Making Smaller Circles

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.

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