Reprinted from the July 1935 issue of Doc Savage Magazine
The Doc Savage Method
as explained to KENNETH ROBESON
Because of thousands of requests for more definite knowledge of the exercises which are part of Doc Savage's daily routine, Kenneth Robeson has prepared this exposition of the means used by Doc Savage to reach his present state of mental and physical development. As explained here, they start from the very beginning of Doc Savage's career with the most elemental tests. They are numbered for convenient reference. It is only because of the faithful daily performance of even the smallest of these exercises that Doc Savage has developed his senses and perceptions to the present high degree.
Doc Savage, in his adventurous career, undergoes terrific mental and physical strain, and because of such, operates on a highly keyed nervous tension. But he has learned the secret of recovery from these stresses of the body: relaxation. As complete relaxation and sleep are nearly the same, striving for one is attainment of the other.
Relaxation is impossible so long as any one or series of muscles are tense or in play. Doc, knowing this, lies flat on his back—or, if in bed, takes a position conducive to sleep—and clears his mind of all conflicting thoughts. He then attempts to visualize a black space in his mind, creating mental pictures of the inside of a subterranean dungeon cell at midnight on a cloudy night. In other words—a complete blackness.
While this blackness is building up, Doc mentally commands the muscles in his body from ankles down to become completely limp. Then continues to the knee, making sure the calf muscles are absolutely "soft." From here he attempts to relax the muscles of hips, and the upper torso. All the while he is continually picturing in his mind's eye the absolute blackness.
Most times Doc falls asleep long before calling on all his body muscles to relax, for the blackness has taken effect.
This exercise Doc Savage usually takes immediately on rising in the morning. Standing before an open window in shorts, feet wide apart and body relaxed, he breathes deeply and slowly eight or ten times.
Then, still relaxed, he reaches down to the right foot and, bending from the hips only grasps an imaginary hundred-pound weight. Slowly and without jerk ing, muscles tensed, the imaginary weight is lifted above his head. It is held there while Doc inhales and exhales deeply, having held his breath while lifting.
The weight is heavy, and requires tremendous exertion of every muscle of the body. Doc's legs are tense and quivering, and his back muscles stand out as they aid the arms and stomach tendons. This is accomplished by opposing the pull of the muscles with mental resistance.
After reaching the top of the lift, Doc sets the imaginary weight down beside his left foot, straightens up and relaxes.
At the same time while taking the above exercises, Doc also trains his powers of observation by looking out the window and mentally cataloguing everything that comes within his range of vision. He then turns his back and repeats the physical exercise, lifting the imaginary weight up from the left foot and lowering it to the right, reviewing in his mind all the while that which the eye had photographed through the window.
This exercise is usually repeated five times by Doc, and at its conclusion he lists on paper all the objects he can remember seeing outside the window.
Only at the end of seven days does Doc check one list against the other—and sees much improvement after that period; for the mind is grasping more details each day.
When possible, Doc completes these exercises in a room with four windows, using a different one each week for the test, and for the fifth week goes back to the first window. Again list-checking shows him much improvement over the first week.
When Doc Savage, on his travels, finds himself without his complicated exercising equipment, and wants to improve his sense of touch, he reverts to an exercise of his younger days.
He prepares ten cards—business or calling cards—and with a small nail, punches a series of holes partially through them, so that small humps can be felt on the opposite side. Then, without looking, he runs his fingers quickly and lightly over the cards, counts the number of humps felt and marks the number on the back of the card.
This he does with the entire series of ten cards, and as a means of roughly timing himself, recites from memory W. E. Henley's poem "Invictus." The poem ends about the same time the cards have been gone through.
The second week, Doc uses a smaller nail and makes more punches on the cards; for timing, he recites the first two verses of Rudyard Kipling's "If." The third week, he adds more cards and recites the entire poem. At the end of the fourth week Doc is able to run through forty cards, punched with a large pin, not less than ten times and not more than fifty, and recites to himself Joaquin Miller's poem "Columbus."
Doc changes cards and poem about once every two weeks, and increases the nurnber of punches as he improves his sense of touch.
Doc Savage, brushing up on his sense of smell, finds it easy to arrange equipment from liquids found in the average household. He procures ten small bottles, washes them thoroughly and dries them, and pours into each a small amount of the following liquids:
4. salt water
5. catsup diluted with water
6. soapy water
7. a few drops of vanilla flavoring
8. a few drops of lemon flavoring
These bottles are kept tightly corked.
Doc then pastes a clean piece of paper around each bottle and in small letters, notes its contents.
He then closes his eyes and disarranges the bottles so he will have no idea of their contents. With eyes still closed he rapidly uncorks, smells, recorks and then writes on the labels the names he believes the liquids to be.
While cataloguing these odors, Doc listens intently to all the sounds about him, and when finished with the odor bottles, writes down the noises and identifies them. As an example:
When a motor vehicle stops on the street outside, Doc attempts to identify it by name; whether new or old, and what type of body.
Some one walks down the hall—was it man, woman, or child? Doc listens intently to the footfalls for identification.
The sense of hearing is immensely important to Doc Savage, and a simple little exercise keeps it at peak.
Doc procures six water tumblers and numbers them from one to six, writing on a small piece of paper he pastes on each glass. Then he takes a silver table knife and taps each glass, noting, in turn, their individual tones. After having the sounds in mind, he turns the glasses with the identifying numbers away from him, mixes them up, and then taps the glasses again, trying to identify the tones.
He checks his impressions against the numbers.
One of the first taste exercises ever used by Doc Savage was the attempted identification of individual solutions of coffee, tea, salt water, sugar water, diluted vinegar, and mustard water. He prepared six one-ounce bottles and, after sterilizing them, filled them three-quarters full with drinking water.
Into each bottle he poured a teaspoonful of each of the beforementioned Iiquids. Each bottle was labeled, narning the contents within. Then he closed his eyes and sipped from each bottle in turn, noting on paper what he thought the flavor to be.
After reaching the stage where he could differentiate correctly, he added water to the bottles until the flavor was barely perceptible—and then tried identifying them.
During this exercise, Doc recited aloud John McRae's poem "In Flanders Fields."
Strengthening and training the eyesight are important to Doc Savage, for his eyes become his most important asset on his world-wide adventures. To exercise them, he stands before a window giving an outlook far down the street and focuses his eyes on the farthest window or telephone pole he can see and counts the panes of glass or the glass insulators on the crossarms of the telephone pole, as the case may be.
Then he sharply lowers his eyes to a card on which is written Edgar Guest's poem "It Couldn't Be Done," and reads. two lines of it.
Doc then lifts his eyes from the card and focuses them on the foremost object he can see on the right, at the same time swinging the card to the left. The eyes are then swung toward the window again and then quickly back to the card, reading two more lines. This swing from window, to left, to right, is repeated.
Doc makes no pause between eye positions, nor does he move his head. The exercise is for the eyes alone.
After the exercise, Doc notes on paper the things he unconsciously saw as he gazed at the farthest object through.the window. This helps his power of unconscious perception, and each day strengthens his eyesight, helping the eyes to distinguish objects at a greater distance.
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