Shijir is a Grandmaster of Memory from Mongolia, who broke the junior world record in Speed Cards (23.22 seconds, 2016) and even the adult category for 30 minutes Binary Numbers at the 2016 World Memory Championships. We have talked with him about his passion, training and the difference of memory sports in Mongolia and western countries.
Memory-Sports: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Shijir: Hi, I’m Shijir from Mongolia and I’m 17 years old. Currently, I’m living in the US, studying at the Dougherty Valley High School in California. I like to play Volleyball, Basketball and Ping Pong. And of course, I like memorizing things.
Memory-Sports: How did you get to memory sports?
Shijir: When I was in 10th grade, I started going to a memory course at the Mongolian Intellectual Academy to improve my grades at school. But when I was learning the memory techniques, I heard about the world class athletes and wanted to become like them. My coach Baasandorj taught me all the memory techniques and trained me for 3 months until my first memory competition, the Mongolian Memory Championships 2015.
When I was learning the memory techniques, I heard about the world class athletes and wanted to become like them.Shijir-Erdene Bat-Enkh
Memory-Sports: For what do you use memory techniques outside of memory competitions?
Shijir: Mostly, I use it for memorizing phone numbers, people’s names and shopping lists. And after I came to the US, I memorized the nearby streets and roads. It really helped me not to get lost in my new environment.
Memory-Sports: Do you think it would be helpful to teach memory techniques at schools and universities and how would you imagine that?
Shijir: Of course, it would be very helpful for kids. I think everyone should learn memory techniques and use it in their daily activities. But not everyone has to be an athlete. There are some genius people who were born with exceptional talent but haven’t known it yet. If we teach memory techniques to everyone, it would help us to find them.
Memory-Sports: How often do you train your memory?
Shijir: Usually, I train 30 minutes a day but when the competition is near, I increase the time to 3 hours.
Memory-Sports: How does the training in your memory school in Mongolia look like?
Shijir: It is very enlightening place where all our top athletes started. The teachers and students have a very deep bond and love each other. There are memory training rooms, Rubik’s cube rooms and speed stacking rooms. We even have a kindergarten that teaches basic memory techniques and mental calculation.
Memory-Sports: How does it feel to be that young and already compete on a world class level, breaking records and leaving most experienced adults behind you?
Shijir: Well, I’m still not in the place where I wanted to be. But the moments when I realized that I did what I was aiming for and started to break records are some of my precious memories that I like to remember.
Memory-Sports: Please describe us your number system and why do you use it.
Shijir: I use PAO (Person-Action-Object) in my number system. I use it because that is the first main system that our memory school teaches us and it feels comfortable and interesting to use.
Editor’s note: The Mongolian Number Code
Shijirs school is teaching a similar letter code to the Major System. Their code is not phonetically grouped but uses visual and logical associations to remember the letters as well. For example the number one in Mongolian is “neg” and starts with the letter “N”. In Mongolia they use Cyrillic (Russian) letters.
Their code is:
- 0 = T
- 1 = N
- 2 = L, P
- 3 = M, Z
- 4 = D
- 5 = H
- 6 = S
- 7 = G
- 8 = TS, W
- 9 = B, R
Memory-Sports: Please describe your card system, with which you broke the Junior world record in Speed Cards at the US Open 2016.
Shijir: I use the PAO system in cards as well.
Video: Shijir-Erdene Bat-Enkh’s junior World Record in Speed Cards
Memory-Sports: You broke the WMSC world record for Binary Numbers. Why are you so good at binary numbers?
Shijir: I don’t exactly know why I’m good at binary digits. But I really enjoy the process of converting binary digits into numbers and see it as images. And I didn’t train for the binary digits more than other disciplines such as cards, numbers and spoken numbers.
Memory-Sports: Do you have some strategies about binary numbers to share with others?
Shijir: My strategy for binary numbers was to minimize the amount of time of converting numbers into images. So, I read the binary numbers without imagining anything as fast as I can for 15 minutes a day. And I try to decrease the number of reviews for the disciplines I use PAO.
Memory-Sports: Do you think you have talent or is it all training?
Shijir: I was terrible at remembering things before I learned memory techniques. So, I think it is all training.
I was terrible at remembering things before I learned memory techniques. So, I think it is all training.Shijir-Erdene Bat-Enkh
Memory-Sports: What is so attractive about competing at memory competitions?
Shijir: In every competition, I have competed before, there is a huge pressure that makes me think “what if I miss”? And it makes me focus more and helps me overachieve what I’ve planned. The best part of memory competitions is making new friends from all over the world and making beautiful memories with them.
Memory-Sports: There are mostly men competing at memory championships. Do you have an idea why?
Shijir: I have no idea.
Memory-Sports: What is your favorite memory from the sport?
Shijir: The moment when I got my GMM (Grandmaster of Memory) title. Because my goal for the WMC (World Memory Championship) 2015 was to get the IMM (International Master of Memory) and I was surprised what I was capable of.
Memory-Sports: How do you see the current situation of memory sports?
Shijir: Well, it’s kind of confusing for the athletes because of the two different organizations and not knowing what exactly is happening between them. But I hope we can solve all the problems with peace.
Memory-Sports: How do you see the difference of public awareness of memory sports in Mongolia compared to the western countries?
Shijir: In Mongolia, almost everyone knows about memory sports and our competitions. And people think it should be considered the same as popular sports like boxing, wrestling, and horse riding in Mongolia. So I think public awareness of memory sports in Mongolia is much larger than in western countries. After I came to the US, there wasn’t anyone who knew a single thing about memory sports.
In Mongolia, almost everyone knows about memory sports and our competitions. […] After I came to the US, there wasn’t anyone who knew a single thing about memory sports.Shijir-Erdene Bat-Enkh
Memory-Sports: What is your ideal vision for the future of memory sports?
Shijir: I really want to see the time when memory sport is one of the most popular sports and included in the official Olympics Games.
Memory-Sports: Thank you for your time.
Shijir: Thank you for inviting me for this interesting interview.