Martial arts movies suggest that some musical instruments (drums, for example) are particularly well suited and matched with martial arts practice.

Is there any truth to this claim? Which instruments are known to be well suited/complement martial arts practice?

  • 3
    Not that i know of, but dance certainly does.
    – Chris
    Feb 10, 2012 at 1:14
  • 8
    we are really scraping questions out of the 'odd' barrel on this site. Feb 10, 2012 at 1:16
  • @KeithNicholas, I'm going to have to agree.
    – Bob Cross
    Feb 10, 2012 at 1:53
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    Yes - electric guitars plugged into really big amps.
    – slugster
    Feb 10, 2012 at 2:20
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    I've seen many things suggested in martial arts movies, like helicopters being knocked out of the sky with back spinning hook kicks (well, I exagerate a little) and Chuck Norris wincing after receiving a yoko tobi geri (flying side kick) to the chest (which we know could never be true). While I'm being quite cynical, the orchestral background while JCVD was solo training in the temple grounds in Kickboxer did inspire me... Anyhow, I'm sure MythBusters would call "Busted" on this one.
    – slugster
    Feb 10, 2012 at 10:45

8 Answers 8


I suspect that what you are seeing in martial arts movies is more of a cultural artifact than anything: A representation of what that culture considers valuable, as opposed to a representation of an absolute association. In capoeira music is played for (strongly) cultural reasons as a way of setting the style and the energy of the game, but not because it specifically makes you better at the art.

I will say that it is valuable to not become too narrowly focused. Don't just be a martial artist: go play an instrument, learn how to paint, learn poetry, learn a language, learn chess or go, etc. These can help you develop as a martial artist on the Way side of things and help you get more in touch with yourself, but should be taken as incidental the details of the practices: there are aspects in everything you do that may give you inspiration or your improve you as a well-rounded martial artist. In short: The specific choices don't matter, just that you do them. That you keep your mind engaged and active and seek to better yourself.

The details–which instrument, whether it is music or something else–is something that I would argue is largely secondary, though certainly some are going to have more direct application than others (specifically taiko and dance, which have already been mentioned). What does matter is that you enjoy it, even when it gets hard, and that you want to do it.

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    I'll add that the specific choices does matter in one regard: enjoy what you do, even when it is tough. If you carry resentment into it , you won't receive as much as it can offer. Feb 10, 2012 at 16:31
  • Agreed absolutely. Editing to make that point explicit. Feb 10, 2012 at 16:33
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    As said by Miyamoto Musashi: "Become acquainted with every art. Know the Ways of all professions."
    – Endery
    Jun 29, 2017 at 8:22

Taiko are large drums of Japanese origin that require movement of the whole body to be properly played. They're played whilst standing, carry their own kamae (postures), and have a distinct rhythm; all of these can be applied to martial arts training.

There are not, so far as I know, any specific correlations, however, between aptitude with a musical instrument and aptitude as a martial artist.


I don't know about "noticeably." That depends on the perceiver.

All musical instruments will exercise impeccable timing, tuning in, and flow. Music is meant to be played with others or for others, so you won't exercise those skills if you only play by yourself. Specific instruments may exercise fine motor dexterity or breath control, but that depends on the instrument.

This question is similar to asking, "what is the best martial arts for X?" This is well-intentioned yet framed awkwardly.

In my answer for training both hands, I used Bach fugues as an example. These specifics are trivial though -- I don't recommend chasing after performing music if you don't enjoy it. Mastering music is it's own gongfu (功夫).


Muay thai has music in all ring fights and in training.


I would have to say that the connection is marginal at best. The closest connection that I can think of would be high energy percussion instruments. I know that my forearms feel well exercised after a couple of hours on the drums.


Aside from percussion instruments mentioned here, I have also found any brass or woodwind instrument will help with breath control. On the other hand any of my students in choirs train the same breath control. Also, as David Clements pointed out, you are looking at this a bit backwards. The martial arts will affect every other area of your life and while some things may enhance part of your training, do them because you enjoy them and not just for their martial application.


I believe that some of this perception comes from the upper class samurai of the 12/13th century and after, who for the most part were highly literate and encouraged to pursue the arts, poetry, musicianship, things of this nature.

Additionally, many of the things that make a good musician such as the long, tedious practice of the basics, attention to detail, focus, etc., make for good martial artists as well. While not required for martial arts success, many of traits needed between the two are shared.


This does not answer the question to be honest:

Iron-flutes can be (and were) used as a sword.

I bet you can practice fighting arts like Eskrima using the flute as a baton. So yeah, when you practice the flute you can infact increase you skills at martial arts, you only have to practice with it in a different way. :)

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