Small Circle Concepts – The Idea Behind the Training Method

I met Professor Wally Jay in the mid-1980’s – and from the moment that I met him he became a seminal and continuing influence upon me.  I had been working on my own training method for several years by that time, and had been trained in a number of grappling methods, which I continue to train with, but he has an extraordinary, fluid grace that never fails to impress.

There are a number of arts of which I’m proud to say I can now do a bad impersonation.  Now that may seem that a strange thing to boast about, but I think even a poor impersonation of Wally Jay or Leon Jay is something to celebrate!

Prof. Wally has always said that his is a very simple art, and that’s true, but unless you have been training a long time and had a very good education in the arts, it is hard to see what he means by that, especially after you’ve attempted a ‘bad impersonation’.  It is true that Small Circle is not complicated, but it is simple in the way a sea-shell is not complicated.  There may be a very simple outer form, but inside the structure is a complex geometry.  Small Circle Ju-jitsu is a comprehensive system and a constantly evolving art, and Leon Jay has brought the destructive principles of Kyusho Jitsu and Tuite into the mix in recent years.  A large technical base and high standards inevitably mean a long learning curve and therefore relatively few specialist students.

As more and more martial artists now cross-train, it occurred to us that we wanted more people to have the opportunity to train in the art.  Prof. Wally travelled the world for 30 years or more demonstrating what was possible, and we wanted to create access to more than occasional seminar study. Small Circle Concepts is designed to give you an opportunity to develop some of the superb grappling skills without having to learn all the material in the system.  If you’re already a grappler, it may be helpful to know that whatever your style Small Circle’s concepts are applicable; as a truly conceptual art, its principles will improve your efficiency without having to surrender your preferred approach.

As someone who has been ‘adopted’ into the Jay family circle, I believe that I am able to see it clearly, and as the Jays are so open and sharing, I have been able to examine the art up close.  Early on in my relationship with Prof. Wally I was simply trying to ‘see’ the mechanics of the art.  The Prof. explained what he was doing very clearly, but his movement is so subtle it took practise to really see it – personally I make no great claims for reproducing it as yet.

The first module, “Small Circle Mechanics – The Triceps Tendon Armbar” could well be labelled “Small Circle 101”.  It is designed to teach you both the mechanics of the grip and of the footwork required to support it.  If you do nothing else, this will change how you understand the basics of the art of grappling and increase your conscious awareness of your own techniques.

This module is the key to programme and is the first module that any student should attend; further core modules concentrate on Body Throws, Wrist Locks, Finger Locks and Entry Techniques and these can be studied in any order the martial artist finds convenient , with an additional two supplementary modules in Transitional Flow and Counter Throws currently offered.  Should participants complete all modules they become eligible to take part in the intensive Small Circle Concepts Instructor Programme, which has three levels: Apprentice, Associate or Full Instructor.

Core Modules

Supplementary Modules

Triceps Tendon Arm Bars


Entry Techniques
Body Throws Counter Throws
Wrist locks Transitional Flow
Finger locks Transitional Flow

Instructor Modules

Full Instructor

Written by John Mellon

You can read more of John Mellon’s articles at:

The Martial Arts University
Real Martial Arts
Renaissance Training