Reprinted from the December 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.
Because of strenuous use of his eyes, Doc Savage found that it was absolutely necessary that he strengthen the eye muscles, as well as the optic nerve.
To do this, he arranged a series of twelve cards, four inches square, and placed upon them a series of parallel lines drawn in heavy black pencil or ink.
These Doc fastened with a pin or nail, three to a pile and each covered by a blank card. First he marked a dot on the wall directly in front of his eyes standing eighteen inches away from the wall. Then twelve inches above, thirty inches to right and left, and twelve inches below this mark he fastened one each of the stacks of three cards. Now he reached out and, without looking, removed the blank cards that covered the lined ones.
Doc now looked directly from the dot before his eyes to the top position, counted the lines on the card there, and swiftly but smoothly moved on to the left pile, then to the bottom one, and to the right-hand pile. At no time did Doc stop to count the lines, but they were counted as his eyes made the smooth circle.
Three times he went from left to right, and then removing the top cards, he used the second ones and moved his eyes from right to left for three circles. Now, removing these second cards, he looked first to the top card then to the bottom, bottom to left and left to right; then he reversed the direction. After a short while, Doc found he could move the cards farther apart and still correctly count the lines.
Doc took no more time to complete this exercise than it took him to recite aloud Milton's sonnet beginning "The World is too much with us."
Perhaps the most necessary physical development for Doc Savage to master was suppleness. Doc stands about a foot and a half away from a wall, his back toward it. His feet are about a foot apart; hands on hips.
Now he bends backward slowly without touching the wall, bends as far as he can without jerking. He bends farther and farther, knowing he cannot be in}ured by a backward fall because of the wall behind, until at last his face touches the wall.
Then he swings slowly to an erect posture and, without stopping, bends forward until his hands may be placed, palms down, on the floor.
Doc repeats this exercise five times, all the while keeping his muscles relaxed by mental effort.
During these exercises, Doc recites Bryant's "Thanatopsis."
Long before his adventurous life began, Doc Savage realized that his physical existence would depend, at times, upon detecting by his sense of taste the hidden substance in a liquid.
To train this sense, Doc used ten one-ounce bottles and into each put a quantity of drinking water.
Now he mixed into each bottle a teaspoonful of sugar. When this was done, he added just enough of some other substance to make its taste barely perceptible- such as a pinch of salt, a few grains of pepper, a drop or two of vinegar, a small bit of mustard, alum, powdered cloves, vanilla flavoring, maple flavoring, a little milk and a small amount of cocoa.
These bottles were then labeled as to their contents and more water was added to make the taste still less perceptible.
Without looking, Doc then tasted each bottle and recorded what each contained. He took no more time doing this than was required for him to recite from memory the famous Hamlet's "Soliloquy."
Every time he renewed the contents of the bottles and made up new solutions, he tried reducing the amounts of the "submerged" substance until he could detect its presence even in very minute quantities.
Realizing that many times his life would depend upon instant orientation of his directional faculties in the dark, Doc Savage early used the following exercise to develop that sense:
Doc would go into a room with which he was thoroughly familiar, but would rearrange the chairs and tables in the room so that their position was different. Then, looking over the arrangement carefully so as to fix it in his mind, he would go to the center of the room and close his eyes.
Whirling around several times to confuse his sense of direction, he would decide where in the room he wished to go; perhaps to the light switch, or to a certain window, or under a certain picture, or to a particular table.
Now Doc would walk, still with his eyes closed, until he came in contact with a piece of furniture. By touching it he would decide what it was, and using this article of furniture as a starting place would go to the predetermined destination without bumping into any other piece of furniture.
Doc found that this exercise demanded every faculty at its peak-because hearing, sense of direction and memory all played a very important part.
Often, during his many adventures, Doc Savage is able to save himself and his associates much labor, and no little trouble, by his ability to distinguish sounds that were lost to them.
The way he started developing this exceptional ability was by sitting before an open window. He remained silent for one minute, during which he concentrated on the sounds that came to him.
Doc would mentally list every sound that came to his ears, and at the end of the minute would list on a card the sounds in the exact order they came. Then he would listen for another minute and note the sounds, trying every time to increase the number of known noises and to remember them.
He would repeat this five times each morning, and as he progressed Doc found he was able to increase his speed of recognition of the sounds and to get many more on his list. In a few weeks, he found he was able to record three times the number of sounds he had first been able to distinguish.
One of the more difficult exercises that Doc performed went as follows:
He stretched flat on the floor with his arms bent, hands under his chest, with his palms raised so that just his finger tips were touching the floor. Doc then raised himself so that the entire weight of his body rested on his finger tips and toes.
He then swung his body slowly sideward and up so that the entire weight of his body rested on his left hand and foot with his right hand and leg extended high in the air. It was necessary, Doc found, to keep the body in a constant state of rigidity. He remained in this position until he counted three slowly, and then carefully and slowly bent his arm so that his body rested against the floor.
Then he raised the body until the arm was stiff again. Once was all the exercise was repeated for many months, but after a time he found he could do it as many as five times.
After lowering and raising the body once, Doc lowered himself flat on his stomach and relaxed for five counts. Then he repeated the exercise, this time using his right arm.
As this exercise had to be done slowly and without any spasmodic effort. Doc did it in cadence with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Psalm of Life."
Energetically engaged in action as Doc Savage often is, it become neccessary for him to be able to rest at a moment's notice. A previous exercise explained how Doc was able to sleep at any time and at any place; but very often it is impossible to allow himself the time for sleep, and so he has evolved the following procedure to allow himself complete physical and mental relaxation for a few minutes.
Doc sits or lies in the most comfortable position possible. He relaxes with a snap. This, Doc explains, he does by simply commanding every muscle in his body to soften and become flaccid.
Doc mentally snaps the muscles of his body into repose and then envelops himself in a mental haze of summer blue sky. He pictures himself Iying utterly placid, floating in a cloud of blue. His eyes are closed and he breathes deeply seven times-as deeply as he possibly can, then lightly for a time.
He repeats this deep breathing three times, and just before coming out
of his relaxation he envisions a ball of blazing red appearing through the
blue haze. It comes closer and closer, until he is enveloped in its fiery
color. Just at the peak of the red flame, Doc opens his eyes and declares
his relaxation period over.
More of these explanaIions of Doc Savage's
exercises will be given
in the next issue of Doc Savage Magazine.
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