The man with a mind for making it all memorable
A former philosophy student from Hong Kong has broken four national records in a memory contest to become a champion in Australia.
Li Kam-fung, 23, set four records at the 2011 Australian Memory Championships held this month.
In the 15-minute category, he memorised 280 random numbers in that time. The previous record was 258 numbers.
In the speed cards category, he needed just one minute and nine seconds to remember the random order of 52 playing cards without making any mistakes. The previous record was one minute and 30 seconds.
He set a record in memorising 90 images in the correct order in 15 minutes. The previous record was 74 images.
He also memorised 176 numbers in the correct sequence, beating the previous record of 175.
'I didn't expect my results to be this good. But I won't stop practising because one day I hope to be the best,' said Li.
Since the first World Memory Championships in 1991, such contests have since become popular in many Western countries. Competitions are divided into 10 categories.
If a contestant passes the international standard for a category, he or she will be awarded the title of 'grand master' in the category.
The chairwoman of the Hong Kong Memory Study Association, Miki Lee Yuk-kuen, says there are about 30 people in the world who hold grand master titles for all 10 events. Li is now a grand master in at least one category.
Despite winning various international competitions since 2006, Li insisted he was not specially gifted and said anyone could be good at memorising.
'We are all born with a brain and the capacity to understand and remember things well. We just need to learn the right ways to access those parts of our brains and use it,' he said.
Miki Lee agreed. 'Memorisation is like a sport - it requires dedication and also passion,' she said. 'It's pushing our brain capacity further - everyone will be surprised at how far we all can go.'
Li said memory training was more than just learning memorisation tricks; it was about using the creativity which 'every human being has' and being willing to practise.
He first enrolled in a memory training course with the association in 2006 in a desperate effort to do better in his second attempt at the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examinations.
Li did well in his exams and went on to study philosophy and religion at Baptist University. He now works as a full-time memory-training teacher at the association.