Music is a great motivator. But it's more than that.
Did you know that back in 1991 a French scientist. Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis, had described a technique where listening to Mozart helped promote health and brain development. This has come to be known as the "Mozart Effect". Further studies have shown that the effect of listening to Mozart increases the listener's ability on spatial reasoning. Spatial reasoning is the ability to take abstract ideas and visualize patterns. This ability allows for generating multi-step solutions to complex problems.
Back in the 90's, this concept became very popular in child development, sparring on series of products meant to stimulate the brain through Mozart. Many parents were led to believe that such activities would lead to producing genius-like qualities in their children.
Now, what does this have to do with Martial Arts?
When you're participating in sparring or combat, one of the primary skills you need to develop is your ability to "see" where your opponent is going in order to determine what your next moves are to win. Aka, spatial reasoning. Thus, someone with enhanced spatial reasoning theoretically should do better in an otherwise equally matched competition.
Despite the namesake, the Mozart Effect is actually not isolated to just the listening to Mozart. Recent studies have shown that listening to any music which is calming and appealing to the listener can evoke the Mozart Effect.
Fighters have known this for years, though they may not have realized what they were doing. If you look around the ring, many fighters prior to their match are often seen listening to music of their own choice. The music is a motivator to "pump them up" for the match; but it also is opening their minds to spatial reasoning. In internal Martial Arts, we call this "opening your Third Eye".
Now, before you run out and by the latest CD, realize that studies have shown the Mozart Effect is only temporary. So you won't suddenly become all Matrix-like and bending to bullets. And after a relatively short period, your brain functions return to normal. Extending the period of listening doesn't necessarily enhance this Effect either; over time the music begins to fade into the background and the enjoyment factor that is causing this enhancement diminishes.
Spatial reasoning is effective in more than just fighting. By opening your mind to spatial reasoning, you will find it easier to "see" yourself performing a form and absorb what you are trying to learn on the dojo floor.
So, next time before you step out there to train, consider listening to your favorite song first. You may be surprised how much better you perform that night.