Talking about music and martial arts in the same sentence feels a bit like poking an ants’ nest with my big taekwondo toe.
I miiiiiiiight JUST get away with it unharmed or…
I may exit the scene shortly in a vast hurry with a few savage bite marks.
Either way! Where some will fear to tread, The Mortal Mouse will dive right in.
Stand by dear reader: Here it comes!
I discovered recently that it’s really cool fun to practice my Taekwondo patterns to music. *gasp!
Not just ANY music though.
I’ve developed a bit of a playlist that channels just the right mood and attitude for making your uniform SNAP with those kicks, blocks and punches. Soooo satisfying!
I’ll share some of my chosen tunes with you in a minute but this discovery lead my mind on a whole other journey of wonder.
So many questions!
- Are you supposed to listen to music while doing patterns?
- Is it traditional for there to be silence?
- Does practicing with music actually help?
Already in a spin with all of these lofty questions, you can imagine my eyes popping more than a bit when I discovered there’s a form of competition where freestyle patterns or poomsae are choreographed to music!
Mind seriously blown!
Is there a tradition?
Some research on the topic and discussions with others failed to find any evidence of silence being the traditional way to practice patterns.
Some martial arts history recounts their early development as a type of military training without the requirement for a partner.
Silence could have been part of the scene simply because there wasn’t the means or technology to play music.
At my club our instructors voice a count for us as we perform our patterns. Another enthusiast I spoke with says his club uses a drum for the same purpose. I LIKE the sound of THAT!
An ancient link
I DID find one REALLY interesting piece of history around the origins of poomsae that links it with music, rhythm and dance.
Fourth Dan Black Belts learn a form/pattern/poomsae called Pyongwon.
It means a plain that is vast stretched-out land. It is the source of life for all the creatures and the field where human beings live their life.
An ebook by Kingsley Umoh called Taekwondo Poomsae: The Fighting Scrolls points out a resemblance between Pyongwon Poomsae and an ancient ritualistic dance performed at harvest time to thank the earth for its bountiful gifts.
In later centuries, this dance was transformed into ‘The Farmers Music’ or ‘Nongak’ – an energetic dance that’s movements mimic the different uses of farming and harvest equipment AND performed to a drum beat.
A very early link between music and martial arts perhaps?
Hang on now because I’m steering this discussion in a whole other direction…exercise science!
There is a mass of research around about the benefits of listening to music while exercising.
The general consensus seems to make two significant points:
- Music while exercising can provide a gentle distraction from the exertion and make the experience more enjoyable
- And, due to the way our bodies can naturally adapt physical movement to rhythm; there is a theory that listening to music can also improve performance.
When applied to practicing patterns, I’m wondering if being distracted from the task at hand is a bad idea?
Patterns or Poomsae require concentration and focus.
The second theory around our bodies adapting to rhythm though I can definitely relate to since the right music definitely makes me punch harder and kick with more exertion.
Right or Wrong?
As with my discussion around whether you should wear shoes to train in, my purpose here was not to determine a right way or a wrong way.
Merely to generate thought and discussion around a topic we are all so passionate about.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you listen to music while training? And if yes, what are some of your favourite songs?
Here’s my Playlist:
- Mortal Kombat Theme (of course!)
- Eminen – Lose Yourself
- Prodigy – Firestarter
- Muse – Knights of Cydonia
- AC/DC – Back in Black
- Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the name
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like to check out these prior Taekwondo blog posts by The Mortal Mouse:
My articles published elsewhere: