Welcome to another edition of Divine Warrior Ninjutsu podcast. I am Dai-Shihan Jason Steeves. This is December 2020. What a year, so far. Today, we’ll be talking to Anthony Metivier who is a memory expert. Since we’ve been— at least to my students, talking about memory this month. I think the ability to memorize things in Ninjutsu is very important. It can help you to memorize passwords, codes, people’s faces, crime scenes, just anything possible that you can think of. Why would you not want to be able to memorize things quickly. So, without further ado. We’re going to get to it with Anthony Metivier and hopefully you can gain some inside information that could help you out in your Ninjutsu journey. Here we go! So, tell us about yourself. Who are you and how did you get interested with memory techniques?
Well, I’m someone who is actually trying to eliminate myself, so to speak. So I’ve got this long memory term project, where I’m using memory techniques to see if there is such a thing as the ego and can we get rid of it? And so, that all starts with having learned memory techniques in the first place and practicing them with meditation over the years. And so, because I had several years of success in helping people use memory techniques for language learning. When I started to learn about certain memory or meditation techniques that involve using Sanskrit to more or less neutralize thinking then I knew that the game was on because it turns out there’s a whole tradition memorizing lots of Sanskrit that is specifically designed to counteract the mind or neutralize thought. So, I’m no one. So far so good, I mean I still have a sense of self but it is greatly reduced. Which is something that I never thought was possible.
That’s fine because we just studied meditation just before coming to memorization.
I had no idea that there will be a connection but that’s interesting.
Yeah, I wrote a whole book about it called “The Victorious Mind” which is really going to be sort of part one of a longer meditation, so to speak on the connection between memory and meditation. I think that it’s probably for a lot people the key that can really improve their meditation practice and for people who are struggling with memory techniques, meditation is the key that can really improve their ability to use the memory techniques because some of people are so frightened they can’t pay attention for long enough to even learn a memory system. Let alone, start to execute it.
That’s right, yeah. Well that’s interesting. I’d never really realized the correlations. Your book that you just mentioned “The Victorious Minds” is that out now?
Yeah, yeah. It’s been out since May 2020.
Oh yeah, okay. Good, I actually might look in to that myself. I’m really getting in to the memorization. I see a lot of practice for and I’m like I need to sit down and devote some time to study this and to learn it and figure it out so, yes! Any material I can get my hands on usually. So, “The Victorious Mind” you’re talking about on my reading list for sure. So, how many different memory methods are there? Let’s go with that.
That’s a good question. I think that if we we’re to boil it down to a simple answer, it would be that there’s just one and it’s the technique you’re using in order to accomplish a goal. Now, to make that a little bit more complicated, what I would encourage a lot people to just understand from the get-go is that memory is spatial in nature. There is something about memory that is spatial and that means that anything that you think about is spatial even if it’s just in relation to time. So, we’re thinking about it now or we’re calling it to memory now and that will take place in a space and it’s taking place in space in your brain cells. So, the technique that maximizes the most is called the memory palace. Although, you might hear it called roman room, journey method or apartments with compartments, like there is many, many ways that people talk about it but what they are referring to is taking some sort of spot in a room or a long street that is in your mind and then weaving it together with an association and something you don’t know. So, if it was a name like Jason, I would be thinking instantly, you know like, Jack in a Box restaurant and Jason Newsted from Metallica. Because now I’m taking a space association and a pop culture association and I’ve now linked them to you and that is out in the world but where is the world? The world is in my brain. Right? In the brain cells. There’s actually dendritic spines on the neurons and so. Here you go that’s a more complicated answer but it’s weaving together everything exterior in an interior way in that moment and it is just that one technique and some people would do this purely associatively. They won’t think they are using space but they technically are and all our people then forget but is you place things in your memory palaces like Jack in a Box restaurant then you have a place to refer to revisit that information. Which then means that you have the opportunity to repeat it. Which then means you can get it into long term memory. So, then we can go on and list many, many other variations on this theme and whether that can’t frustrate a lot of learners is they’ll hear about the Dominic system, they’ll hear about the Ben system, they’ll hear about the shadow, they’ll hear about pegs. There’s peg list, peg words, alphabet list and then there’s the major system and just goes on and on and on and on and on but I believe that for most people, I release as I like to teach it. We start with space because every other thing is going to harness the spatial nature of information, one way or another.
You mentioned memory palaces which I’m familiar with but then I heard you briefly mentioned walking down the street, that’s a type of memory palace so that’s new. I haven’t heard of that one. So, would you be using golems along the street the same way as using the memory palace?
It would depend on how you said it up. So, this where a lot of people use the term the journey method. The journey sounds something like you would do outside. Although when Dominic O’brien teaches the journey method he will talk about rooms and outdoor locations but the reality is that what matters is not what you’re using. What matters is how you strategized the journey so that you’re not really drawing upon much if any mental energy. So, one of the easiest ways to make a journey is take a room and use the four corners. Now, that’s not much space to use but at least it’s no brainer, you don’t have to think about it. You’re not giving yourself a huge cognitive load and it just go from corner one to two to three to four and you have to decide from which corner, right? And so to optimize it, pick the corner that is, can lead you to the exit. As supposed to starting to the entrance or exit, this can lead you to a dead end self towards the exit so then you can add more and then you’re journeying through America. So, you’re doing it in you’re mind but it is all too abstract for people I always recommend that they draw it out by hand so that it could help you see what you are doing and strategize it because otherwise, it’s not really a memory palace if you have to memorized it, right? It’s the decision parameters that removed having to think about what the journey is it’s just like corner made of wall, the next corner, the next wall etcetera now you got four places but eight places in a room because you have corner, wall, corner, wall , corner, wall, corner, wall. If you really want, you can use the floor and the ceiling and then you got ten and that is classically called the bond cube, which is just a kind of arrangement that the bond, formalize. So again, it’s the same thing but a new name. So, there’s potentially infinite numbers of memory techniques and that’s why I said there’s only one which is the one that you use. So, if you school and train yourself then that’s effectively all that matters since you build your own system.
So yes, we talked a few times about the memory palace and I know, I basically understand what this is but if someone who is listening or doesn’t know quite what this is, could you maybe really quickly in a nutshell explain how that works.
Yeah, I apologize, I am so into it that I—
I forget, so to speak. It is a mental recreation of a location but ideally it’s not that you’re spending energy on creating it. It’s just that you spend the energy on strategizing it. So if we say, I want to memorize ten words and we want to use memory palace then we’re just going to think what’s the best possible location to use and says the room that you’re in now and I’m just going to look in that room and I’m going to make a mental recreation in my mind of that room and I’m going to then use it to place associations. So, a memory palace is a mental recreation in which we place associations that help us remember information we don’t know and you could think of an analogy like a canvas is a blank space that a painter uses to use paint on to represent images and in this case we’re using the canvas of a room or an outside walk that we like to use paint and so again like Jason Newsted would be my paint to help remember your name and the Jack in a Box restaurant would be the canvas and so if you think about Mona Lisa something instantly comes to mind. Why? Because somebody created a little memory palace there which is a canvas that has a portrait of a woman. So, that’s it. Even if you don’t see it in your mind, you still have that sort of reference. So, that’s essentially what we’re doing. It’s placing things in our mind based on real locations or imaginary ones and then suiting them up or placing things in them strategically so we can remember what it is the we want and you can memorize pretty much anything. So, I could sit here for the next half an hour and recite a hundred lines of Sanskrit and some it them is here (Sanskrit). There’s Chet from the hardy boys. There’s my friend Tam, I actually know a guy named Tam, for (Sanskrit). Maha is a cement company I don’t know if you know that company. (Sanskrit). Homer Simpsons he goes “doe!” all the time “doe” and a shammy, so he is saying that while he is washing a car and that’s how I memorize that Sanskrit. It’s just hanging right there, right now.
I can almost see it actually. I can imagine it as you’re saying it so, yeah and Jason Newsted is a great analogy too because I love Metallica myself so.
Yeah, yeah. He is a pretty memorable guy that’s for sure. That’s part of the strategy, right? Because you pick things that are already memorable. You already had remembered them so you’re reducing all the work, right? Now, some people may say I’m not creative, I’m not imaginative and all that certain stuff and in the reality is nobody is in the beginning. I was very rusty and if I take off time and I don’t practice, I’ll get rusty again. Just like any bike chain in the world. So, the beauty of this is to treat like a martial art of the mind. Show up and make sure that you’re well-oiled so that you can execute the moves when you needed to and that’s the beautiful thing about it but anything that comes in to useful fade when you don’t come to use it. So, everybody’s worried. Oh that guy he just thinks a lot and Jason Newsted comes to mind faster. Whatever, It’s not true, it’s just a practice but everybody has more pop culture junk in there head than necessary and the way we do it is actually to not even really think about the pop junk, the pop culture stuff first but just think about the letter, right? Everyone has the alphabet in their head it’s free you know? A B C D E F G H I J oh J! right? Okay, who else has J? Well, you know and if you really think about it, you could probably think. Yeah, I do have an Uncle John or you know whatever and you could think about their house and you could just get out a piece of paper write out lots of J’s, Jughead from Archie comics and Felicity Jones. I don’t even know who that is but somehow she’s in movies these days and you know what there’s endless names that we just have access to and that’s how you do it and you just practice it, it will feel rusty in the beginning and it may feel rusty again if you take a pause but you can just build up to it and you can get faster and faster and I’m not particularly fast. I’m just you know practice into a sufficient degree that I can use it.
So, if taking of what you are just talking about back then, if you’re a…say like a government agent and your job was to maybe if you didn’t have a notepad with you or something and you have a very brief amount of time and you have to study a crime scene or maybe someone’s face because you only saw them for a second. How would you memorize those type of things?
Well’ I believe agents are taught some of these techniques.
I think so.
When it comes to faces, that’s a little bit different so, if I wanted to have a much more clearer idea of what your face was later, I would pay very, very close attention to the nose and to the eyes. The reason why is they say in a lot of neuro-scientific studies is that the brain actually tracks the shape quite closely and this shape so they teach a lot just focusing on those things and you can’t even think about like numbers. So, the nose has seven in it and just kind of like the painting with a brush over those things in those shapes and I can help get you a better sense of a face also, for details. If you go from top to bottom and you force yourself to think about four things not a hundred things but just four things so mustache, blue shirt, I can’t see the rest of you but we’ll just go with like black ear buds and there was white marking so those are four details, right? And if you treat the body as this kind of memory palace, right? And you think very specifically, okay so there’s mustache and the blue shirt and the white and the black ear buds and you think of them where they are relative to this shapes that you are already focused on, you’re going to remember them a lot better. Actually, I had a situation. A friend of mine before the lockdown, it was almost a year ago now, In December he came visited me in Brisbane and one night we went out the building, we were getting in an uber and there was this drunk guy in front of our building, basically hassling some young women for cigarettes or whatever. He had an empty cigarette box and he was just being strange so I called the police and I was in the uber we’re driving away, and I was telling the police, we’re driving away but the guy he had widows peak, his hair is brown and I don’t remember now what all the other details but I’ve told them about his shirt, I’ve named the cigarette package, and what his shoes were like and everybody in the van was looking at me like, what the heck? You remembered all that stuff? And the police was like, how did you remember all of this? And I was like, well I do memory training but I just bidded deliberate things to look at four details about this guy and those are the ones that I picked and the police were like, thank you, we’ll come by and I’m sure they had an easier time finding him. He wouldn’t be hard to find anyway because he is being boisterous and destructive but you know that’s how those people do that. That’s part of the training as far as I understand and I was a stored detective for quite some time and that’s where I picked up some of these techniques because you do have to report to the police and you have to be a little bit more specific and then, he was a guy.
Yes, I think I was reading something about when it comes to people, everybody is average. So, when the police says, what did he looked like? Well, He is average height, average build, average this, average that and that doesn’t help them one bit then a very specific information that most people totally missing.
Yeah, yeah and instantly that four details exercise is just a great brain exercise, it’s a great habit to get in to a couple times a day and to start to get some you know it’s going to be very modest memory games but what you do is you make appointed effort. Say, you’re going for your morning coffee and you pick one person you notice four details, two to three hour later just bring to mind, what those details were and it’s called passive memory training.
Now, we just store those from the memory palace or maybe not bother?
Well, if you want to make it active then you would use some sort of memory palace techniques which is going more for gold but for people who just want to get started and don’t want to you know put up a bunch of stress on it, not that there is but you know. It feels like these days you got to have like endless overwhelm caveats for everything but if you have a person in your family who is starting to show signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia and you’re looking for something for them to do and you don’t want to throw away like memory training at them just the four details exercise has been shown in studies to help get back some basic abilities and it is called passive memory close to active, more active would be, alright I saw this person, there’s four details and I’m going to project them into a wall you know something that helps me remember the color blue or I’m going to place in his body you know I’m just thinking of some song, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue whatever I can’t remember what the song was and that’s a weird thing about memory, you often remember what your associations are but you remember bit enough that it works but in any case you would make a deliberate effort to turn the body into space and in the case of the handle like a mustache like yours, I might think of Hulk Hogan for example because it sort of a similar shape or whatever.
I actually took mine from James Hetfield from Metallica but I like Hulk Hogan too growing up.
Well, that’s an issue there and I pointed that out because that is part of what this technique is, right? I might want to remember the detail like oh, Jason corrected me, it wasn’t a Hulk Hogan mustache, it was a Hetfield mustache, right? And then I clearly mentioned to H so now we’ve got more tools. We’ve got Hetfield, we got Hogan you know and on and on and on and the more you play these games in your mind, the stronger you get at association.
So, now that if you’ve memorized something, how long can you anticipate to sustain your memory? Like, Is it for life? Once it get in there permanently?
Well, life is a long time. I think the better way to answer that question is, what is the strategy, what is the need, what is the goal and then you use the techniques in order to create that goal. For example, I do for the lockdowns anyway, I do a lot of public presentations and I memorize all the names of the people. Now, technically I only need to know those names for a demonstration and if I don’t follow up with certain techniques then I won’t remember them after the presentation. So, while I’m memorizing the names, then I go on a recital of the names and everybody was like, wow! That’s one level of strategy but what I really like and what really blows people’s minds and I saw a guy not too long ago named Simon, who I met at a meeting and I, “Hey, Is your name Simon?” and he was like “Yeah, who are you?” and I said “Do you remember two years ago, we met at a meeting” and he is like [stuttering] “I’m the memory guy” and he is like, “Oh! Wow your stuff really works ” but the thing is I didn’t just do the meetings technique, I later, for a couple of days, I revisited all of those names sequentially and I used certain patterns and the patterns get into a long term memory but there is no guarantee that I’m going to remember Simon fifty years from now. Although, if every couple months or once a year, I go through those patterns then I greatly increase the chances that I will remember it, year after a year after a year. So, one kind of handy thing is just keep business cards so that you can review them later but you don’t review them by looking at your business cards. You review them by writing the names down. So, because I teach this and I do really care about people and want to be able to do this. Every so often I go through my memory journal and I’ll just write down the names from all the presentation that I’ve give in and then I’ll go and look at the business cards and give myself a score and so far I’ve lived in Brisbane for four years and my score is 99.9% and I forgot one name and it was actually while I was explaining this and I was just like, why can’t I remember this one person’s name? And then I have to go, that’s a great exercise, in and out of itself and then you reflect and you “Oh right, Katrina, that’s what it was” then you think, well obviously hurricane Katrina is not strong enough in the association so what else am I going to put in there in anything about you know Kate from a certain Shakespeare play but no, that’s too abstract then you go on and on and on and on but anyway to repeat the direction of the answer to the question. What is the goal and then you build the strategy and for language learning it would be different, It would look different than names for the rest of your life. There, we can talk about that but it really just a pint but there’s nothing forever and I don’t think there’s anything for life but I think you’d get close to it for life and then we’d just be having the strategy to do it.
I see then, you revisit them once in a while. To oil the chain to use a metaphor.
Like, for another example I have a word now a hundred versus a Sanskrit. I recite them everyday. I’ve been reciting them everyday for a couple of years but I have a feeling that if I stopped and it might be an interesting experiment, I’m not willing to do it but it’d be interesting to like let a year go by and see what my accuracy would be after a year because several years of recitation if we’ll have forgotten. You know speaking of Metallica, there’s lots of funny videos on the internet, where they forget the lyrics of their own song you know and inserting some other random stuff.
I think I’ve seen those videos.
They played thousands of concerts. I mean, I saw some crazy numbers, I didn’t memorized what the number was but it was something like that they played enter sandman, you know a hundred thousand times or something like this and there’s still lovely mistakes from the lyrics from time to time.
We go through progression towards literally perfectionism and perfectionist aren’t even good at perfection so take what you can get. It’s a martial art right? You’re going to get a smack once in a while. It’s just the way that it goes.
Yep, yep. So, not that I anticipated this happening to me but is it possible to lock a memory away so that under coercion in some way maybe hypnosis or truth serum. Can someone get it out of you?
I believe there are people who have died under the rest but I don’t know their secrets and it could be any number of explanations that have allowed them to keep that under the rest and I don’t know, we would want to explore all those explanations but you can imagine that the brain, I mean people think that they exist, they think that they have a solid stable identity and personality and all that certain stuff but everything that’s happening to you and yourself sense of awareness is the production of positive and negative ions flowing through synapses and all kind of other brain processes so if you’re being water boarded or all this. I think the last thing you’re thinking about is you know, what special technique am I going to use to protect the secret. Whatever happens in those situations that allows those people to keep their secrets and others not? I don’t know, it is an interesting question but.
Maybe it falls outside of the scope of this.
Yeah and we’d almost want a specific example to really think it through and just ask a person you just maybe successfully done it, what happened? And I bet their answer would surprise us. It wouldn’t necessarily be what we think and you know we do have a kind of a case study in a way. Giordano Bruno, who wrote many of the books in the 1500’s that we still refer to until this day to improve our memory practice. He was burned at the stake and he was in under serious duress and if you read his interrogation because those guys documented everything. You can read, how he answered questions and so forth. It might give you a different perspective on the nature of the question and maybe potential answer because in a way, he did kept his secrets and he basically told them when they sentenced him to death, he said “ You fear the outcome more than I do” So, you know that was his last row in a way and I’m not sure they understood what he meant but I certainly do, or I feel I do.
Yep, so I know we talked about a few...related to this next question but what are some practical reasons for enhancing your memories like I know seminars and stuff but I think maybe what I’m asking is maybe as a professional rather than secret agent, what benefits could you use to apply it to your job. I guess your career.
Well, the practical benefit. Is it really career? I think it’s the quality of life. So for example, for whatever reason people aren’t future oriented but wouldn’t you want to be your best possible self as grandpa or grandma? Totally capable of enjoying the present moment with your grandchildren and imparting to them the wisdom of your ages, your age rather, whatever, your era with clarity, with precision and in a way that made an impact so that you know they’re enjoying you and you’re enjoying them. That’s the ultimate practical thing then professionally, it’s the same thing, wouldn’t you want to be totally present with each and every customers, every employee, every potential partners with your business and totally focused on them, being able to track the details and everything so that you can execute efficiently later and effectively, I mean the practical benefits are massive and they will help fend off dementia and Alzheimer’s just by practicing it and you’ll have a great career that exceeds what, to use that word from before, the average person would have, right? And yeah it just like every possible advantage comes from this. Both in the short median and for long term and of course, if you’re a student then you’re going to perform better on exams and that’s going to translate on your career as well. So, daily practice, I recommend for everybody.
Yep, I’m interested in learning Japanese myself and I think a lot of people listening are too just because of the nature but I noticed on one of your videos too that you were talking about “ta” the hiragana for “ta” and I’ve learned hiragana too but I kind of just use the same method like what those look like and it helps me to remind myself what it is but as far as other words in kanji and I have a hard time learning the vocabulary of the Japanese so I noticed on your website, you mentioned applying this to language learning so, how can I use this for Japanese?
Well, it’s very fun and so easy. I mean I abandoned Japanese because I met somebody and then I wound up going, well, actually I went to China and then I met somebody and then I got into Chinese, I was invited to teach memory in China and so I’m more familiar with the hanzi but it’s sort of the same in some sense so when we think about characters what we’re thinking about is really characters, we’re thinking about sound, we’re thinking about meaning and we may be thinking about.. I don’t know the extent to which tonality place in Japanese, I don’t think it’s as inflicted as Chinese but there may be some tonal things like pronunciation and why not and then we’ve got to think also about the fact that this is going to be combined somehow because here you’ve got hiragana, katakana and kanji in your case and that’ll be multiple readings sometimes of these different displays, so that’s going to be a challenge and so where do you start? Well, I would start by learning memory techniques first and foremost and then you’re going to want to as you mentioned, you’re going to want to think, can I use imagery to help with something like “ta” or “ka” whatever it is, right? And then you get dire critical marks, what are you going to do with that? Right? Well, you’re going to need to say, am I in with the memory techniques or not? And then if you are, you learn that everything that exists in space can be related to in an associative way in space so if you’re just with the hiragana then you know, build a memory palace that’s a bit bigger than you need because there are dire critical marks etcetera and you don’t know if everything’s going to fit so I would go for sixty stations or so in one memory palace not what we were talking about before although you can certainly start with just a four, just the first four hiragana for example and you then start and you know you’re going to think, well, how am I going to do this and in my case I’m thinking about one guy that I can follow all the way through and I thought of Ezra Pound why did Ezra Pound had some, spend some time with Japanese studies and so he just sort of came in to mind and so now, following him, I see him with you know, “A” so he’s kind of making like an “ A” sound and you got to figure out why he’s doing that, he’s going to make an “E” sound so why is he doing that and I remember seeing eels jumping out of his mouth and you know “U” why is he doing an “U” well, he got this cane and he is leaning over in the cane that actually looks like that, right? If memory serves then we go on and we’ve got the “Ka” right? So, what’s it doing? Now, as your pound is wearing a superman suit because “Ka” is Kal-El, right? I hope this is right, I haven’t done the hiragana for a long time but I think there’s a “Ka” and it kind of looks like this and then there’s a little thing like this and so is Kal-el, superman’s name I think or his Dad was Kal-el, whatever.
His Dad was Jor-El.
Jor-El yeah, yeah okay good. Memory works so superman banding these things while the bees are attacking him which is kind of like this rail that he’s banding with the bees is kind of like this “Ka” hiragana character, right? And you just follow and you get to “Ta” now, Ezra Pound has machine guns, right? Like TA-TA-TA-TA-TA-TA-TA on and on and on, “Mu” or “Ma” and all this stuff, right? Okay, so now we’ve got dire critical marks to add, right? So, we can take the “Ka” so how are we going to change it because I think dire critical changes makes it into a “Ga” sound if memory serves. So now, who is one of superman’s enemies that starts with G, right? And then maybe you don’t find somebody, right? But then you could think, oh well I don’t know, Gad or Gal is her name who played wonder woman something like that, Gal.
Gal Gadot or something.
Yeah, Gal Gadot, I was stretching for her last name there but that could be a pathway. Anyway, now that’s pretty simple stuff for hiragana, now you’re going to get to this like really wild characters, right? Well, there is the same thing but it’s just a little bit more elaborate and one thing that people can do is read Hisek and get some general idea from him but the thing that Hisek is missing is a couple of things, he’s not teaching you about the association, he’s not teaching you like, how would you use the alphabet like I’ve been doing to just dig in to all kinds of potential associations that you could make and there is no memory palace and there’s not really any kind of recall strategy so you can get in to a long term memory, so I still think his work is really valuable and great but I think you’ll benefit by adding these things that we’re talking to and no matter how elaborate that character is it’s going to be built from other characters and it may have clues. Now, I refer here more to what I know of Chinese than Japanese now but there will be sometimes a sound component in a character and that will sometimes be a meaning component and there may be just some other sort of other formal component that can give you clues and so when you learn how to even just see those components you’re going to start to develop pattern recognition, oh this character must’ve something to do with X, right? And then you might even be own your educated guesses about how it should sound. It’s not bulletproof but it’s just a certain strategy and then you can think, well maybe if I organized some of these characters in a memory palace, I can make it very efficient and effective reading figure who I follow around and get more mileage out of it. So the price to pay there is that every person has their own language learning journey and so you have to figure out which characters you’re going to learn, when you’re going to learn based on your interests, what you’re trying to achieve but there is a way and these memory techniques can help.
So, that relates to the characters, I’m not so bad but I have difficulty really with vocabulary. It’s important. I learned a bunch of words but the next day I forget them so, how would you tackle like Japanese vocabulary as opposed to the characters?
Okay well, if you are just doing oral learning which is not a bad idea at the beginning like some people recommend up to two years just with romaji or transliterated spelling or pin yin as it’s called in Chinese. It’s sort of the same process minus the characters or minus the hiragana so I mentioned you know “Ka” right? Well maybe it’s not a word but what if it was a word, I don’t know, do you have any Japanese word in mind? Like muzukashikunai or something.
Well, “Ka” is fire so it can be fire.
Oh okay, I was just thinking I think it is muzukashikunai or muzukashkunai which I think can also be in Japanese pronounced as muzukashii janai. Anyway, I don’t know Japanese but from what I understand muzukashikanai is something like it’s not difficult, right? So, it’s got that “Ka” thing there maybe it’s got relationship to the fire, I don’t know and I don’t know if I’m saying that correctly I just learned that from one of my students who is learning Japanese and it’s just like, I’ve never forgotten it because I’ve created imagery for it and I hope I’m getting there somewhere but I remember telling it to somebody, no, no it’s muzukashii janai. Anyway, I don’t know maybe that’s a regional thing or a use thing, a grammar thing but if we were to say it’s not that difficult and it is muzukashikunai, now we just got more, we need more imagery and so, same corner actually it was that corner which you can’t see represented on your screen and there’s also Sanskrit in that corner so that answers that question, can you memorize vocabulary with this, absolutely but there I have something like Cow, Moo and Johnny Cash and I had another Cow witch is a little bit confusing because in German, kuh is cow so I had like cow, Johnny Cash, cow then muzukashikunai, oh I think had a Chinese cow there too, because niunai is Chinese for milk. Anyway, to the extent that I remember that correctly, it works and you may notice that there are…I wouldn’t call them pitfalls but there can be points of confusion where like okay so you got two cows and three languages in the same place and then you know sometimes it’ll come back and you’ll just, you’ll puzzle yourself but if you do the actual work and you get it in to launch a memory through the re-visitation, the imagery actually goes away and as you’ve seen today I can’t even remember sometimes, what these associations were and it doesn’t really matter as long as you have that core material and you know, later today I’ll go and ask my student, what was it again? What was muzukashikunai? And he’ll say yeah or nay. It does work very, very effectively and that’s how you would do it and now, how do I remember that it means, it’s not difficult and there Johnny Cash has to be doing something and what he is doing, I don’t remember what it was but if I had to do it again, he’s having a very easy time milking those cows and it would be at a zoo, I remember a “Zu” and it might be that zoo station from U2 so, now Bono who is the epitome of ease and relaxation, you know maybe having a difficult time with these image and he’s learning how to milk cows much easier from Johnny Cash, you know who maybe was not so cool and relaxed all the time or so legend tells. Does that help make it clear?
Yes, yes I think so. I know sometimes that there are a…like a championships where people race to timer to memorize things or a deck of cards. I was interested to know if the timer would introduce an element of stress that would be problematic.
It does, I competed with Dave Farrow in the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto and we don’t only have timers but there were cameras on us documenting the competition and this was the first time I ever competed and that added levels of distractions that I had never anticipated because not only had I ever competed but I never even practiced to compete but I still did have as well and he got two Guinness world records for cards so, I mean it is only half as well but it’s still is a testament to what’s possible but yeah that’s stress and I would recommend that people would give it a go but one way to do it without a timer is to memorize it with a metronome, right?
Because, you do want to I mean if you want the skill to scale because you know, when I first memorized that muzukashikunai thing, you know it was just within seconds and part of that comes from practicing doing it fast to come up with an imagery and it’s got that kind of bullet time feeling so when I competed with Dave Farrow, we have two minutes and in that two minutes it feels like eternity and you are slowing down time and yeah I mean I didn’t even begin to think about practice, I had done some card practice in café’s and I would put on heavy metal and I would practice and I would practice on trains and you know add these levels add distractions and that does help and also when you are memorizing rooms of names, people aren't necessarily paying attention to you while you’re doing it. I’ve done it in bars where there’s music on and while I practice with music playing just so that I can deal with distractions but yeah, it adds stress but you also as in a martial art you just need strategies for being able to relax yourself and calm down and just practice under duration in a same way I imagine you would do in a dojo, add obstacles in order, so that when the vile situation comes heaven forbid in martial arts context, you’ll have strategy for dealing with obstacles.
What do you call someone who memorizes for a living?
A mnemonist, starting with “M” mnemonic?
Yeah, M-N-E-M-O-N-I-S-T mnemonist.
Mnemonist. Really? Interesting. I’d have to write that down.
Yes and in some sense what I teach would be called mnestic memory so, mnestic memory means the memory that refers to all kinds of memories or you know mnestic memory is the mother law, the governing memory of memories.
So, I was reading in some of the memory books. Some people were saying that people can be born with an ability of photographic memory other people say no, they are not born with it, you have to develop it and I’m just curious. What’s your opinion on that.
Well, my opinion doesn’t matter, I’d much rather look at what the science says and what people say because if we just use critical thinking well for example, what uses photographic memory anyway? Taking a photograph is visual so you know how do you take a photographic memory of a box sonata, how do you take a photographic memory of the greatest meal you ever tasted or the smells and aromas of grandma’s you know special dish? It’s just a weird word, I don’t know why people choose it, It’s just ridiculous, It’s such a limited idea for a memory so I recommend all people to forget photographic memory. The thing that is being referred to really is eidetic memory and people had the idea that children have this really rich absorbent creative memory. That may be, but I don’t think it necessarily has to do with children. When we are in noble situations which children are all the time because everything’s new to kids. We have more norepinephrine it’s called in the brain norepinephrine, at least that’s what science said studies shows that norepinephrine creates more memory so you might have heard something that’s called the airport effect which is when you go and you visited a new city or a new part of the world, you really remember that airport and that trip in the taxi through the center of the city and walking in the airport or sorry, the hotel and you just have this rich memory of arrival. Well that’s because your norepinephrine is just jacked to the top levels because it’s a new noble situation so is that photographic memory? The eidetic memory? I don’t know, these are scientists they come up with words to describe phenomenon but is anybody born with some special memory thing? Yeah, there are some people once in a while but I don’t think that there’s any evidences of anything even remotely like this and if you look at studies of what’s called superior autobiographical memory and this is where you have stories of people who remembered the exact date and they can tell what was opera in you know February of 1992 you know all this certain stuff, if you look at the actual studies of those people, what you find is, yes there may be some advantage there but they also seem to have some sort of OCD which is that they repeat stuff and they tend to have journals and this is not an isolated thing. There’s been studied into this. So, superior autobiographical memory seems to have superior autobiographical memory plus some sort of obsession and that makes much more sense especially when you look at memory competitors people like myself who just loves memory techniques for everything under the sun. It’s that we are not obsessed of anything compulsive in a way by nature but we kind of adapt those behaviors because we say look we can use this memory palace and if we just make a decision to go through it five, six, seven, eight times or whatever, we’re going to remember this stuff for much, much longer and so we impose that kind of OCD upon ourselves but in a very healthy way because I hope because you can also let it go, you can allow yourself to make mistakes from time to time if you meet the guy Simon or whatever and you don’t beat yourself up for it you know that’s your thing because, when you see and there’s a famous case you’ll praise, she does beat herself up a lot and I encourage people to look in to that case if who are interested with this topic but it’s also not for me to say whether photographic memory exists or not, I would just encourage you to use critical thinking. Is that word really makes sense for anything related to memory and are people really good at self-reporting their own experiences? Not really and what did scientists do? Well, scientists makes up a lot of words then they do studies based on those words and some of them aren’t even very good at looking at memory history or history in any scientific field so then they make up some new words when there are already were words but they just want to wear of those words but then they defend it to the death because of the way the public and the parish works at the scientific community and by the way, I’m not anti-science but I’m just pointing out a reality, I’m very scientific but there is problems in science that we need to address so when people comes across these ideas of photographic memory and so forth, just understand that nobody even knows where consciousness is in the brain and there are just a lot of words that people use for memory and I would go back, how many memory techniques are there? The one that you use is how many there are. So, you know if you want to have a better memory, work on it and you can have far better memory than a photograph, much, much more rich and detailed than something that ancient technology these days.
It’s funny because it wasn’t too long ago, myself and my friend are talking about what’s the best martial art and they’ll have the same answer and said the one that you’re studying right now, that’s a good answer. So, yeah absolutely. If you are prone to forgetting say, if I’m in a middle of a task and someone interrupts me and I look over at them and come back and can’t remember what I was doing is there something that could help me with that situation? Do you understand what I mean?
Yeah, yeah, so, there’s other examples like you go, you leave your office to get some scissors from the kitchen, that kind of thing, right? They share a common characteristic which is that new information entered that sort of knocked out the other information, new stimuli. So, the number one thing to do is called the fist and so if you’re talking to somebody like they said like they’d give you a job or a task to do or you want to remember a point to bring up in conversation later, you imagine that thing in your hand then you make a fist and you don’t let go of that fist until that you’ve executed, you want to go and get some scissors in the next room, you make a fist and you say “Scissors” and you need to walk through that door because temperature is going to change, the sound quality is going to change, a person my come and be like heyyy or a dog or whatever things are going to change that can just knock that thought out of your head faster than you know, you could even figure and that’s the technique, it’s called the fist and it works in conversations, as well as it does to going to get scissors from the next room.
That’s interesting, I’ll have to try that, I never thought of that.
It doesn’t have to be a fist, I don’t know, I mean you could carry a tack in your shoe or something but the point is that old image you sometimes see, a string tied around your finger.
I was just thinking of that.
It’s not an old fairy tale it actually helps and why? Back to what I had said before, there’s only one memory technique, it’s the one that you use right now but it’s always spatial, right? So, you’re putting something, somewhere and you’re doing something that helps you retreat it later from somewhere, not just retreat it from nowhere but from a specific place.
Yep, so if you’re left handed versus right handed. Do you store memories differently?
I don’t know but I’m sort of dual handed so.
Yeah, me too.
I’d have to split test with a variety of people. I’m not sure how to run search studies. I’m very are interested to do those studies but from what I understand if there is any advantage for left or right or dual or ambidextrous people they still would have to learn techniques and use them so, I’m not a big fan of someone has an advantage because x really what that means is someone so has executed the strategy same way everyone else had to and if they had an advantage, so what? You know, that doesn’t stop you from…I mean there are maybe some things like height or basketball or whatever but even then there’s people they want to play basketball, they find a way no matter what height they are so just, you know, get in there, and you know this is an interesting thing you don’t even have to do the RA-RA-RA just get in there. There’s actually an exercise that you can do which is just analyze yourself, do you have a bias for taking action and a bias for finding every reasons why you can’t participate in some way, in whatever it is you want to do or do you have a bias for finding every reasons why you can’t do something. If you do that self-analysis you can change your life, right? Because you don’t have to be naturally inclined to be the solution, got it? But you can train yourself to, you can notice that you know oh I’m just sitting here figuring out all the reasons why I can’t when I have all the evidence in the world that all kinds of people do and can, right? And yeah, so left hand, right hand, I don’t think it matters at the end of the day.
And these memory techniques would work on children too?
They are known to work for children, I think around age 6 is where really simple things come in and around age 10 they can really go quite well with the memory palace technique but I’m not an expert in the age group at all and I’m just giving those ages just based on the things that I’ve seen and very few and far cases, on my podcast I’ve interviewed some 10 years old and I did try to interview a 6 years old once but, although his father said there were some great things happening, I wasn’t able to reproduce it or explain it very well so that’s where I’m getting those ranges from and 10 years olds in my experience they seem to be—well, you could, you just saw my podcast episodes but you can see some of these contest shows where they have kids around ages of 10 and 12 who really seem to be soaring with it but I haven’t seen much younger than that in terms of the memory palace technique.
And you kind of touched on briefly earlier there but I just wanted to make sure I understood so if you memorized things is it possible for you to confuse them or maybe say that, you mentioned Sanskrit, do you ever accidentally start a verse and then accidentally go to a separate verse in a Sanskrit and match them together?
Yeah, that can happen but it typically happens on the learning phase. In the memory world we sometimes call the worm holing where you’d like be going through a memory palace and you somehow skip to a different part because you know you have sarva, sarvatra you know and all kinds of things that are variations and it kind of caused that to happen but that’s, it’s pretty rare and isolated, you usually know that it’s happening and correction is quite easy. The thing is when it’s happening, it’s usually a sign of more things are working than not working. I mean it’s just a miraculous thing, right? You can actually portal from verse forty to verse seventy just like that, I mean that’s more of a good thing than a bad thing.
Yep, so if you, I don’t know if you consider your brain more like a computer but how much memory can you hold or you could say there’s a limit?
David Eagleman who is a neuroscientist says that we have a zettabyte and a zettabyte is apparently something comparable to 10% of the information in the world.
I don’t know how that they measure all the information in the world but there’s no chance that any of us would ran out of anytime soon. Not only that but the thing that we need to understand is that that’s just one neuroscientist and that’s in the story of your brain by the way by David Eagleman, The brain, it’s called the story of you is the actual title. The thing that I would point out is that’s memory in your brain but then there’s memory in other brains, right? So, you know I don’t own the alphabet, the alphabet is something we share and so if I want to access some specialist memory of the alphabet when I can go you know figure out what’s in the brain of some alphabetical specialist or I can just ask you Jason, can you remember when you learned the alphabet? And you could tell me a story or not by your gesture but you know what I mean I could ask you about martial arts. Your memory is just loaded with stuff and because of the nature of symbols and language, I could understand a great deal from you just by tapping in to your memories. So, we have more than a zettabyte we have potentially all the possible information on tap at any moment and all the more so the internet. So, yeah I think memory is the truly unlimited thing in the world, I think memory is what we are actually in many ways not just information but everything we know how to do is all procedural memory, opening the drawer, everything. It’s just we are memory and the quality of our experience has everything to do with the quality of our memory.
If we play something in our sleep like say a poem or maybe a long poem, do you think that type of memorization works? Like would you, if you play it every night over and over again, like would you attain it?
There’s some studies that some of that has an effect if you’re learning a language for example, I haven’t read some studies the have to do with poetry and retention but I don’t quite know how these studies, I don’t know how they’re testing that, that the brain is perceiving this content because many other studies show that if you’re not consciously attending to something, you’re not learning it, you’re not engaging from it or whatever and you can look at even some of the old studies about subliminal messages and so forth, they’re very clear that if you don’t have a conscious perception of something then there’s not really any evidence that it’s affecting you. So, if are you conscious of things well some people report that they are, they do some lucid dream experiments with lights go on and then that helps trigger them which suggests unawareness of external links, I had lucid dream experiences I also had sleep paralysis experiences and I had something else which I believe is called in Sanskrit, nirvikalpi Samadhi which is this kind of neither lucid dreaming nor sleep paralysis, you’re just aware that you’re playing there and you know you’re asleep but you’re not dreaming or anything like that and that’s kind of wild, I wish I knew how to switch that on, on demand because that’s quite blissful but we’ll get there.
But in any case if I were to switch on a poem if I were to switch on a poem, I don’t think it would give such any special advantage unless I was consciously attending to its rehearsal and I imagine that, that would be true, others but ultimately I don’t know.
I’d rather get the sleep.
Yep, yeah me too.
Because you can do memory techniques when you’re awake which is just great.
From myself, say I, I don’t like stark silence, I do like the background noise anyway so I tend to play things in the background but that’s just me. You mentioned earlier, I just want touch up on this before we wrap up. Dementia and Alzheimer’s, heard you bring it up a few times what kind of impact does that have on the elderly horse trying to get in to that like would you say some preventative measures for getting to that?
There’s positive, I mean there’s no hard and fast, yes absolutely, this going to save you because there is some genetic forms of it so, there’s different ways to think about the problem but I think of it a lot because my mother had early on-set dementia and we manage to turn this around which thank goodness because it was the most terrifying thing I ever saw. I mean she was starting fall down, hurt herself badly to the point of you know, breaking her face up when she fell on the road, she couldn’t tell me from my brother really, really bad situation but fortunately totally turned around so there’s some every reason to believe that you know, you want to get some good brain training going for yourself and mitigate it in advance if you can or do something while it’s happening, if you can, if you have the wherewithal and the support, do it but as I always tell people, you know, don’t rest anything on this or that technique or this or that I still have it because they can happen anyway and so probably the best strategy, this may sound a bit cynical but I think it’s not wrong and I think it’s good-hearted, it’s meant in a good way and it’s just be the best possible person that you can now so that if you’ve become a pest to your family later then they have every reason to tolerate it and treat you with best possible care later because you did your best to be that best possible person and that’s a good policy anyway. So, you know take it or leave it but that’s what I always tell people, nobody gets any promises besides you could have dementia like problems or Alzheimer’s like problems. Just walking down the street and some moron throws a rock at you or a rock or you know something falls off from a building or whatever like, we can wind up on that situation for multiple reasons or have problems like that just out of the blue so always live with your best possible self, period.
Yeah, that’s right.
Because the real torture does begin and unfortunately I’ve seen this because I work for East Care, Community Care East York in Toronto and I saw all kinds of people who were abandoned by their families or treated very poorly by their families and you could see anger and resentment and I’ve heard people say that so and so never took care of me and that by now, burned with this all that certain stuff and that means that, that person is in even more suffering because they don’t have anybody who cares for them and people do take revenge later in those situations. So, the threat is real so be the best possible you immediately and practice it daily.
Is there something that you think I should’ve asked you that I haven’t asked you already or maybe you want to put any last words of your own to our listeners?
No, I think this was great and id there are any last words, let this be the beginning and not the end because you know, if you’re not tired of listening to me, there’s hundreds of hours of recordings on my youtube and my podcasts and yadda yadda yadda.
So if somebody wanted to contact you or listen to your material, where can they go?
Well it’s all that magneticmemorymethod.com and I would just encourage you to make memory a priority, not every teacher is going to gel with you but just find something so you can get this to make sense so that you can practice it and one of my highest ambitions is to be like a university where you know, it’s about the content that’s out there more than this or that content so that people have range, choice. If this teaching isn’t right then, well try that one, you know? So, guest professors’ welcome and we do that on the podcast as well so.
And the podcast is on your website also?
Yeah, yeah, there’s a button there that helps people get hooked up to the podcast. Yeah, we have a lot of fan and it’s a very 21st century decentralized community and I studied martial art myself Systema or Systiema.
I sort of run things like those classes where the teacher is the student and the student is the teacher, no belts, no back pain or anything like that it’s just here we go let’s learn together that kind of space.
That’s awesome, that’s great. Well I’m very much taking for taking time out of your day to talk to us and maybe, who knows? Maybe in the future continue to follow up to these or something.
Yeah, my pleasures, reach out, it was fun, I appreciate it.
Thank you very so much. And that wraps up another podcast. Divine Warrior Ninjutsu podcast episode number 21. If you have any information that you’d like to submit to us or if you have ideas for show content or submissions of any kind or you just want to learn more a little bit about us, you can contact us at divinewarriorninjutsu.com. Again I’m the host Dai-Shihan Jason Steeves, thank you for joining us, until next time. Go away.