Listening to music while practicing is something I see many martial artists do; especially those in boxing and MMA; I have seen it less in wrestling and judo. Is this because of the stereotypic groups that go to these styles, or does the style itself get support by listening to music?

Does it offer any effect, positive or negative?

Do fighters who are not absorbed in practice need music?

  • 3
    this effectively looks to be a dupe of martialarts.stackexchange.com/q/425/57
    – Rory Alsop
    Feb 16, 2012 at 12:40
  • 1
    @RoryAlsop, the difference in the question is fundamental. The question you link to is not for people to listen to 'while' practicing. This asks for passive listening, not about playing as a compliment to the practice.
    – Vass
    Feb 16, 2012 at 12:47
  • This is a wiki question: there is no yes / no answer. Every "answer" is going to be completely subjective.
    – Bob Cross
    Feb 16, 2012 at 13:30
  • How about a discussion of the positive and negative sides of it; as slugster points out in the answer given? What effects can it have? What are the things to watch out for? Effects of different types of music?
    – Vass
    Feb 16, 2012 at 14:22
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    @Vass: This is a Q&A site, not a discussion site. Discussions should be reserved for Chat. We like facts, but will take good subjective questions.
    – stslavik
    Feb 16, 2012 at 17:44

4 Answers 4


In an attempt to answer this question objectively, and on topic:

According to A Buzzle.com Article on the Effects of Music on the Brain, music has the following effects on the brain:

  • Increases Concentration Levels, Improves Memory:

    It is known that music helps increase your concentration levels. [...] Research has shown that the silence between two musical notes triggers brain cells which are responsible for the development of sharp memory. Flute music, and instruments like santoor and sarod [and] Classical music improves the ability to recall what's retained in the brain in the form of memory. Strong beats cause the brain waves to resonate in synch with the beat, thus leading to increased levels of concentration and increased mental alertness. This also trains the brain to change speeds of processing easily, as need be.[...]

    When examining this from the perspective of martial arts, we can assume that continued listening to appropriate types of music during training would promote (in addition to other things):

    • Better technique retention.
    • Better focus in performance of techniques and kata.
    • Better recall of learned techniques.
  • Increases Creativity and Problem-solving Skills:

    Music plays a vital role in enhancing creativity. Music has a positive impact on the right side of the brain. Music triggers brain centers which deal with the enhancement of creativity. [...] Music increases spatial and abstract reasoning skills. These are the skills required in tackling problems, solving puzzles and taking decisions.[...]

    In this case, consider randori or sparring. Increased problem-solving and creativity can increase the students ability to respond to a given situation using the learned techniques and the creation of new techniques based on the underlying principles of those techniques already learned.

  • Makes Learning Easier:

    [...] you can remember songs because they are musical compositions and not plain words lacking music or rhythm. [...] Learning beat patterns (talas), helps improve math skills. The study of rhythm is known to help students learn math. Music stimulates the brain centers that deal with thinking, analyzing and planning, thus enhancing one's organizational skills.

    Here we're dealing with rhythm. What makes a 30-step form memorable? Rhythm. Every fight has a rhythm, and manipulating that rhythm gives the martial artist an advantage. Further, by learning to a rhythm, the technique is more easily retained, and more easily manipulated by altering that rhythm, again increasing the students understanding of the application of that technique.

One last notable issue from that article:

[...]the effects music can have on your mind or brain depend largely on the kind of music you choose to listen to[...]

This is incredibly important; amelodic thrash-metal will have an entirely different affect on your brain than listening to Mozart (this can be noticed in a basic experiment of simply listening to both and noticing the difference on your mood after listening to each).


Speaking of the zone in Slugster's answer:

In his book, The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin, described how he used music. It was part of his ritual to trigger the zone at will. He did this before the national Tai Chi push-hands competitions in Taiwan. Like all things, "learn the big circles, then make the big circles smaller", he gradually reduced the ritual time until he could do this in under one minute. YMMV.


stslavik's answer covers a lot of the sciency benefits as they relate to learning and such.

I'd like to add, from the sport psychology / coaches point of view:

Like a lot of other things, practicing in as close to competition environment / circumstances as possible will provide a greater ability to perform at the same level in competition as you do in practice. So, if there is music playing at your competition venue, it makes sense to have it at practice.

Music also helps set the tempo of the class. I find in my bjj classes we often listen to reggae style music, it keeps people chill and seems to keep people from being a spazz and going to hard. In Boxing and MMA, we tend to listen to heavier rock and roll, alternative and metal. I find if i'm hitting the bag, listening to disturbed, or metallica, i hit the bag harder and my strikes are crisper then when i'm listening to bob marley.


I would suggest that the boxing and MMA practitioners are using the music to "get in the zone" as they train, and has little difference to listening to your iPod during your gym workout.

I've personally never seen music used during practice of traditional arts (with the exception of some music played to assist with meditation). Playing music is also not conducive to group training as you wouldn't be able to hear the commands and counts that are being called out.

  • I play music during my solo practice of my traditional art. But that's only when I practice indoors. And obviously, no one else sees it. Feb 16, 2012 at 16:55
  • Playing music does not necessarily mean one plays music loudly. Consider the soft music played in department stores; barely perceptible, but effective in creating a suggestible state in shoppers. Music can set a similar state in students if used carefully.
    – stslavik
    Feb 16, 2012 at 19:25

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