Reprinted from the February 1936 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.
An exercise that Doc Savage uses to gain poise and balance, at the same time strengthening the fingers, is the following:
He stands erect, head up, chin in, and tenses the muscles of his abdomen; then swings the right leg forward from the hips in an exaggerated goose step. Then he brings the leg down with a snap, so that the weight of the body rests on the toes of the right foot. He teeters back and forth three times, and while doing so swings the left leg back sharply and then forward, in the same manner in which he did the right.
For the first two weeks, Doc walks fifty steps a day in this manner, and increases ten steps a day thereafter, until he reaches one hundred steps a day.
While performing the above exercise, Doc holds the arms rigidly at the sides for five steps. On the sixth step he raises the arms horizontally before him, fingers extended, for five steps. On the eleventh, he lowers the first finger of each hand into the palm and holds it there, keeping the other three fingers rigid. On the sixteenth step, he lowers the second finger, on the twenty-first step the third finger and on the twenty-sixth step the last finger; then clenches the fist and makes the arm tense.
On the next twenty-five steps, Doc reverses the process and opens the hand. one finger at a time, always keeping the remaining fingers clenched in the palm of the hand.
This muscular control Doc finds is necessary for the complete culmination of physical and mental coordination, and makes a definite mental effort obligatory to their performance.
After some of his more strenuous exercises, Doc Savage feels that he should partially rest, and at the same time continue his two hours of daily development.
Doc sits upon the floor with his legs crossed tailor-fashion under him and with his arms folded lightly across his chest. He sits erect, but not stiff and rigid. Slowly, very slowly, he twists his shoulders and hips from right to left. He moves as far as he can from his original position without moving his folded legs, leaving them and the hip muscles relaxed. Doc pulls back with the muscles of his left shoulder and pushes forward with those of his right until he is as far around as he can manage; then starts back to his original position.
Upon facing to the front, Doc Savage does not stop, but continues the slow movement, now from left to right, and pushes with his left shoulder at the same time that he pulls with the muscles of his right. His head moves with his shoulders, so that he can observe his improvements from day to day. At no time is the movement hurried or jerky, but smooth and deliberate.
When first performing the exercise, Doc only did it twice, as he knew it brought into play muscles that he had never used before, and he did not wish to stiffen them.
During the time he was performing the exercise, Doc Savage mentally cubed first 11, then on up the scale of numbers reached by adding 11, as: (22)3, (33)3, (44)3 etc.
Many times during the adventures Doc Savage has experienced in helping others solve problems too great for them, he has had to distinguish, by smell, the types of earth over which he is passing. To perfect his knowledge, Doc procured nine small, but water-tight, boxes.
Into three boxes he placed sand. Into three more he placed clay; and into the last three black loam. From time to time, as he learned these three kinds of earth-substance, he had to change them; but he always used one of these three in exercises, as it afforded him a basis of comparison.
Before he started this series of exercises, Doc would dampen slightly one of each kind of earth-substance, would soak well another group. Thus, for his exercise, he had one box each of dry sand, clay and loam; one box each of dampened sand, clay and loam, and the remaining boxes soaked wet.
When ready for this exercise, Doc Savage would close his eyes and rearrange the boxes so that he did not know the sequence of any of them, and then by smell alone he would arrange them in their proper order, i. e.: dry sand, damp sand, wet sand; dry clay, damp clay, wet clay; dry loam, damp loam and wet loam.
At the same time as his faculty of smell was performing its functions in this manner, Doc would recite audibly Carl Sandburg's short poem "Grass."
During the many times in Doc Savage's life when he has had to depend upon iron control of his nerves alone, he has reason to be glad of his practice of absolute nerve control.
In exercising this function he obtains two one-inch ball bearings.
Doc stands rigidly erect with his right arm extended straight out in front of him, palm upward. In his palm is the ball bearing, and he holds his hand so still that the ball does not even quiver. Then slowly he tilts his palm downward from the wrist, so that the ball runs slowly to the tips of his fingers.
As the bearing reaches the end of the fingers, Doc swiftly reverses his hand, turning the palm downward, and tilts his hand slightly upward so that the ball bearing now rests on the back of the fingers and slowly travels to the back of the hand.
Doc then reverses the process, running the ball down the back of his hand to the finger tips, brings his palm upward and runs the ball back into the palm of his hand. This is all done slowly-excepting the reversing of the hand, which is done with almost unbelievable rapidity.
Doc Savage repeats the exercise with his left hand; then finally with both hands at the same time.
In the adventurous life which Doc Savage leads, he has to depend constantly on his eyes and the correctness of their impressions. To further their astuteness, Doc devised a system of color exercises.
First, he made nine cards, four inches by four inches, and colored them differently. The colors he chose for the exercise were: red, blue, white, black, purple, yellow, green, orange and brown. A hole was punched in the top of each card large enough to slip easily over the head of a three-penny nail.
Doc then used a wall of his bedroom and drove nine nails in the wall in series of threes. The first three were eight feet from the floor, the second group three feet lower, and the third group three feet below that. The nails were placed three feet apart, so that the entire arrangement made a six-foot square.
Doc mentally numbered each nail, beginning at the top row and numbering to the right; then the second and third row in like manner, so that leading down the left-hand side of the square the nails number 1-4-7, the center 2-5-8, and on the right side 3-6-9.
Now, closing his eyes, Doc shuffled the cards so that he could not remember their sequence and with his eyes still closed, hung the cards on the nails. He then moved away from the wall six feet and with a pad in his hand commenced the exercise. On this pad he had made up a series of numbers in threes, as: 1-6-4, 3-5-7, 9-3-8 and various other groupings. He usually used six series of three numbers each.
When ready, Doc opened his eyes, looked at the pad for a split-second to get his numbers, then rapidly glanced at the colored cards on the nails equivalent to the numbers and jotted down the initials of the cards. When finished, Doc checked the accuracy of this exercise, as it is designed for both speed and correctness. The visualizing of the colors is done with tremendous speed. As time and accuracy increase, Doc used two-colored cards instead of one-colored.
While doing this exercise, Doc enumerated by name the principle bones of the human skeleton, using their proper names.
Doc Savage has always placed great stress upon his faculty of identifying things by touch. His ability to read with his finger tips messages that are heavily hand-printed in pencil or pen has often been of inestimable value to him.
In training this faculty, Doc used ordinary letter paper, and one week before he used the slips of paper in the exercise he prepared ten messages printed heavily on the writing paper. Each message consisted of at least six words, and never more than ten. By printing heavily, the letters came through in relief on the underside of the paper. Doc found that, at first, he had to print the letters rather far apart in order to distinguish them.
When he was ready for this particular exercise, Doc would close his eyes and shuffle slips of paper around. Then by applying his finger tips to the slips he read what was on the paper and wrote the message on a pad, later checking the results for accuracy.
Doc did not allow himself very long at this exercise, and gauged his time by reciting Vachel Lindsay's poem on Abraham Lincoln.
More of these explanaIions of Doc Savage's
exercises will be given
in the next issue of Doc Savage Magazine.
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