The U of Alberta talks about Jim Gerwing, 2019 Canadian Memory Champion in New Trail:
The CMC Editors’ comments/remarks in brackets [ ].
By Mifi Purvis, Dec.17, 2019
[…] But we are not slaves to our neural networks or gut colonists. A man from Sherwood Park, Alta., brings good tidings about the conscious steps we can take to enhance our ability to learn, by making the task of memorization easier.
Jim Gerwing, ’83 BPE, ’14 MEd, just happens to be the winner of the 2019 Canadian Memory Championships. He believes a person’s memory is more or less a genetic fait accompli. “But it’s something you can hack,” he says.
“I was taking a developmental anatomy class and I had to learn the stages of development of the fetus — all these Latin terms!” he says. So, he tried a technique known as a “memory palace,” which involved an imaginary walk-through of a place he knew well — his apartment — and he assigned specific Latin terms to individual household items.
After this exercise, Gerwing was able to recall 100 per cent of those unfamiliar terms in the correct order. Memorizing is not exactly learning, but once you’ve committed the facts to heart you are free to recall, analyze and apply them in different contexts.
Aside from making him a memory champ triumphing over competitors decades younger, 60-year-old Gerwing says his memory work (yes, it’s work — he trains every morning) helps him in other ways. He doesn’t keep a calendar, doesn’t need a grocery list. He’s great with names and faces and he can deliver a speech calmly and accurately without notes. “And it helps me really be present in the moment,” he says. His approach to hacking memory is kind of inspiring.
When we consider that clusters of cells in our brains can generate visions based on past learning, when we find that gut composition may change learning behaviour, when we imagine our default neural networks firing up while we rest — it’s nice to know that guys like Gerwing are trying to take charge of the process.
[ There are many benefits from training one’s memory and perhaps the biggest one is an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence. Memory techniques definitely should be thought in schools and from our perspective the question is why are these techniques not taught in schools such as the University of Alberta? We are still waiting for answers in that regard. Thanks for the article.]
The CMC interview Ezequiel Valenzuela, winner of the 2018 Canadian Memory Championship.
Sept. 1/2018 CMC –Congratulations Ezequiel on winning the 2018 Canadian Memory Championship.
CMC — So, you are 17 years old. When did you start having an interest in memory techniques? How did you learn about memory techniques?
EV — About 2 years ago, we had a substitute teacher come to our class. He talked to us about memory techniques, and I did’t pay too much attention but I was still impressed when I found he had memorized all of our names. But it is my friend, A. McAdams, a classmate who really got me interested in it. He showed more interest in it than I did at first. And then I could see he didn’t spend much time studying anymore and still got good grades, and he began to think about becoming a memory champion; I thought I could become that as well.
CMC– So you started training with memory techniques about 2 years ago?
EV– Yes, but I would train my memory only 10 minutes a week for the first 6 months; it didn’t help much. I really started to train 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour per day just one and a half years ago.
CMC– What happened then? What made you suddenly increase your training regimen?
EV– Well, at first all I had to work with was my friend’s book, “Moonwalking with Einstein.” But 1 1/2 year ago, I got a new book, by Dominic O’Brien, “You Can Have An Amazing Memory.” I was inspired by that book as I was not a strong student just like the author Dominic and I could relate to him.
CMC– When you started applying yourself more to memory techniques, did you start noticing a difference in the amount of time you spent studying for school?
EV — Yes, it wasn’t long before I started studying no more than 5-10 minutes before any class and get an 80% when others would study maybe an hour for the same test to get the same results.
CMC– So you were spending time on memory techniques and that saved you time?
EV — Yes, even during class it made a difference: Once I was just listening to the teacher, making mental notes while still appearing bored and distracted while the other students were all taking written notes. The teacher noticed that and started saying things. So, without looking at the board, I started recalling point by point the whole lesson back to him. He was stunned.
CMC. What about your grades. Did they improve?
EV —I was failing in History. My percentage was like 40% for the year. But then the end of year exam could replace your mark for the whole year if it was better. I passed easily with over 80% mark.
CMC– Was that test easy?
EV — No, it was hard.
CMC– When did you start thinking you might be able to win the Canadian Memory Championship?
EV– Before the 2017 Canadian Memory Championship, I was already confident I was going to win. I told so to my good friends. I went and my results were a total disaster. My friends laughed. Still, I decided to continue training anyway.
CMC — What kind of memory systems do you use?
EV — I use the Major System for numbers, and used a 3 digit system today to set the new Canadian Memory Championship Record at Numbers.
And I established the new Speed Cards Record for the Canadian Memory Championships today using a 2 cards per image block system invented by Lance Tschirhart.
Words are my favorite Memory Discipline even though I am not very good at it.
CMC — What are your daily memory habits?
EV — I wake up every day at 4:30 am. Then I do 10 minutes of meditation.
CMC — What kind of meditation do you do?
EV — Well, we can skip that if you prefer.
CMC — No, this is very interesting. Do you use beads to meditate or a meditative song?
EV — No, I just focus on my breathing and try not to think about anything. Then, I head downstairs to the computer and spend an average of 1 to 3 hours a day training my memory every weekday, a bit more during the weekends. And this is not something I feel is imposed on me, it is something I want to do. If I go 3 days without doing it, I won’t feel good about it as if I am out of shape.
CMC– So, your self-esteem is sort of tied to you being in top mental shape?
EV– Yea, and I am vegan too, you can mention that. And I jog 3 times per week.
CMC — How did you find the competition today?
EV– I was nervous. I found the event stressful. It never gets easy. I found my main opponent, Eric Li menacing.
CMC — Can I write that down too?
EV — Yes. I honestly don’t like memory competitions. I much prefer memory training at home. Competitions are too stressful, they’re a bit like school but now I am in College and I find it much more interesting. I much prefer memory training at home to memory competitions.
CMC — Ah! Your mom as just arrived to pick you up, you have to go, thanks for this interview.
EV– We can continue this online. Bie now.
Sept. 2/2018 –-Ezequiel Valenzuela, 17 years old, is the new 2018 Canadian Memory Champion. He led the pack after the first Memory Discipline and never looked back. He set 2 new Canadian Memory Records: One in Random Numbers (222) and the other at Speed Cards (56 sec.)
In second place came Eric Li, who also managed to finish first in Random Words.
In third place yesterday was Jim Gerwing, the Alberta Memory Champion, who won a tie braker with Jing Shi.
In the Junior Section, Joshua Parungao succeeded in edging one opponent to become the new Canadian Junior Memory Champion. (Ezequiel had requested to participate in the Adult Section)
In the Kid Section, Max Feng memorized 17 digits to take the title of 2018 Canadian Kid Memory Champion of Canada.
In the Open Section, Grand Master of Memory Johnny Briones won first place and set a new Canadian Open Section record at Random Words, memorizing 153 Words in 15 minutes.
In the end, we had a fun Mental Math Challenge, an addition, and Ten Wang finished first.
Congratulations to all the winners.
The 15 participants in one location that we had on Sept. 1 was also a record for us. Memory Sports are gaining in popularity.
More detailed results of the competion will be posted on Tuesday.
A big thank you for this event must go to The Trireme Academy and especially Allan Hernandez and his team for the venue, a gym, which really helped to help spread the idea that memory is something you can train and get better at just like any other sport discipline.
Also deserving a big thank is the board of the Canadian Memory Championships made up of dedicated volunteers and other volunteers who calculated the scores, brought refreshments, prepared Rewards, etc. Thanks John Tuyen, Sanja Vukosavljevic, Simon Luisi and Yang Tjew.
Thanks also to all the participants wzho helped make of this event the success that it was.
Journal de Montréal, 2 juillet 2016:
Un Montréalais champion canadien de la mémoire
Francis Blondin, Champion de la mémoire
Samedi, 2 juillet 2016 23:02 MISE à JOUR Samedi, 2 juillet 2016 23:02
Quand Francis Blondin fait l’épicerie, il n’a pas besoin d’une liste. Ce Montréalais qui peut retenir l’ordre d’un jeu de cartes mélangées en moins de deux minutes a été couronné champion canadien de la mémoire, samedi.
Le Championnat canadien de la mémoire s’est discrètement tenu dans une salle de cours de l’UQAM. Créée en 2012 à Toronto, la compétition avait eu lieu pour la première fois à Montréal cette année et a attiré une vingtaine de participants. Ce type de compétition, très peu connue chez nous, est très populaire en Europe et en Asie.
«Trier, tête, ciel, fil, astuce, détail, attendre.» Ces mots sans aucun lien entre eux, M. Blondin en a retenu 106. «J’ai fait quelques erreurs par contre et obtenu un score de 83 points», dit le vainqueur de l’épreuve.
À sa première participation, Valérie Grenon, qui s’est initiée à la discipline il y a trois mois, s’est fait remarquer en remportant l’épreuve des noms et visages.
«J’ai toujours aimé étudier alors quand j’ai entendu parler des concours, j’ai eu envie de me mettre au défi», dit la femme de 39 ans qui, lorsqu’elle ne s’exerce pas à se souvenir des chiffres et des lettres, travaille comme analyste en comptabilité dans une banque.
« Chut ! »
Une compétition de mémorisation n’est pas des plus dynamique à regarder, mais n’en est pas moins fascinante. Les épreuves se déroulent dans le plus grand silence. Les compétiteurs aguerris portent même des protège-oreilles dignes des travailleurs de la construction.
«C’est pour éviter toute distraction», a dit Darren Michalczuk, un professeur albertain qui a fait le voyage avec sa femme et ses trois enfants pour participer à l’événement.
«J’arrive à retenir jusqu’à 300 mots normalement, mais aujourd’hui j’étais stressé et je n’en ai retenu que 80 environ», a-t-il expliqué.
Pour avoir une bonne mémoire, tout est une question de pratique. «C’est comme s’entraîner à la course sauf que c’est un exercice mental», dit M. Blondin, qui est capable de nommer 2000 chiffres après la décimale du nombre pi.
Valérie Grenon qui en était à sa première compétition de mémoire s’est fait remarquer en terminant deuxième pour l’ensemble des épreuves.
«Un chiffre c’est ennuyant, mais quand on le transforme en image, ça devient amusant.»
Le secret est effectivement d’associer des mots ou une carte à un personnage, une action ou un objet. C’est la méthode dite PAO.
Par exemple, pour retenir l’ordre des cartes à jouer, Mme Grenon a associé le cinq de cœur à la lune; le trois de trèfle au capitaine Haddock; et une autre carte au whisky.
Plutôt que retenir une série de chiffres, on crée ainsi des images originales. «Ça semble compliqué, mais en fait c’est beaucoup plus facile à retenir», assure-t-elle.
«Quand on essaie d’enseigner des chiffres et des lettres à l’enfant, c’est abstrait et ennuyant, poursuit M. Michalczuk. Mais avec des histoires, ça change tout.»
Des épreuves pour la mémoire
Le participant doit retenir la plus grande série de chiffres dans le bon ordre après les avoir lus sur une feuille. Chaque feuille contient 25 rangées de 20 chiffres. Francis Blondin a remporté l’épreuve en retenant 130 chiffres en 5 minutes. Le champion du monde, l’Américain Alex Mullen, peut en mémoriser 550 en 5 minutes.
Noms et visages
Les participants regardent une série de photos en noir et blanc associées à des prénoms et noms.
Les noms sont ensuite retirés et ils ont 15 minutes pour les réécrire correctement à partir des photos uniquement. Valérie Grenon en a mémorisé 28.
Les mots aléatoires
Le participant a 15 minutes pour retenir le plus de mots possible sur les 400 qui sont répartis sur 4 feuilles. Il a ensuite 30 minutes pour les réécrire de mémoire sur une autre feuille. Les fautes d’orthographe font perdre des points. Francis Blondin a mémorisé 106 mots et obtenu un score de 83 points.
Carte à jouer
Le participant doit mémoriser l’ordre d’un jeu de 52 cartes. On lui remet ensuite un deuxième jeu de cartes qu’il doit replacer dans le même ordre que le premier en faisant appel à sa mémoire. Reuben Hosler a retenu samedi l’ordre d’un jeu de cartes en 1,19 minute.
Le champion du monde Alex Mullen peut retenir toutes les 52 cartes en 18,65 secondes.
Critique de la rédaction :
Très bel article par le journaliste présent, Annabelle Blais. Il n’y a vraiment qu’une seule erreur. Francis Blondin a mémoriser correctement 129 chiffres sur 130 mais une erreur lui a couté 10 points. Cette correction a été rapportée après la compétition. On doit aussi noter que Mr. Blondin est capable de mémoriser encore beaucoup plus de chiffres de pi que rapporter ci-haut.
La télévision québécoise parle du Championnat canadien de la mémoire!
Vendredi le 11 Mars dernier, l’émission “Deux hommes en or” à Télé-Québec a reçu Francis Blondin, un passionné de la mémoire, pour faire une démonstration et pour parler du Championnat canadien de la mémoire et des différentes techniques de mémorisation. Le segment a duré peut être visionné en ligne sur le site de l’émission, pour les gens au Québec seulement:
Note: Francis Blondin ici. Je suis en train de mettre sur pied un site Internet en français expliquant en détail comment s’y prendre pour mémoriser plus ou moins n’importe quoi. Le travail de recherche et de rédaction que cela implique m’accapare depuis beaucoup plus longtemps que prévu et je n’ai malheureusement toujours pas terminé. Je vous invite à revenir sur cette page plus tard si vous souhaitez le consulter. En attendant, les liens sur cette page sont honnêtement tous plus intéressants les uns que les autres: http://www.canadianmemorychampionships.ca/learn/ Si vous comprenez l’anglais ne serait-ce qu’un peu, vous avez une obligation morale et légale de regarder au moins les trois premiers.
June 19, 2015
WATERLOO REGION — He had five minutes to memorize the exact order of cards in a deck. Then, it took him just over two minutes to completely reorder a new deck the same way with no errors.
Greg Sutherland from St. Clements surpassed all previous Canadian records on last Sunday in Toronto at the fourth Canadian Memory Championship.
He set new records in both categories — speed cards and random words.
In speed cards, the contestant has five minutes to memorize the order of a randomly shuffled deck. They are then timed while rearranging a new deck in the same order.
“I picture them as people,” said Sutherland, who is embarking on a career as a financial adviser. “It’s easier to remember a face than it is to remember the card as a diamond.”
In random words, the contestant is given 15 minutes to memorize a multipage list of 400 words, most of which are short and well known. They have a 30-minute recall period where they must rewrite the words they remember and in their correct location on the list.
Sutherland beat his competitors in speed cards by more than one minute and received a winning 119 points in random words — seven points more than his competitor. The grand prize was $100.
“It was close. Good knowledge of the rules makes a difference,” said Simon Luisi, chair of the contest.
He said in some instances, contestants didn’t keep the rules of the competition in mind and lost points for avoidable mistakes. Leaving a blank space in the middle of a word list costs contestant 10 points.
The Canadian Memory Championship was introduced in 2012 to promote memory sports in the country, something that is practised all over the world.
Studies have shown the more you “work out” your brain with new, challenging exercises such as puzzles, games, playing an instrument or even making pottery, the better your memory gets.
“Creating smells, sounds and images in my head helps me remember for my exams,” said Sutherland.
He’s been practising memory techniques for more than a year now and says they’ve helped him study for school.
“Want to know something funny?” said Luisi. “After all that, he didn’t remember to claim his $100. I still have it in my pocket.”
Editors’ note: For the record, Greg did get his cash prize a few weeks later. Also, knowing the rules can indeed make a difference in a tight memory competition, especially the rules pertaining to the marking of Random Words’ last column.
Press Release for Immediate Release
June 9, 2015
Toronto– The Canadian Memory Championships is excited to announce the participation of a world renown memory athlete, Livan Grijalva, at this year’s competition to be held Sunday, June 14th at Metro Hall.
The Open Competition of the Canadian Memory Championships welcomes competitors from all over the world. Livan Grijalva, the US’s Memory Sportsman of the Year, will once again participate in this competition.
In the Canadian Only section, we’ll be expecting a small contingent of French Memory Athletes coming from Quebec along with a memory athlete from Vancouver. We will have a larger room this year due to a marked increase in the number of participants. Given the quality of the contestants we’re expecting, possibly all current Canadian Memory Championships Records could fall at this event.
Memory Championships have been gaining in popularity since the recent best-selling book, Moonwalking with Einstein.
The competition will consist of 2 Categories: Speed Cards and Random Words.
This year’s Canadian Memory Champion will receive a cash prize of $100.00.
The registration for contestants is still open but there are very few seats left available.
Spectators do not need to register.
Please contact: 647-885-2514
Date: Sunday, June 14, 2015
Place: Metro Hall, 55 John Street, Room 308-309, Toronto
Time: 2:00—5:00 pm
Sections: Adults, Juniors, and Kids
Press Release for Immediate Release
May 6, 2014
Toronto— The Canadian Memory Championships is excited to announce the participation of a world renown memory athlete, Livan Grijalva in this year’s competition to be held June 8th.
The Open Competition of the Canadian Memory Championships welcomes competitors from all over the world. For the first time in Canadian history, it will be possible to observe elite memory athletes accomplishing astonishing memory feats such as: memorizing a shuffled deck of playing cards in under 2 minutes as well as memorizing a list or more than 100 random words in 15 minutes.
The Canadian only section will feature last year’s second place winner, Arnov Rahman, as well as memory contender, John Tuyen.
Memory Championships have been gaining in popularity ever since the first ever event in London, England in 1999. Memory Championships have gained even more popularity with the recent best-selling book, Moonwalking with Einstein.
The competition will consist of 2 Categories: Speed Cards and Random Words.
This year’s Canadian Champion will receive a cash prize of $50.00.
Registration for the competition is still open but it is limited.
Please contact: 647-885-2514
Date: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Place: Metro Hall, 55 John Street, Room 310, Toronto
Time: 2:00—5:00 pm
Sections: Adults, Juniors, and Kids
Press Release for Immediate Release
April 24, 2014
Toronto— Mental Athletes Square Off in Nationwide Memory Competition —Toronto will play host to the 3rd Annual Canadian Memory Championships, open to participants and spectators of all ages. Memory Championships have been gaining in popularity ever since Tony Buzan and Raymond Dennis Keene OBE, co-founded and hosted the first ever event in London, England in 1991. At that event spectators, journalists and news crews watched as participants were given 15 minutes to memorize a one-thousand-digit number, with Dominic O’Brien eventually winning with the perfect memorization of 266 numbers, backwards and forwards. Now the Canadian Memory Championships will be held again in Toronto.
Memory Championships became even more main stream with the recent best selling book, Moonwalking with Einstein, a biographical account of Science writer Joshua Foer’s explorations in memory work, and his eventual rise to become the United States Memory Champion in 2006.
The first Canadian Memory Championship was won by Angel Yuen Man Lai who memorized 79 random words, and a shuffled deck of cards in three minutes and 35 seconds, both in perfect order. The second Canadian Memory Championships was won by Peter Dornan, a recent graduate of the University of Toronto. Organizer, Simon Luisi who started and continues to host Memorize Toronto, says “The popularity of memory sports is growing steadily in Canada. We now have a record number of pre-registered contestants. I’m expecting that this year’s competition will establish new Canadian memory records in both Random Words and Speed Cards.”
This year’s Championship promises to be even more exciting as competitors from across Canada are invited to take place in this half-day event to test their memories. The competition will consist of 2 categories: Speed Cards and Random Words. Joshua Foer, past U. S. Memory Champion, says of memory, “…our lives are the sum of our memories. How much are we willing to lose from our already short lives by loosing ourselves in our BlackBerrys, our iphones?…If you want to live a memorable life you have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember.”
This year’s Canadian Champion will receive a cash prize of $50.00
Event Details: Sunday, June 8, 2014 Metro Hall, 55 John Street. Room 310 2:00—5:00 pm
Media contacts: Simon Luisi 647-885-2514 or firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.canadianmemorychampionships.ca
Registration for the competition is still open but it is limited. Please contact: 647-885-2514
Press Release for Immediate Release
November 27, 2013
Provincial Memory Championships 2014: The Canadian Memory Championships expands across Canada
Toronto— Participate in your own province’s provincial memory Championships! The Canadian Memory Championships has begun organizing Provincial Memory Championships to allow everyone across Canada to participate in a recognized memory competition. The memory competitions will apply uniformed qualifying standards and with contestants able to host nationally recognized championships in their respected Provinces or Territories.
The Provincial Memory Championships consist of one memory test: Speed Cards.
The first Provincial Memory Championship of 2014 will take place this January. Registration for this monthly competition will begin December 1, 2013. In January, this competition is for residents of the Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
In order to participate in the Provincial Memory Contest, a contestant needs to qualify 3 persons to act as the contestant’s judges and to hold the event in any publicly accessible venue.
The second Provincial Memory Championship of 2014 will be held in February in British Columbia. This competition is for residents of British Columbia. Registration for this event begins January 1, 2014.
Kids and junior levels are also welcome to participate in any of these competitions!
For more information please consult the arbiter’s guidelines which will be provided upon request. Guidelines will also be posted shortly on the CMC website.
For further details email: email@example.com
Sunday June 10, 2012
Madhavi Acharya- Tom Yew Staff Reporter/Toronto Star
Can you memorize a list of 100 random words and then recall them in perfect order? How about memorizing the order of a shuffled deck of cards in three minutes and 35 seconds?
Angel Yuen Man Lai can — and that’s what makes her Canada’s first-ever memory champion.
“I saw a person memorize a deck of cards and I said, ‘That’s really interesting. If a normal person can do that, maybe I could do that, too,’” Lai said, recalling what first sparked her interest in the activity several years ago. Now she practises for one hour a day, memorizing five shuffled decks of cards at a time, and lists of dozens of random words.
The fledgling Canadian Memory Championship drew a handful of serious competitors and a small audience of curious onlookers to Metro Hall on Sunday afternoon. Lai, whose family immigrated to Canada when she was 10, now lives in Hong Kong, where she teaches memory techniques.
She took home a trophy, $50 in cash — and bragging rights. Though the so-called mental sport is in its infancy in Canada, memory competitions are held throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Organizer Simon Luisi started Memorize Toronto and decided that Canada needs its own championship event. “People are not using their brains to their full capacity. We could be doing much more,” Luisi said.
Andy Fong, an International Grandmaster of Memory from Hong Kong, impressed the crowd by recalling the exact page and entry number for words in his dictionary. The Canadian contestants had five minutes to memorize the order of the cards. Then they had five minutes to put another deck of cards in the same order.
Then the competitors had 15 minutes to memorize a list of 100 random words, and 30 minutes to write them out in the correct order. The event was sponsored by Dave Farrow, a two-time Guinness Record holder for Greatest Memory. (He memorized 59 decks of cards.) “We really want to banish the idea that a good memory is something that you’re born with. We believe it’s a skill and we’ve been able to demonstrate that,” said Farrow.
“You don’t have to memorize a deck of cards. We just want to show what’s possible. You could use these skills if you want to learn a new language or learn how to play the guitar.” Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and dyslexia in high school, Farrow studied memory techniques and came up with his own in order to get to through school. Memory training has become his life’s work. Farrow delivers corporate presentations and sells DVDs on how to improve your memory.
“You don’t have to wake up in the morning and do your memory push-ups. It’s a few simple techniques,” Farrow said. One is visualizing a little story to connect a list of random words.
Hunting for lost keys, or struggling to remember what’s on the grocery list that you left at home? Ask yourself other questions you know the answer to: how many keys are on the chain? Where were you sitting when you made the list? That will help you get around the mental block that’s preventing you from remembering, Farrow said.
Memory has become a hot topic, with scientific research now suggesting that memory training and so-called brain games, such as Sudoku, can help keep the mind sharp in old age. It’s become a preoccupation as Alzheimer’s and dementia sweep across the elderly population in North America.
At the same time, technology holds out the promise of having to remember less. Why remember that phone number when your Smartphone can store it — along with thousands of others — and call it up instantly? “We’re becoming very good at learning how to find information, but we’re getting worse at remembering the information ourselves,” Farrow said.
International Grandmaster of Memory Andy Fong’s feats include the ability to memorize:
• 200 random numbers in five minutes
• 1,230 random numbers in one hour
• 13 decks of cards in one hour
• 1 deck of cards in 74 seconds
Editor’s comment: this news article was not accurate in one fact. Angel memorized 79 words not 100.