your focus to a broad variety of techniques.