Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sound and Movement

This is how I discovered one of my most effective training tools. I am telling you about it, because I believe it has applications that may help you make significant change in your life.

It starts back in 2010, when I started experimenting with music as an aid to focus for Tai Chi. Following a visit to the Monroe Institute, I was keen to see if the binaural beat technology that they used for personal exploration could be used to supplement martial arts training. I decided that any verbal guidance would be off-putting, so I opted for using Metamusic; specially adapted music designed to bring about changes in brainwave states.

There are many titles available, so I purchased a range and set about testing them on myself, until I finally decided to use "Indigo For Quantum Focus" written by J.S. Epperson.

At the time I had 3 separate Tai Chi classes, all with similar levels of skill and at roughly the same place in the curriculum. Class 1, I decided to have no music at all (control), class 2 were given normal inspiring music (a mixture of standard New Age and Tai Chi music). Class 3 were given "Indigo for Quantum Focus" to listen to while practicing Silk-reeling and Zhan Zhuang training.

I expected a general lift in performance for groups 2 and 3, given that they were having music to focus on. However, I was very surprised when Class 3 all said "What IS that music?" They were all surprised at the effect. Amongst the feedback I received was a greater ability to focus on the movements and a more intense awareness of the body (kinaesthetic awareness).

As the weeks of the study continued (10 weeks in total), class 3 moved on significantly more than the other two classes. The measurable benefits were as follows:
  • Increased focus of attention.
  • Increased ability to relax while the body is under sustained pressure.
  • Heightened awareness of 'Chi' circulation.
  • Greater sensitivity and observation of one's partner during pairs work.
  • Greater group social cohesion.
  • 22% lift in retention rate (the number of students who don't skip a class). 
As a result of the above trial, I now integrate "Indigo" into regular sessions where there is a need for sustained focus and relaxation. There is no doubt within my mind about the efficacy of binaural beat technology for enhancement of the experience of internal martial arts.


Anonymous said...

Those are really interesting observations.
The New Scientist had an article about something similar a few weeks ago. Brain-stimulating techniques have been used to enhance sports performance and to train snipers in the US Army. The techniques used were different – biofeedback and transcranial direct current stimulation were used to stimulate alpha waves in the brain and to suppress the activity of the prefrontal cortex (but this can risk blindness if done incorrectly…). Link here:
At a first glance, using metamusic/binaural beats does seem a bit more “user friendly” than the techniques described in the New Scientist article.
*Puts Medical Editor’s hat on – with no electrodes attached*
A couple of questions/observations:
• Did the students know that the music that they were listening to was supposed to enhance their learning - could there have been a placebo effect? (Personally, I find placebo effects fascinating).
• Were the different groups all taught at the same location? If not, do you think that the class room had any effect – e.g. level of outside noise, lighting, acoustics etc etc? Do the groups you teach in one location tend to do better than those in another location, generally speaking?
It would be interesting to have a “crossover” study where each of the “intervention” groups acted as their own control. So Class 1 would listen to metamusic for 5 weeks and Class 2 would have normal music then they would switchover for the next 5 weeks. This might show if the effects persisted for Class 1, or whether Class 2 would “catch up”.
It’s also interesting that the “standard” music group also did better than the “no music” group. Personally, I find it really hard to practice in silence (although I’ll admit that 70s funk and soul possibly isn’t the best choice that I’ve ever made…)
*puts Tai Chi student’s hat on - skips off to buy CD*

Jennifer T

Richard Northwood said...

Thanks for the note. No, I just set up the music and played it. The students were the ones to notice the binaural music.

Be happy,


Anonymous said...

I have been using the hemi-sync music you suggested to practice Tai Chi for the last few weeks. I’ll perhaps let other people judge if I’m improving – but it certainly does contribute to an extremely pleasant experience, and I do feel that I “get more” out of my practice.
There was also an interesting episode recently with my son who’s currently doing A-levels. He is highly motivated and interested in his subjects but finds the school experience an increasingly frustrating one. Like many teenage boys, he struggles in an environment that doesn’t cater to his needs and an education system that continues to be underpinned by a belief that “intelligence can be measured in numbers”, to quote Ken Robinson. He also has to cope with additional processing difficulties of dyslexia and “attention deficit” – a misnomer if ever there was one. I see my role as he navigates his way through his school career primarily as one of keeping his self-esteem intact.
One evening I was practising Tai Chi while playing the hemi-sync music and he was in the same room doing a practice Chemistry A-level paper. After a few minutes he went over to the CD player and turned the volume up and sat back down again. A few minutes later he asked “What’s this music?” – I wasn’t really surprised because he’s teaching himself piano and the music has piano in it. So we carried on. When he’d finished the paper we marked it and he had done significantly better than he had been doing previously. He was genuinely surprised and pleased and it gave his confidence a real boost. We got chatting about the music and he said “ah that’s trip hop” and apparently it’s “bare good”. I believe that using the music transformed what is usually a stressful situation into a positive one for him and since then he’s been more keen to study and more confident in his own ability to tackle exams.

Jennifer T