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How to Use the Body Part System

Learn how to use the body part system in this Howcast video about memory techniques featuring memory expert Barry Reitman.


I'm Barry Reitman, author of Secrets, Tips, and Tricks of a Powerful Memory. And I'd like to tell about a very easy system for remembering things from one to ten by the numbers. and you'll be able to use this anytime, anyplace. And the hints, the clues, the things that you will look for to remember are with you all the time. It's your body parts. I'm going to be very specific about it because it can lead to more advanced systems, if you want to try them as well.

What I'm going to do is start at the very bottom and go up my body, starting with my big toe. Number one is toe. Kind of looks like a number one, a fat number one, if you will. Number one is toe. Number two is knee. Toe, knee. Number three is midsection. Number four, ribs or ribcage. Number five, larynx. So going back down is larynx, ribs, midsection, knee, and toe.

And now, I'll go on, but I think you'll agree that it won't take you any time at all to have those with you forever.

And now we'll do the upper group of five. Chin and jaw is number six. Cornea is number seven. Forehead is number eight. Brain or pate. . .Pate is an old-fashioned word, but it's very valid for the top of the head. . .is number nine. And then an interesting thing happens. For number ten, we're going to go down to the toes. We're going to add an s to toe, the way we add a zero to one to make ten. So again, now going down, we start with toes number ten, brain and pate number nine, forehead number eight, cornea number seven, chin and jaw number six, larynx number five, ribcage number four, midsection number three, knee number two, and toe number one.

Now, how can this help us? Well, let's say we wanted to learn and remember the basics of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution for a class or just because it's good to know. I'm going to pick out a simple picture for each of those things and tie it to my new body part number.

The first item, the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, is the the freedom of speech and assembly and religion. And if I want to tie that to my toe, I know what I'll do because everything that we do is based on silly pictures, outrageous pictures, wacky pictures. I'm going to picture my toe walking into a house of worship, going up to the front, and delivering a sermon. My toe, my six-foot-tall toe, is delivering a sermon from the front of this house of worship. Well, it's not really a sermon. It's reading it from a newspaper to the people who are assembled there. So when I want to know the first amendment, well, number is toe. What was my toe doing? Well, if I've seen that picture. . .And I've just said those words. But if I've seen that picture of my toe in a house of worship, freedom of religion; giving a speech, freedom of speech; reading it from a newspaper, freedom of the press; to the assembled people, freedom of assembly, I've got the basics of the first amendment.

Number two on my body part list is knee. The second amendment to the Constitution, as most of us know, is the right to bear arms. Yes, it's being debated regularly, and I'm not here to say if it is or isn't interpreted correctly. But I am here to say to remember what number two is. I'm going to take something regarding weaponry, and I'm going to do something with my knee, number two. As a matter of fact, I'm going to take a rifle butt and crack open a knee. That's violent. A violent picture will help you remember. You passed 500 cars on your way to work today. The one that you remember is the one that was racked up on a telephone pole. Violence helps us remember. Silly things, funny things, incongruous things help us remember. So number two, that was my knee cracked open by a rifle butt.

The third amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the government from quartering soldiers in your home. This doesn't sound like something that could be really important, but bear in mind that in the 1770s, when we were worried about the British in America and their soldiers taking over the homes of the colonists, it was very important. So an amendment was built in that said the United States government could not take over your home and quarter soldiers. How am I going to remember that? Well, midsection is number three. Toe, knee, midsection. I'm going to picture a big, fat soldier, and he's popping the buttons on his uniform. And as the buttons fall all over my house, I see that they're not plastic buttons. They're quarter dollars. They're quarters. I see quarters all over my house. I see a soldier putting quarters all in my house. That's a silly picture. It probably took me a minute to say it. It'll take you three seconds to create it yourself and a split second to remember it.

So that's how I remember the first three amendments to the Constitution. It's a simple way. Body parts are a simple way to remember lists up to 10 things.

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