Reprinted from the February 1937 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.
Although much of Doc Savage's early training was given over mainly to exercises that would make his the strongest body possible, and his mind the most complete scientifically, love of music was not forgotten. For music is recognized by medicine as one of the greatest means of relaxation known to man.
It was while studying musical theory that Doc developed a simple exercise to aid him in furthering the acuteness of his hearing. He noticed that stringed instruments particularly, when played with a bow or plucked with the finger, tended to have a longer period of resonance, or vibrating period, than most other instruments. And Doc would consciously try to lengthen the period in which he could hear the tones until they dissipated themselves into the air.
In the following exercise, Doc used a violin; but when one was not at hand he devised the necessary equipment to take its place. A small box was obtained —a discarded grocery store box about two feet long, would do—and the top taken off. Then Doc bored a quarter-inch hole through the side of the box, about three inches from one end and as near the top as possible. Then he whittled a peg long enough to go through the hole to the inside.
The peg was fashioned on one end to give it a grip for turning; on the other end a small hole was drilled, allowing room for a violin string to penetrate.
Doc purchased a gut violin A string from a music store and attached one end to a nail he had driven in the end of the store box opposite the peg. The other end of the string was attached to the peg, secured through the hole. The peg was tightened until the violin string was taut enough to vibrate.
Marking the number of turns of gut around the peg, Doc would pluck the string and then slowly walk away from it, intently listening until he could no rnore hear its vibrations. Then Doc would go back, pluck the string again with the same force as the first time, and again walk away from it. He was attempting to make his ears hear the vibrations longer than he had the first time, and measured his success by the distance he had covered in the room.
Then Doc would tighten the string to a higher pitch and again attempt to lengthen the time his sense of hearing could pick up the vibrations. The tighter the string was stretched, the harder it was to rnake the distances he walked equal, for, normally, higher tones do not vibrate as long on the human ear as those of lower pitch.
Over a given period, Doc was delighted to find he could hear the "singing" of the string for a longer time than he could at the beginning.
While performing this exercise, Doc would picture in his mind a complete symphony orchestra and name the instruments used.
Like many other fields of endeavor, astronomy is an open book to Doc Savage, and discovery of many hitherto-unknown stars may be laid to his indefatigable study of the heavens. Although all great observatories are open to his use, it is still Doc's delight to walk to the top of a high hill on a moonless, cloudless night and gaze at the star-studded sky. And this has contributed much to his eaglelike eyesight.
In the early days of his astronomical studies, Doc knew no more or less than the average person. So he purchased a book showing the maps of the heavens and the stars that could be seen with the naked eye. Ascending a steep hill, Doc would throw himself on his back and attempt to pick out the stars given in the book as being identifiable at that season of the year.
Doc was startled to find he could not pick them all out. It was because his eyes were not adjusted to gazing across the far reaches of space. For in normal everyday life the eyes are not called upon to perform such duty.
Doc would chart off in his mind a small part of the sky and attempt each night to pick out more of the "seeable" stars in that section. It was noticeable to him that each succeeding night he could pick out more stars—until the night came when he had a perfect score.
Doc still practices this star gazing, for it keeps his eyes in good physical trim. Furthermore, knowledge of the heavens in different parts of the world gives Doc complete information as to where he is and what the season might be—in case he is transported to far places secretly and under cover by his enemies.
Through his many adventures in the far places of the world, Doc Savage has come to a complete knowledge of all countries, their climates, whether mountainous or plain, whether hot or cold, the accessibility and the means of getting there.
A study of his youth helped to gain this information, for Doc played at times a game with himself. It might have been called "expedition going."
Doc would sit in front of a globe of the world and spin it. While the globe was turning, Doc would close his eyes and then reach forward and stop the whirling with his finger. Where the finger rested, there would be the country which Doc would visit mentally.
For example, if the country were Tibet, Doc would trace the means of getting there and the transportation to be used. This would mean a perusal of steamship schedules across the Atlantic, railroad maps, and times of train departures in India—if entrance to Tibet were to be made that way. Passing through the Khyber Pass in northern India would give Doc historical background of that bloody gash through the hills.
Study of the climate was necessary, for Doc would have to prepare mentally the clothing he would take on the trip. The topography of Tibet would come in for study, for upon that would hinge the method of transportation—whether pack mule, on foot, or by modern motor car equipped to cover the rugged country.
Study of the nature of the people would tell if guns to any number would be needed for protection. If perrnission from the local authorities would be necessary before entrance to the country, Doc would be called upon to study the political situation and gain knowledge of what personages to approach.
Since he was going to Tibet, Doc had to look up in archeological books that which he might search for that would be of value to mankind in explaining past civilizations.
While on these mental expeditions, Doc would name the States or provinces of the country to which he was going, the capital of each, and its present ruler.
An exercise Doc began in his younger days, and in which he still indulges to-day, is a simple one having to do with the sense of touch. It is the telling of dates on coins by the feel of them.
Naturally, it takes but little or no practice to tell one coin from another, but to tell the date without looking at it—that is another thing.
In the beginning, Doc found that because of the smallness of the numbers on the face of a coin, it was nearly impossible to tell them by feeling with the tip of a finger. To overcome this, he found that if a finger nail was used in touching the numbers, there was more of a chance of reading them rightly.
Originally, Doc practiced on newly minted coins, the numerals being raised more and easier to identify; but so proficient has he become that the age-of the coin makes no difference, as long as the numbers are raised enough for a finger nail to flick over them.
It amuses Doc to play this game at odd moments, for all he has to do is thrust a hand into his change pocket and roll the coins around until he makes the guess on the date.
While playing this garne, Doc names the mints of the United States, their location, and when built.
Not only does Doc Savage have a body so beautifully developed that it excites admiration upon every hand, but he has taken care to keep his muscles pliable, supple. His amazing speed and coordination bear evidence to this fact.
In one exercise, Doc Savage lies flat upon his back on the floor, his arrns crossed on his chest. Tensing the muscles of his legs and keeping his knees together, he brings his body to a sitting posture. Now slowly tensing and flexing his muscles, he swings his legs to the left, raising the right side of the body as far as he can by muscles of his back and hips.
Gradually, so as to bring every muscle into play, Doc Savage swings his legs in a complete circle, keeping them as far off the floor as possible. When the circle is complete, he relaxes completely for a few seconds, and then makes the circle from right to left.
This exercise was repeated but three tirnes in the beginning, but Doc found he could increase it to six after his muscles became used to the strain.
While performing this exercise, Doc mentally placed the main nerve centers in his body, naming them and the portion of the body they affected when touched.
More of these explanations of Doc Savage's exercises will be given
in the next issue of Doc Savage Magazine.
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