I want to share the different stories and views of people who compete in memory competitions or use memory techniques. There is a lot to learn from each interview I will be sharing plus I ask some different interview questions so we could learn/hear something we haven't heard before. The first memory interview profile we have is: Clay Knight!
How did you get introduced to memory techniques?
My brother, Marlo, showed memory techniques to me when visiting one Christmas, and I loved them straight away. I competed against another brother where we didn't use any techniques, and I won with 13 cards in 5 minutes against his 11 cards 😊
Years before this, as a child, I remember starting to learn a memory technique in a book by Victor Serebriakoff. This was a way of storing information with numbers and was long before memory competitions existed.
How did you get started in memory competitions?
Once Marlo showed me, I knew I wanted to take part in competitions. I entered my first event after about 3 months.
How was your first memory competition? What did you want to achieve when you went, how was the experience, and how long had you been training before you went?
It was great fun. I only had 1 journey, and I used it for every event. It meant a nice long drive to Wales, to compete in Dai Griffith’s Welsh Open. Marlo entered as well, but it was won by 3X World Memory Champion Ben Pridmore.
My expectations were low, apart from in words, where I had done 52 words in 5 minutes in practice, which was at the time, my best event. I only got 30 words, and this was the 1st event, so I was then able to just relax and enjoy it. Even though my 1 minute word PB is 40 words, the 52 words from my first month, January 2014, is still my 5 minute record!
How long have you been competing/training for memory competitions? Last/next memory competition?
I started training on the 1st of January 2014, but I haven’t competed in a classical event for about 2 years. Instead, I train the 1 minute digital format, and my last event was the UK Memory League in November 2016.
How does your typical memory training session look like? How long do your training sessions last for?
I am self employed so my work takes up a lot of time. Training is usually 5 minutes to 30 minutes, sometimes an hour. The most common session is 1 attempt of each of the 5 disciplines (images, cards, numbers, words, and names) on Memory League, and this takes 25 minutes.
What systems do you use? (Cards, numbers, etc…)
A 1 card system for cards and a 2 digit system for numbers. I don’t have the time to learn a 2 card system, 3 digit system, and get good at them. My system is mainly ACTION-OBJECT so I put 2 cards or 4 digits in each location.
What is your favorite memory competition event? Why?
Spoken numbers was always my favorite of the classic events. It requires 100% focus and it feels great. My favorite Memory League event is Images. Not sure why but it suited me and I got very good. In time, I think Memory League numbers will be my best event plus it's already the most fun now.
Memory League is my favorite. I find the 1 minute events suit me better than the longer versions, and I love the digital format. I also enjoy the aspect of competing online that they offer.
What event do you dislike the most? Why?
The longer the event is, the less I like it. My least favorite event was always names, but recently I have got a lot better at this and now I love it.
What are some of your memory training/competition goals?
In the early days, my goals were always to catch Marlo’s scores or the UK records. I got ahead of him in one event (Spoken numbers). Then for a while my goal was to set the UK record for this event. I did 160 spoken digits but then stopped training because Memory League came along.
My next goal was to qualify for the Memory League World Championships. I became very strong at one of the disciplines (Images), and I believe I was the best in the world for most of 2016, with a PB of 9.98
Recently a new competitor, Zeshaan Khokhar, was able to produce faster times than me in training, but these were mixed in with a high fail percentage. At this stage it is unclear who's the best in the world, it might still be me, but there are 4 or 5 competitors who are very close 😊 My best in live competition is only 14.90, but I still have the world record in my sights, which is 13.91 by Lance Tschirhart.
Where do you think memory competitions are heading? (Electronic, new competitions, getting popular, etc…)
The new body for all classic, live, paper competitions is the IAM (International Association of Memory). I am on the board, and we have our first ever world championship on the 1st to the 3rd of December this year in Jakarta, Indonesia, hosted and run by the awesome Yudi Lesmana and his team.
This will be a very exciting event and will, for the first time, be about the athletes, the arbiters and the whole memory community. My personal feeling is that under this new body, memory events will grow in lots of very cool directions that had previously been neglected. Alongside this, we have Memory League, which is fully digital and is also awesome.
Between the two, you can compete in 22 different ways, several different types of memorizing and time periods from 1 minute to 1 hour. Also, in between live events, myself and Ben Pridmore have been running online events for fun, so people can compete from home 😊
What type of information have you learned with memory techniques (useful information)?
I mostly use memory techniques just for fun, but I use them to remember phone numbers or reference numbers if I don’t have a pen on hand and that’s cool. I am also slightly better at recalling names of real humans I meet.
What are people’s reactions when they learn what you can do with your memory?
People that are not family and friend say, “I could never do that.” I don’t know if this is an English trait, but so many people are very quick to try to downplay their own potential.
Most people can learn these techniques without much trouble and some will get further than others, but all should be able to take something from memory techniques (Is what I should say, but usually I just smile politely).
Family and friends say, “You? But you forget what you walked into the room for” (This is true). The main thing that changes is that if you ever forget the slightest thing, ever, in any situation… Someone will say, “I thought you were a memory athlete.” 😊
What was the most difficult barrier you faced when using memory techniques and memory training?
I changed my memory system many times. Alphanumeric conversion to PAO to EAPAO to EPAO to a big change of AO and settled there. Once I settled on AO, my main issue was lack of time to train and if I go a week without training my cards or numbers, I lose about 2 months of progress!
What is your best experience using memory techniques?
Memorizing 160 spoken digits perfectly felt pretty awesome. My first full pack of cards which took 55 minutes. The milestones like 5 minutes, 1 minute for cards, or 100 digits. Breaking 10 seconds for memorizing Images. Saying a 14 digit reference number off by heart when picking up an order 😊 This is of course pretty easy with a system, but the look I got made me laugh inside.
What would be the most difficult information to memorize? Why?
Abstract information with no numbers. Although with a bit of thought, most things can be converted into a system.
What do you like to do in your free time when you are not memory training?
Having a family and running a business keeps me pretty busy but outside of this... Singing, chess, quizzes, watching UFC, athletics, tour de France, and F1.
Look forward for future interviews from amazing people just like Clay Knight! Don't forget to remember!