Trevor Alfred Charles Jones may have never worn a gi in his life, but he was a loyal partner to Rickson Gracie in the rings. The South African composer authored the musical theme of the movie The Last of the Mohicans, from 1992, which used to accompany Rickson in his long, electrifying walk from the locker room until he came face to face with an opponent. And to this day, the beautiful orchestral music for violin and cello remains as though a popular symphony, especially on the internet.
But why is it that every athlete has a favorite piece of music for those minutes of anxiety? And why do you train better or worse when you hear that one song on the car or on your phone?
There is a millennia-old reason for all that. Sounds, ever since the age of the first hominids gathering around a fire, were our biggest allies. It was through sound, through the wind or a roar, that we knew it was necessary to flee or fight, for example.
In scientific terms, the rumbles and loud noises instantly activate our limbic system, also known as the emotional brain—the part of the mind responsible for our memories and immediate reactions of our muscles, hormones and cells. It's what you experience when hearing thunder outside and feeling your body tremble in response.
Certain great moviemakers soon realized this. And that's why they began using, notably in horror movies, pieces that resemble nature's alarm sounds. The more variation in volume, timbre and low to high—and the more intense and abrupt the variations—the more adrenaline.
That's why, if the theme of Psycho can make any tough guy tense up, so too can a sweet melody calm anyone down. And the right music, with the appropriate sound memory, can activate the calmest samurai, instants before the most important fight of his career.
After all, music is a drug that doesn't kill us. It only strengthens us, given that melodies were born from the sounds of the world, and they also create a new world for those who hear them.
Rickson, of course, didn't just perform impeccably due to what went into his ears, but because of an entire life dedicated to training, technical details and his family's knowledge.
But listen to this jewel among jewels of movie scores and answer: don't these chords awaken in you a strong desire to breathe in, breathe out and get to the mat?
So enjoy your music, keep your ears open to what your teacher has to say, and let's get after it!