According to legend, Zorro was not always that swashbuckler able to swing from chandeliers and overpower ten men with the slash of his sword. At the beginning of the film The Mask of Zorro, we see him as the young and impetuous Alejandro, whose passion far exceeds his patience and discipline. His quest is to assail villains and right the injustices of the world, but he desires to do so immediately and spectacularly. The higher he flies, the farther he falls, until he soon feels out of control and utterly powerless. By the time the aging sword master Don Diego meets him, Alejandro is a broken man, a slave to drinking and despair. But Don Diego sees the young man’s potential and takes him under his wing, promising Alejandro that mastery and triumph will come with “dedication and time.” In the hidden cave that serves as Don Diego’s lair, the elder sword master begins Alejandro’s training by drawing a circle in the dirt. Hour after hour, Alejandro is forced to fight only within this small circle. As Don Diego wisely tells his protégé, “This circle will be your world. Your whole life. Until I tell you otherwise, there is nothing outside of it.”
Once Alejandro masters control of this small circle, Don Diego allows him to slowly attempt greater and greater feats, which, one by one, he achieves. Soon he is swinging from ropes, besting his trainer in a sword fight, even performing a set of pushups over burning candles (not the most practical skill to hone, but cinematically impressive nonetheless). But none of these achievements would ever have been possible had he not first learned to master that small circle. Before that moment, Alejandro had no command over his emotions, no sense of his own skill, no real faith in his ability to accomplish a goal, and—worst of all—no feeling of control over his own fate. Only after he masters that first circle does he start to become Zorro, the legend.