Nonlinear pedagogy emphasizes that learning should be situated in real-game contexts, in order to acquire functional information-action couplings [1]. However the majority of combat sports related teaching programs remain linear in nature. In judo for instance, a common belief among high coaches is that a technique should be thoroughly drilled, before it can be applied during game-like situations [2]. During a judo match, judoka are literally ‘hands on’ with the environment, namely their opponent. This makes judo an interesting context to investigate the difference between a learning intervention that takes the environment into account and one that does not.

Research question

Is a nonlinear approach to teaching judo techniques more effective than the traditional, linear approach?

Method and design

A total of 203 children (aged 6 – 12 years) from two different primary schools participated in this study. All participants will receive judo lessons instead of their regular PE classes for three consecutive weeks. Half of the groups was taught to execute a shoulder throw (morote-seoi-nage) using linear instructions, whereas the other half of the groups learned to execute the same technique using a nonlinear approach. During the final lesson, video footage was collected of participants trying to execute the learned shoulder throw both as a demonstration (with a cooperative training partner) as well as during sparring (randori). In the next phase of this experiment, expert judgements of the video footage will be used to assess the skill level of participants after three lessons.


  1. Chow, J. Y. (2013). Nonlinear learning underpinning pedagogy: evidence, challenges, and implications. Quest, 65(4), 469-484.
  2. Santos, L., Fernández-Río, J., Almansba, R., Sterkowicz, S., & Callan, M. (2015). Perceptions of top-level judo coaches on training and performance. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 10(1), 145-158.


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