Muay Thai Fight Music Preparation
Yolanda Schmidt is getting her hands wrapped by her trainer Andrew Parnham / Pic: Supplied

Training regime is intense and consistent. Physical preparation is only half the feat.

Athletes require the motivation to mentally prepare for battle. Mental preparation lends itself to various strategies such as mediation, visualization, audio stimulus and positive self-talk. It is all used to increase or decrease arousal levels.

It is vital that an athlete regulates their physical energy. More importantly, their mental energy, to allow for the optimal emotional state or arousal level, enhancing performance.

Each fighter has a different optimum arousal level. It is important that over arousal does not occur. This can negatively impact the actual performance. The ten minute window before you enter the ring is the most crucial stage of the “psyching up” phase. After all, the mind and the body should be at the same level, working together.

Music can be used for entertainment, relaxation, inspiration and motivation.

It can also even lead fighters into battle. While motivation encourages continued participation in physical activity, it is music that sparks this motivation.

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Music selection as motivation has many factors that include the metronomic effect, lyrics and auditory latching. It assists in increasing endurance and efficiency of an athlete’s energy. It also influences runners, whereby the athlete unintentionally synchronizes their strides to match the tempo of the music. Tempo and rhythm affect the heart and respiration.

Inspirational lyrics have become an important part of society. Therefore, the popularity of music in the sporting environment comes as no surprise. It is believed that fire in the lyrics can boost energy. For example, a song such as “Thunderstruck” may encourage athletes to push themselves to their limits.

This leads us to the next factor that athletes’ energy levels can also be heightened by auditory latching, not by simply selecting songs with inspirational lyrics or fast tempo. Auditory latching refers to signals recognized by the body that provide significance to the individual.

The body and mind naturally react to auditory signals that evoke vivid memories

This includes the ding at the end of round in a muaythai training environment, the voice of the trainer, the sound of the opponent breathing and specific lyrics.

To elaborate, the mind associates music with memories. When a specific song is heard the athlete is taken back on a psychological journey. This can have a positive or negative effect. This may also be a moment where the athlete felt particularly strong. When the same song is heard again, the body identifies and replicates the emotional state previously experienced.

The last phase of fight preparation, for many, involves tucking in their headphones, selecting a playlist and shutting out the world. I have had the same playlist for all my fights, give or take one or two songs. Such songs have all been specifically selected based on the above factors.

I believe that although music has the ability to enhance energy, it also has the ability to calm and lower the arousal level. An aggressive fighter already has high level and requires an external factor to enable them to gain control of that aggression. A fighter that suffers from anxiety and lower self-confidence requires music with a psychological effect.

Although not all fighters listen to music as part of their pre-fight routine. Many have revealed that music is utilized to gain focus and to calm their nerves.