Reprinted from the March 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.
Many times in the published adventures of Doc Savage he has appeared to drop, seemingly as if shot. The thing seldom realized is that this action, in order to be efficacious and at the same time non-injurious, must be practiced many, many times.
Doc first started falling from his knees. He knelt down and completely relaxed his muscles from his knees to his hips, sinking downward; then instantly relaxing his torso muscles, he allowed them to slump forward in an exact imitation of a man dead or wounded.
This fall was practiced from both right and left sides, so that Doc could drop from any position.
After he had perfected the knee-fall so that it could be executed faultlessly, Doc began the standing-fall. His first fall from this position was accomplished by completely relaxing the muscles of the legs from the feet to the knees. Then from the knees to hips, and hips to shoulders. The thing Doc found difficult at first was overcoming the fear of injury; but investigation proved to him that complete relaxation was the one insurance against injury.
Doc Savage fell forward to the knees, half backward to the hips, and forward to the shoulders, thus falling in a small space, but in a position that lends itself to an immediate spring into action. After a few months, Doc found he could fall safely and convincingly from any position.
Very often throughout his life Doc Savage has found that he had neither time, opportunity, nor inclination to exercise his faculty of taste in a leisurely manner. Recognizing this, Doc included the training-of this sense in his daily two-hour round of exercises.
Doc, in one of his first taste exercises, procured ten wide-mouthed small bottles and cleaned them thoroughly. He pasted on each bottle a small label.
Next Doc filled each bottle fairly full of drinking water and placed in each a small quantity of the following: in the first bottle, Worcestershire sauce; the second, salt; the third, maple syrup; and in succeeding bottles, tabasco sauce, cinnamon, cloves, alum, coffee, tea, and cayenne pepper. These ingredients were mixed thoroughly by shaking the bottles. He also labeled each bottle with the name of its contents.
Doc then took an eye-dropper and, with a pad in front of him, mixed the bottles around so that he did not know which was which unless he looked at the name on the label.
Next, Doc Savage, while mentally determining the circumference of a circle, first of five feet diameter, then of six feet, etc., swiftly placed one drop of the liquid from a bottle on his tongue and immediately noted down what his faculty of taste had told him to be in the bottle.
A final check-up each day gave Doc the results of this exercise as he continued it from week to week.
In developing his sense of hearing, Doc Savage has often used the radio. He tunes the radio down to the lowest volume possible, then moves slowly away from the radio until he gets to the point where he can no longer hear the tune being played.
Doc has found, however, that he must not allow his imagination to continue the tune. The first time he performed the exercise, Doc had moved twenty-seven feet from the radio before he realized that he, not the radio, was finishing the tune.
So divorcing his imagination from his sense of hearing, Doc stands at the point where his ears can no longer catch the strains of music from the radio. Now he moves away two more steps and concentrates on hearing. His mind first shuts out all other sounds except that for which he is listening; then Doc wills to hear. This does not mean that he simply wishes to hear from the extra distance, but he actually commands his sense of hearing to become more acute. His mind commands—his senses obey.
When he has conquered this extra distance by will power, Doc Savage moves farther away. This exercise alone has tended to increase the efficiency of Doc's hearing many many times.
Doc Savage's ability to decide instantly on the proper course of action instead of showing lack of decision, is to some extent hereditary, but in the main is an acquired faculty. Doc has acquired this faculty by practicing various exercises.
One of these exercises is the following
Doc gets fifty stamps with portraits of famous or prominent personages on them. He uses those stamps current in United States, with such as Franklin, Hale, Washington, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Monroe on them, and then gets those of famous people of foreign countries, such as King George V—England; Hindenburg—Germany; Pasteur—France; Masaryk—Czechoslovakia; Caesar— Italy; Juarez Mexico; Litz—Hungary, and so on. Doc does not pick just rulers, but men whose lives have meant something to the world at large.
When he has his fifty stamps in a small box, Doc shakes them up and dumps them onto the table in front of him.
Now, as rapidly as he can think and work. Doc sorts the stamps, placing the portrait of the person who to his mind has the most important place in world history in front of him, and then working down to those of lesser importance. As Doc wishes to be absolutely fair, he judges these people from an international standpoint, and not from a national one—and certainly not from an exclusively military one.
When laying out the stamps, Doc gave the dates of birth and death of each person, and two deeds of international or humane importance they had rendered. As an example: Washington 1732-1799—gave to the world a nation of freemen; demonstrated to the world that democracy was workable. Lincoln 1809-1865— placed the Unite.d States, the largest of the slave-owning nations, definitely in defense of freedom of man; gave to the world the perfect speech—the "Gettysburg Address." Ericsson 1803-1889 inventor of improvements to the steam engine; inventor of steel steamships.
Doc permits himself only five minutes to this exercise, and found it many weeks before he got fast enough in placing his stamp portraits so that he could add another ten stamps to the originals. Doc found also that as he viewed each man's deeds from an international viewpoint, his own valuation of the individual changed.
Much stress has been laid by Doc Savage to the training of his memory. Doc has trained himself to remember accurately only that which he wishes of what he sees and hears. He has trained his phenomenal mind and memory to such an extent that, as an example, if he were reading poetry, he would need only to read the poem once, in order to remember it.
Likewise, Doc has trained his memory for places. Once he has been to a certain place, he knows it as well as if the surroundings had been a part of his life since childhood.
Doc trained his memory for places thus: He went to ten different street corners in his own city and concentrated in memorizing the outstanding differences or characteristics of each street corner. Doc allowed himself three minutes at each corner, and then, with his eyes closed, he visualized the place he was to remember.
If, in this mental picture, Doc saw any blank places, he opened his eyes and filled those spaces up before he moved on. He did, however, limit himself to four minutes total at each corner. Doc then had a mental picture of the number of seconds it took the traffic light to change; the stores on each of the corners, the outstanding signs and the physical characteristics.
In going from one corner to another, Doc would identify the various odors that came to him as he walked along.
When he returned to his headquarters, Doc would list on paper the ten corners and their main characteristics. He also listed at least twenty odors he had identified and where they had occurred.
After four weeks allowing himself three minutes to build a mental picture— with an extra minute allowed for rechecking—Doc reduced his time to two and one half minutes, and eventually a mere glance gave him the essentials he needed for the mental picture he was building.
More of these explantions of Doc Savage's exercises will be given
in the next issue of Doc Savage Magazine.
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