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Martial art students work hard to achieve a state of perfection and internal calm. They work to harness the power of their minds to stay intense, but not frantic, in their actions.

Although the brain is a complex organ, contrary to common belief, it cannot concentrate on two things at the same time. Having negative thoughts during training, such as worrying about work or personal problems, distracts from the training. Music helps eliminate negative thoughts, offering flow, control, and focus. It helps you manage pain and fatigue by becoming a positive diversion.

Using music to train

The eighth nerve from the ear has two direct tracks to the brain: one that involves hearing and the other that goes straight to the vestibular system, that part of the cerebellum that manages balance and some motor functions. The same types of messages from the cerebellum that enable us to concentrate also encourage maximum performance. Therefore, the right kind of music sends good messages to the cerebellum.

Humans are hard-wired to process music on a motor level and an emotional level. Certain music resonates within certain networks of the brain, and when those networks overlap, it affects complex motor sequences. Music may trigger certain emotional responses, which is why athletes seek certain types of music.

The brain is not just one central organ; it is a complex of interconnecting systems that brain waves control. For example, delta waves are associated with deep sleep, theta waves are associated with drowsiness, and beta waves are associated with alertness and anxiousness. To be relaxed but totally focused while training we need to cultivate the alpha waves.

Visualization, deep breathing, and listening to music are all techniques used to bolster alpha waves. Music may be used as a stimulus to get the alpha waves flowing, which helps induce a higher state of concentration while minimizing pain and distractions. Although most people don’t pay much attention to their music playlist, elite athletes realize the effects of music and choose their playlists to achieve the greatest results.

A study at Acadia University in Nova Scotia found that women who listened to music ran a minute or two longer than those who did not. The women also adjusted their strides and pace to run more efficiently and had lower perceived exertion. Another study at Southwestern University in Texas found that men cycling at high intensity were able to exercise longer while listening to fast-paced music, even longer if the music was something they liked.

Some research suggests that music tempo effects exercise. In one study, fast-tempo music promoted more positive moods during training than did slower tempo music or no music. A study of Russian weightlifters found that the pace of an exercise should be matched to the beat of the music for best results.


Although music has a positive effect on training, and it helps slow training burnout, it should not become the primary source of concentration since music is not permitted in competitions or most class sessions. Although music can be useful while training, you must learn to deal with pain, distractions, and those evil little thoughts in your head that tell you bad things are happening, without relying on supplemental assistance.

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