Reprinted from the September 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.
One of the most vulnerable parts of the human body is the solar plexus. Of this, Doc Savage is well aware. It is that region, generally speaking, ranging from the waist line to the lower ribs and up between the ribs to the breast bone. This portion of the body is entirely unprotected, except for the layer of muscles that cover it.
A sharp blow to the solar plexus invariably results in extreme nausea, and generally in unconsciousness-unless the muscles covering this unprotected expanse can be hardened or "galvanized" to almost bone hardness before the blow is struck.
Twisting and bending exercises, while they develop the flexibility and elasticity of these muscles, do not tend to develop the ability to harden them at a split-second's notice to ward off the force of a blow. However, Doc Savage uses the following exercise to accomplish that result:
He stands erect without tension and breathes deeply. Then he bunches the finger tips and thumb of each hand together and with each hand taps lightly on the solar plexus, much as if beating a drum. The tapping at first is not done heavily, as it is not so much the power with which Doc taps the body that obtains the results as it is the fact that as the brain sees the finger tips coming it will automatically galvanize the stomach muscles into a hard surface that absorbs the shock instead of the nerves beneath the muscles.
Doc finds that after several weeks of this exercise, he can strike harder and harder without any effect, and after several months a severe blow in the solar plexus has no more effect on him than a blow to the chest.
Doc does not hold his breath in order to harden his muscles while performing this exercise-as is the natural tendency, for in a physical encounter he knows that he must breathe naturally and protect himself at the same time.
During this exercise Doc recites aloud Rudyard Kipling's poem "Danny Deever" and keeps time with his tapping fingers to the rhythm of the poem.
The only way to accomplish a great deal is to plan ahead of time the thing, you are going to do, thus avoiding any delays or indecision as to what to do next.
Of course, no matter how well you plan, you cannot always do as you expect to do. Although Doc Savage finds that in many cases his daily plans are changed because of new conditions, he continues to do as he has done from the start: plot out each day's activities, and stay as close to his plan as possible. If changes are necessary, he mentally recatalogues his schedules, but continues to stay close to it.
The best time to plan the day, Doc has learned, is at the completion of each day's work. Check on the things you have done during the day, and list what is on the schedule for to-morrow. In this way you will see how close you come to accomplishing your plan. The importance is to list the biggest things, and put them in their proper sequence in order to save time. A typical business plan might be:
A.M. 6:00 Rise, bathe and shave. 6:30 Exercises. 8:30 Breakfast. 9:00 Work. 1. Return J. J. S. book. 2. Pick up repaired fountain pen. 3. Call P. S. B. for afternoon appointment. 12:00 Lunch. P.M. 1:00 Work. 1. Call on P. S. B. 2. " " C. B. J. 3. " " D. D. L. 4. Get out report to J. B. 6:00 Dinner. 7:00 Repair broken chair. 7:00 Rearrange stamps for exhibit. 8:30 Read for instruction or study. 9:30 Read for pleasure. 10:00 Make plan for day, check to-day's plan, and retire.
Doc depends a lot upon his sense of touch, so he has a varied list of exercises to develop this sense. In one of these exercises he uses ten strips of paper about the size of an envelope, using ordinary writing or rag paper, wrapping paper of three or four different grades, glazed tablet paper, pencil tablet paper, and so on. He makes sure there is a difference between the right and wrong side of the paper, then numbers them on the right, or upper, side.
Then he closes his eyes and shuffles the pieces of paper so that he has forgotten their sequence. Then, with the papers laid out in front, by using his sense of touch, he turns each piece of paper right side up, and marks on the sheet with pencil what he thinks is the right number. While doing this exercise, he mentally catalogues the exact happenings in the street and house as interpreted by his ears.
As this exercises develop. it proves easier, so more papers, and ones more difficult to distinguish, are added.
Coordination of brain and ear can tell vou much without having you see it, and Doc's method of developing this sense is as follows:
He goes to a fairly busy street and stops before a window well filled with merchandise. While standing there, he listens intently to a person walking past. He catches every variation of the footfall, and as the person passes immediately behind him, he writes on a pad five descriptive terms, such as: 1. Man. 2. 60 years old. 3. Fat. 4. Well dressed. 5. Healthy.
All these things are told in the footfall of the passer-by, a retired business man out for a stroll. And Doc verifies this by glancing up as the person passes, check-. ing up on his deductions. This is an extremely hard exercise, and it takes months before you can judge as many as three out of five passers correctly. But it is a good way of getting the various distinctions between sounds.
After trying this test, Doc goes to his room and draws a rough draft of the window he was observing, and places at least twenty articles in the position they occupied in the window.
The following exercise is one that Doc Savage found enabled him to greatly improve his sense of smell.
Doc took the ten small pill boxes hs used in Exercise XIII and placing them before him, he would, without looking, place a pinch of the powder into the palm of his hand. He then would rub his hands together for a moment in order to get the odors into his palms and then cupping his palms he would take one long, deep breath. After each powder he recorded his sense impression on a paper and wiped his hands in order to remove the powder.
Doc found that even at first it was not hard to distinguish one or two of the odors but to get both ingredients of the mixure correcly was quite a different story.
While performing this exercise Doc would recite aloud Rudyard Kipling's "Recessional."
Resolving to devote the entire attention to the matter at hand is half the battle. In the following "taste" exercise Doc Savage finds he must devote his most careful attention to his perceptions.
Doc procures nine pill boxes and mixes in them the following powders in the stated proportions: 1st box, 1 part salt to 1 part sugar; 2nd box, 2 parts salt to 3 1 part sugar; 3rd box, 1 part salt to 2 parts sugar; 4th box, 1 part powdered cloves to 1 part powdered cinnamon; 5th box, 2 parts cloves to 1 part cinnamon; 6th box, 3 1 part cloves to 2 parts cinnamon; 7th box, 1 part flour to 1/8 part finely powdered alum; 8th box, 1 part flour to 1/4 part alum; 9th box, 1 part flour to 1/2 part alum. If these ingredients are not at hand he uses similar substances but puts them into the mixture in comparative amounts. Now Doc labels the boxes on the bottom.
Using the tip of his finger Doc tastes a small bit of the powder and instantly writes down what proportion of each ingredient is present. After he had become proficient in the perception of the proper proportion, Doc added other powders to f each pill box and in time was able to distinguish the exact amount of each of four powders used.
While doing this exercise Doc would take the cube root of ten numbers under
More of these explanaIions of Doc Savage's
exercises will be given
in the next issue of Doc Savage Magazine.
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