The Soundtrack of Life: 10 Songs to Grapple By

What’s your grappling soundtrack? Here’s my top ten songs for grappling. If you don’t like my choices, feel free to comment. Turns out music is one of those topics that inspires lots of emotion!

At Fifty/50 BJJ, where I train, students and instructors finish off a long week of training with, of course, more training. On Friday nights, we participate in “Marathon Roll,” which is 10 rounds of 5 minutes apiece, with a minute rest in between. It’s a great way to test out some of the things we’ve been drilling and learning during the week during live rolling, and it’s also a great way to prepare for more training over the weekend, because of course we’ll be doing that.

As is probably also the case at your grappling academy, there’s always music playing at Fifty/50, and sometimes there is good-natured disagreement as to whether this or that music is better or worse, and whether this or that artist’s latest offering is an improvement on their last release, which of course reflects individual preferences. There is also colorful language to support or disparage said individual preferences, and even sometimes the invention of creative epithets for people whose tastes, um, clash. (“You’re a musical Philistine!” is an example of an epithet, right? What about “Shut your terrible-taste-in-music hole?”) And such behavior is of course not unique to Fifty/50. In fact, it turns out music is one of those topics that inspires lots of intense emotion, whether in the context of training or elsewhere.

But since we’re talking about music to train to, I decided to write about ten songs I would at this moment put on a playlist for Marathon Roll, with the caveat that the list is based on what I’ve been hearing lately, that it’s likely to change an hour from now, and that there are tons of other awesome songs that could go on such a list (and may very well do so if I ever get around to updating my iPod). Knowing how emotional people get about music and grappling as separate entities, I’m curious about whether the combination will result in fireworks. Of course, not all of these songs are exactly five minutes, but we’ll pretend they are for the sake of argument.

What’s your grappling soundtrack? Here’s mine. If you don’t like my choices, feel free to comment, but remember I have feelings too and that I am a lady, dammit!

1. Linus and Lucy, by Vince Guaraldi

This is more commonly known as the Peanuts theme song. You’ll totally know it when you play the video below. And maybe you remember not only how cool this song is, but also how awesome a dancer Snoopy turned out to be. The first five-minute round of Marathon Roll is usually intended to get the kinks out and loosen everyone up a little. So a song like this one is fun and bouncy and a good one for slowly winding up the intensity.

2. Brick House, by The Commodores

When I branch out into mixed martial arts, which will be never, this will be my processional song. It is virtually impossible to refrain from singing the chorus and making the “house” all nasal-sounding. I also challenge you to make it through this entire song remaining perfectly still. Good luck.

3. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, by Michael Jackson

This song actually plays a lot at a diner near the academy that has good pre-training breakfast, which could be part of the reason I like it. But I also know that whenever I hear it, it makes me I wish I could dance like Jacko or move like Jagger, which, sadly, I can’t. So the next best thing is to try to spin under. I bet if Michael had been a grappler, he would have developed a mean inverted guard. Mick would probably get kimura-ed a lot.

4. Everybody Wants You, by Billy Squier

I saw some recent pictures of Billy, and the man has aged well, as has his music. This is one of those songs that’s great to roll to rather than drive to (though it’s fun for that as well), because for the most part I have no idea what the lyrics are. This means I’m not tempted to sing along at the top of my lungs, which is good because at this point in Marathon Roll, I’m starting to need them for other things. One line I do recognize – and love – though I do not understand it, is “You take your pension in loneliness and alcohol.” I can’t tell if it would be a good idea for me to do this too, especially in this economy.

5. You Should Be Dancin’, by the Bee Gees

I think it’s okay to like disco now. And during roll number five, when the beginning of Marathon Roll is a vague-ish memory but we are still less than halfway through, the power of disco can help inspire us to keep up the intensity. All you academy owners out there, consider installing one of those twinkly balls, just for Friday nights and just for this song.

6. Vogue, by Madonna

Come on. Vogue. And come on. Admit you like Madonna. Don’t worry; next time we train together, I’ll advocate to get this song on the playlist, and you can roll your eyes and pretend to just endure it. You’re welcome.

7. Verb: That’s What’s Happenin’, by Bob Dorough

If you’re from my generation, you know Verb. It’s from Schoolhouse Rock. The accompanying video shows a little boy running around having adventures and doing all kinds of things, things that requires verbs to describe them. He becomes a superhero, he flies, jumps, and bends nouns to his will, and then at the very end, he runs home and into his mother’s arms. (Is it dusty in here? I got something in my eye.) This one would be fun to roll to, because “roll” is a verb, and, well, that’s what’s happenin’.

8. Badlands, by Bruce Springsteen

I’m from the Jerz, and as such, it’s pretty much a state law that I have to love the Boss. This is not hard to do, however, as any Springsteen fans know. His music is fantastic, and he puts on a damn good show (RIP Clarence Clemons). Plus, if you have the energy to contemplate such things during round eight, the themes of Springsteen’s music frequently address transcending one’s circumstances and making good on our promises to ourselves (like not dry heaving in front of other people).

9. It’s Not Over, by Daughtry

Yes, Chris Daughtry he was on American Idol, and no, he didn’t even win the whole thing. And yes, I have heard this song a lot on the radio lately, which may be why it’s in my mind, but that doesn’t make it any less packed with hammy, cheesy goodness. Mmmm – ham and cheese. At any rate, if you don’t think this is a good song, then I’m sorry to have to inform you that you are patently incorrect. I guarantee that if you train while listening to this song, you will discover the secret to jiu jitsu and transform your game accordingly. Note: “guarantee” = “make no guarantee.” Other note: I’m just now noticing the actual title has significance as the soundtrack for roll number nine, though that wasn’t my original intent. I’m just that good at picking music. I submit that this is more evidence of the worthiness of this entry.

10. The Final Countdown, by Europe

Again, the title of the song has significance, but it’s more the sound of it that warrants its inclusion, in my opinion. That opening “doodle-doo doo, doodle doo-doo doo?” Forget about it. The fact that it is the signature song of G.O.B. Bluth from Arrested Development? Icing on the syncopated cake. And the fact that it is the last roll, the last push over the cliff (and should go to eleven)? Nirvana.

Nirvana? Hmm, maybe for the next playlist. Watch this space.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.