Reprinted from the November 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.
Upon his ability to read lips Doc Savage has many times relied to discover treachery and the future plans of his antagonists.
This, of course, is an accomplishment that required long and hard practice. Doc started by memorizing the "Declaration of Independence," including the names of the signers and the places they represented at the signing of that historic document.
Then he placed himself before a mirror and, closely watching his own lips, he repeated the Declaration until he could recognize on the lips of a person talking out of his range of hearing any of the words in that exercise. Doc then changed to other documents, speeches or poems.
The reason he selected well-known speeches, poems or documents was because
every word and its meaning was exact. By enunciating clearly he could tell,
as each day went by, the exact lip action necessary for each word.
Doc Savage, to help develop within his mind a faculty for making quick decisions, practised the following:
He procured five hundred common, ordinary, used postage stamps. These stamps were of fifteen varieties, at least: the one-half-cent, one-cent, one-and-onehalf-cent, two-cent, three-cent, four-cent and so on up to the fifty-cent variety.
Doc used exactly fifteen varieties in the beginning; for, later, as his mental perceptions and physical reactions became more acute, he added more and more stamps and varieties.
Doc removed the stamps from the envelopes they came on and laid them out on a newspaper to dry. After they were dry, he placed the entire lot in an old cigar box and shook them up thoroughly.
Now he procured a small pair of tweezers. The stamps were dumped out of the cigar box onto a table and using the tweezers, Doc separated the five hundred stamps into their respective and proper fifteen piles. He did not correct mistakes. If he placed a fifteen-cent stamp, for instance, on the five-cent pile and saw his mistake a second later, he did not change it; but at the end of each day's exercise he spread the stamps and noted on a pad the number of errors.
Doc did not take longer to sort these stamps than it took him to recite Longfellow's poem, "Psalm of Life." He remembered that speed and accuracy are the goals of attainment. If he could not finish sorting the stamps before the poem ended, he stopped and noted approximately how many he had left. This demonstrated conclusively that it is the speed of the decision he had to develop. If, however, the stamps were sorted at the proper time but he had made errors, it proved that accuracy of mental perception and physical coordination was lacking.
When Doc had both speed and accuracy developed he added two hundred more
stamps, of ten more varieties.
Every once in a while, Doc Savage is called upon to distinguish odors that have gone stale. He has gone into a room hours after a man has been there and detected his forrner presence by the odor of the man's cigar or cigarette. Doc has gone through a forest and knew there were human beings close by because of woodsmoke smell.
This Doc does only through careful attention to infinite detail. He has spent many hours identifying different odors that have come to him in the course of a day.
Whenever he goes into a room, particularly after the room has been closed for some time, he sniffs the air and analyzes the various odors. Has there been only one cigar smoked or several? Doc can tell by the heaviness of the smoke. Is it pipe or cigarette smoke he smells? Doc can tell the difference by his developed sense of smell; but that it due to the fact that he has consciously developed all his senses. What kind of perfume was the lady using? Doc had to slxnd much time identifying these various odors.
It is very fitting at this point to emphasize the fact that neither Doc
nor his friends use tobacco or liquor, for they have found that it dulls
their perceptions; and in the case of both habits, makes their olfactory
nerves so used to that particular odor that it renders that sense almost
useless in detecting similar odors.
Great attention to concentration has been paid by Doc Savage in alt of his exercises, but none more so than that of hearing.
Doc often puts a clock on a table and moves across the room to a syot whcre he can no longer hear it tick. Then slowly he moves closer and closer, until the steady beat becomes audible. He then measures this distance and tries it again farther away, concentrating his entire will power to the hearing of the noise. By doing this exercise five times a day, he has been able to lengthen the distance in less than a week.
To gain the maximum distance, Doc has found that by steady exercise of will power he can shut out every sound but the one he wanted to hear. As he became more efficient at "willing" silence against every other sound, he allowcd the radio to be played-very softly at first, then louder, and was still able to shut out from his brain every noise but the ticking of the clock.
This exercise, Doc found, not only gave his auditor sense the training
he wished but his will power, as well.
Doc Savage has found that the more preferable way of doing his exercises is by doing them in groups; that is, he does all his physical exercises together, then those of the senses. The following is one Doc has used to build up the tremendous power of his shoulder and back muscles.
Doc stands erect, feet braced well apart and firmly placed. He then imagines both arms as being bound to posts on each side by large chains. His elbows are out from his body, his fists clenched, muscles b mched and tense. Then he slowly draws his arms in across the front of his body to break the imaginary chain. His mind builds up terrific resistance, but, slowly and surely, his mighty muscles achieve their purpose.
As his elbows approach the side of his body his back bends, his leg muscles tense, and every ounce of effort is expended to break the chain his mind has used to bind his arms. As his elbows touch the sides of his body, the chain snaps. Doc's muscles relax, he breathes deeply four or five times.
Now, with his elbows to his side, Doc imagines the shackles are on his wrists. He grasps the imaginary chain and slowly but surely pulls the links apart. His mind puts the strongest chains it can build on his wrists, but to no avail; the mighty muscles always snap them.
His muscles are working against mental resistance, but his mind is defeated at the start for it knows the muscles can break through the strongest chains it can conjure. Doc repeats this exercise five times.
At the same time as performing this exercise, Doc observes in detail
the view from his window. He counts the steps leading to the houses he can
see, names and catalogues each tree. In effect, he builds mentally a detailed
map of his view from the window.
Doc Savage found that another way of improving his sense of hearing was as follows:
He sits before an open window and concentrates on the sounds heard from the outdoors; but now, instead of concentrating on hearing the greatest number of sounds, Doc tries to classify each sound as it is heard. He never allows a noise to pass unidentified. He hears a distant hum-Doc shuts out from his mind all other sounds but the hum and concentrates on what might cause it. He listens for it to come closer, or retreat. Is it an automobile, an airplane, a high-tension wire hum, or what? Doc has found that by having his mouth slightly open, he is enabled to hear much more distinctly.
At the end of one minute, he stops and again lists each sound, its intensity and cause. He then returns to his exercise for one more minute, turning himself into one large pair of ears straining to hear each small sound and identify it.
The simplest way to classify each sound, Doc Savage has found, is to
have his mind shut off other sounds until he has the one unknown classified
and then proceeding to the next, shutting out the one just dealt with.
More of these explanaIions of Doc Savage's
exercises will be given
in the next issue of Doc Savage Magazine.
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