Memory Champion Wang Feng
    2012-05-11 11:21:04         Web Editor: Mao

A Wuhan University student named Wang Feng holds 3 world records for memory, and has won the World Memory Championships two years in a row.  But he told CRI reporter Seth Coleman that anyone can have an amazing memory through practice. Here's the story:

In 2009 Wang Feng joined a memory club at Wuhan University, where he studies land resource management. "I got to know about mnemonics by accident. When I heard there was a memory club, I joined it to improve my memory because it wasn't so good back then."

He started training with a  world class teacher there, didn't take long before he realized he was quite good at it. "After just two week of training, I was already better than some who had been training for months."

Wang Feng began traveling with his teacher to different memory events to compete. "I competed in some memory competitions in London and China.  Then I became the world champion, that's when people started to notice me."

In the 2011 world memory championships Wang Feng broke world records for 3 of the competition's 10 memory disciplines, all relating to memorizing random numbers.  His record for numbers memorized in an hour is two thousand, six hundred and sixty. But he says he has no special talent except maybe for hard work and attention to detail. Anyone can the techniques which make these feats possible. "I just had a normal memory as a childĄ­"

His technique is the same on ancient systems that have been known and practiced for centuries, designed to exploit the brain's natural ability to memorize images and locations. "The system I use isn't different from what others use. I just made some modifications based on the original one."

To memorize the order of a deck of cards, which is a classic demonstration of memory ability, Wang Feng first gives each card a two digit number, and then turns that number into an image, since images are easier for the brain to remember.

After memorizing a deck of cards in under a minute, Wang Feng explained how it works. First, each of the suits have a number, one to four. "A spade is pointing upwards, so I think of it as one; A heart has two rounded sides so it's two; A club has three cloves so it's three. And a diamond has 4 edges, so it's 4."

So using this system, the 7 of clubs becomes 37, 3 for clubs, and 7 for 7.  And 4 of hearts becomes 24 with 2 for hearts and 4 for 4. After that, an image is associated with each number. For Wang Feng, 37 is a chicken, because when spoken in Chinese it sounds like chicken. And 24 is a clock, because there's 24 hours in a day.

The second step involves putting the images in familiar locations. Our minds are designed to be good at remembering the layout of places, and mnemonics uses this to trick the brain into storing whatever information we want. So to remember the order of cards, we put the images in a place we know well. "The place could be where I live, a classroom, supermarket, park - somewhere I'm familiar with."

After being named world champion two years in a row, Wang Feng says he's not planning to compete in the 2012 competition. Instead, he's focusing on training others. He's been traveling to schools around China to give talks, and he's planning to open a training center, to teach the method to students who need to memorize information for tests, or who just want to improve their memory. 

"My life is easier now that I know mnemonics. It's really helpful for remembering names and details - and things from books I read. I don't need a pen anymore."

For CRI, this is Seth Coleman.


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