A Man of Simple Faith
February 1, 2004 · 4:44pm EST · Posted by Dr. Ana Maria Musa de Alcala
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
Horace Middleton Brougham was born in London of the 1800's, the fourth child of an upper middle class family with a certain claim to nobility. Not many details are known of his early childhood. He spoke rather infrequently of those years, although he was not reluctant to speak candidly about his parents, a stern University professor and a very Victorian lady, and their spacious home with its ivy covered exterior.

Horace would have had little to do with the martial arts, had he not been introduced to a kind of Japanese wrestling (perhaps a rudimentary form of Ju-jutsu, or early Judo) by a friend, and with it, his affinity for Japanese art and culture. Before that, he admitted to not being fond of "gentlemanly sports" except as a spectator. Regardless, his life's journey makes for interesting reading since what he called "a simple life" has quite a few good lessons in it which not many budoka have the good, or bad, privilege of experiencing.

Horace was good at academics, but he never managed to live up to his father's standards and this caused him, by his own admission, to develop an almost manic obsession with justifying himself every time he attempted to do anything of which his father would not have approved. This was something he hated, but never got completely rid of for the rest of his life.

Regardless of his less than physical tendencies, Horace became enamored of what he called Japanese wrestling and immersed himself in it with full force, all the while pursuing his fervent studies of History, Literature, Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Medical Sciences, and Law.

During a visit to South Wales, Horace met David Mansell (his real family name was Musa), a younger Jewish Law student, who had come to England from his native Spain a few years before. The homesick Mansell found a good comrade in Horace, and thus a friendship was born that would last their whole lives.

Horace initiated Mansell in Japanese wrestling, but later they were fortunate enough to come under the direction of a more qualified Ju-jutsu instructor. (He called his art "jitsu" but preceded it with a word that seemed to be part of his own name.) The techniques taught by this man were much more refined in regards to the use of the "ju" principles, and Horace was fascinated by it. Mansell would later comment that Horace would yell in excitement every time he believed he understood the subtleties in the mechanics of a technique. He also enjoyed his new physique and acquired a "thinly veiled little vanity", as he called it, about his stronger body. But Horace, now a young college professor, was also developing another side of his character: philanthropy.

He had always been very concerned about the welfare of those who were less fortunate, and shared with his mother a deep rooted sense of compassion, but he seemed to come to terms with it when he overheard a conversation between his father and some of his colleagues from the University. His father had taken center stage, as he usually did, and was ranting about his own ideas against what he felt was the government's and people's overspending on programs for the poor, alleging that it penalizes a few for the laziness of many, among other things. Enraged, Horace burst into the room and proceeded to tear down his father's arguments.

His father did not interrupt Horace's speech. He just stood there, with a fixed expression on his face which Mansell would later describe as, "if a snake could smile, that would have been it".

"If your arguments would have as much logic as they do noise, I would have given them some thought," said Horace's father. "But passion does not make them right, and noise is only persuasive to the lowly beasts or people of likewise mentality. Why don't you think before you speak, boy? Go and talk to your mother. I am sure she'll agree with you. We must be thankful that neither of you is in charge of the Empire."

Horace left the room amidst everyone's laughter. Mansell believed he saw tears in his eyes.

It was around this time that Horace and Mansell crossed paths with an older Japanese merchant who would change their lives. Mr. Koyono (Ken) Higa was a silk and Oriental antiques merchant who befriended the two young men and was willing to teach them not only Ju-jutsu, but all he knew about his culture. Mr. Higa had lived in Rome and Paris and had traveled extensively, including to the Middle East and South America. His experiences inspired Horace and Mansell to do the same years later.

In spite of his many eccentricities, Mr. Higa was a philanthropist who enjoyed helping others anonymously, and this touched a chord in Horace's heart. With Higa, he gathered funds to help several charities, among them, the projects of a man called George Muller, who worked very hard in the creation of orphanages and shelters for poor children. Horace himself worked in some of them under assumed names.

Horace became a proficient fighter, and was not above confronting those who crossed him.

In one instance, some members of the faculty began questioning Horace's masculinity and spread rumors about his friendship with Mansell. By this time, Mansell had been discovered to be a Jew, and this caused him to be the butt of many cruel jokes, and even threats. Horace approached the main offender and his words were duly recorded in writing by this man (who later became a good friend), and by Mansell (something that would become a habit for him).

"What you see is what I am, sir. And what you do not see is none of your concern. But if what you see, or don't see, displeases you, then you know where to find me. Let it be your last comment about me. If more is needed, I urge you to come to me, and we will discuss the matter until one of us is fully convinced that no more needs or will be said."

The challenge was met immediately, and Horace proceeded to settle the matter by throwing his opponent to the ground and choking him into obvious submission before not a few onlookers. The incident almost got Horace expelled from the faculty (his father claimed he interceded on his son's behalf) but few dared to cross him after that.

During his younger years, Horace was involved in several confrontations in which he made use of his skills to defend himself. The worst one was against a group of soldiers who were harassing another teacher. Fortunately, the matter was speedily solved thanks to the intervention of the police, and witnesses to the incident testified in Horace's favor. Having faced a knife attack successfully gave Horace confidence in his skills, but he was wise enough to keep it from affecting his prudence, as future incidents proved.

Horace remained a teacher, but kept his Ju-jutsu training religiously, and also his philanthropic work, with a vehemence that earned him much appreciation, and also many enemies.

Some examples will illustrate this point.

Horace visited a high society men's club asking for donations to help the poor. He asked the club's president if there were any kind men among the club's members. The man, obviously annoyed, answered coarsely, "Yes, we have some members who are of a giving nature, but within proper limits, of course."

To this Horace replied, "I understand that there are some people who establish fixed limits to their philanthropy, but I did not ask about them. I asked you if you have kind men among the members of your club."

On another occasion, he strongly rebuked a solicitor for refusing to help some poor ladies in a difficult situation, the solicitor alleging that helping them would be breaking the law. If that was not the case he would help, the man said, adding that he felt sorry that his hands were tied.

"You are a hypocrite, sir," answered Horace. "If these women were your sweet old mother, your sister or your wife, you would not have cared one wit about the legal implications of your actions. And if you had, you should be cut off from the human race for having placed your pretentiousness so high above your kindness."

When he asked other legal functionaries for help they also refused. One of them warned him that he was a British subject, and therefore obliged to respect British law, to which Horace replied, "Principles and laws be damned, sir! I am a subject of the British crown, but I am first and foremost loyal to my own humanity."

Horace was deeply affected by the lack of willingness to help that he had seen in men whom he had previously respected, and he never truly recovered from it.

To their credit, one of these men took it upon himself to help the ladies, and succeeded.

"I regret that what happened made you lose faith in British law," commented Mansell.

"Be of good cheer," answered Horace. "I still believe in the most fundamental law of man: benevolence."

Horace was not quick in forgiving his father, however, and this is made obvious by some of his comments about him.

"My father did not work himself to the bone to make his fortune. He just indulged stubbornly in his passions, which happened to be highly profitable. It would be nice to delude myself into thinking otherwise, but the truth is that he was not much given to self-sacrifice. He just had the appearance of it."

"My father could not bring himself to waste anything. Even his charm, which he saved exclusively for his colleagues and selected friends."

He (my father) was a self-made man who could not tolerate fools, idealists, anarchists, free thinkers, poets, idle women, sexual deviants, actors, the clergy, and noisy children well. He gave himself the right to feel that way by learning to read and write perfectly in ancient Greek, among other things. I cannot speak Greek, so I have to limit my intolerance to noisy children."

And his final recorded remarks about his father were made during a conversation with the Cuban poet Julian del Casal:

"Yes, my father taught me one very important thing: how not to treat my children. But since so many people have told me that I sound very much like him, I have decided not to have any."

Nevertheless, towards the end of his life, Horace told Mansell how he truly felt about his father: "My father never truly knew me," he confided. "Perhaps he did not want to. What he appreciated in me, it wasn't me, and what I valued he did not acknowledge. But I cannot say I did not love the old bloke. He accomplished some amazing things. And now that I understand how many fears he had, I wish he could have told me about them instead of closing himself up, since I have lived my life with twice as many. We could have helped each other somehow."

In his later years as a teacher, he also developed contempt for the educational system which led him to abandon it. When another teacher remarked about the glory of graduation day, Horace retorted:

"Ah yes. A great day for Academe and this noble institution! But if the majority of those lads ends up becoming a bunch of high-cultured pompous twits, with their noses so high above their hearts that they seem detached, we, as members of this noble institution, should all be flogged."

But he was a good teacher, and never neglected an opportunity to teach or offer advice.

Once, Horace and some of his students took a long trip north for the purpose of trying their hands at mountain climbing. Horace, determined to succeed, took the lead regardless of his inexperience, and before long had reached the far summit and was on his way down. Upon his return, he was greeted by the claps and cheers of the students.

"Why on earth are you clapping as if I was some kind of hero?" he asked. "My climbing that mountain had nothing to do with any of you. Not one single thought of doing anything for anyone entered my head while I was doing it. I did it for purely personal reasons. There was not one ounce of heroism in it. Do not be so foolish as to glorify efforts whose only motivation is self-satisfaction, or you may as well give me a standing ovation when I finish eating my roasted chicken."

Other relevant lessons were offered during informal conversations with his closest students:

"Intellect is what turns deep knowledge into kindness, sensitivity and modesty, while plain old thirst for knowledge is no different and no less misguided than any other kind of greed."

"A small man believes wit to be the art of being elegantly derogatory. Offensive sarcasm is the high hells of a dwarf spirit."

"A selfish man often uses drama to explain his ails and the injustices done to him, and satire to describe somebody else's."

"Idealist is the name given to an individual by those unwilling to go as far as him for an ideal. More often than not, the failing of idealism has more to do with people's unwillingness than with basic reality. An idealist is a man who believes in a noble idea which others want to make sure does not come true."

In spite of his contrasts, Horace Middleton Brougham was not a bitter man. He continued throughout his life to help others in anonymity. Only his dearest friend, Mansell, was aware of that. They offered their kindness in all the countries in which they lived, or visited. Mansell, being the more conservative and insecure, constantly advised a little restraint, while Horace took endless chances.

"After all is said and done," he said to Mansell, "I believe that all I have of value in my life is what I have done for someone else, and all I have to be ashamed of is what I could not do."

About Ju-jutsu, he wrote:

"Ju-jitsu is called a gentle art, but I believe this gentleness refers to the players' character. When I have been thrown forcefully to the ground by my partner, gentleness is not a word that comes to my mind if I am asked to describe what I am doing."

About life in general, he wrote:

"When a blacksmith hammers down on his thumb, he yells, curses, and all the conflict is resolved and done with. If a poet does the same, he would regret the hammer, ponder the reasons for his existence near the hammer, and feel that the pain gives him the right to be fed up with it all and run to where he can slowly nurse his wound, probably making it bleed again, all the wile writing an ode to his sorrow.

"I hope that when conflicts come, I can be like the blacksmith, and when joyfulness comes my way, I can make it last for as long as a poet dwells in pain. I believe that would be a perfect life, because there would be less wasted time, which could be used to do something useful for others."

When asked about why he had chosen to give so many of his possessions away, Horace replied, "I value comfort, sir, but I would rather have a place for my spirit to stand than for my buttocks to sit."

When Horace took his last trip to London, he was plagued by arthritis, and his eyesight was practically gone. Mansell continued collecting Horace's thoughts and ideas faithfully, but now he had new chores, like reading to his old friend, answering his mail, and tending to his needs. He had become Horace's eyes.

Some of his most faithful students, many of whom had already become teachers themselves, came to meet the old man when they learned of his condition. Horace gave them all one last lecture. He ended it by saying:

". . . Every principle, every idea, every law, every religion, every single philosophy, every last bit of subjective knowledge that does not surrender its reason to the very basic tenet of human kindness is pure rubbish, and must be identified as such, whether or not it boasts of the logic of its canons.

"I am a simple man, of simple faith... but I believe this is not a simple idea. Please, remember it."

Horace Middleton Brougham died peacefully in his sleep in November of 1893.

He might not have taught Ju-jutsu to many, but he was indeed a budoka. He was hardly perfect, but he had the courage and the compassion that makes for a good spirit. His valuable contribution to Budo was his example, who although modest in scope, is dearly remembered by all those who had the good fortune to know about this self-appointed simple man who was first and foremost subject to his own humanity, and by that, he meant and proved true, his kindness.

David Mansell survived Horace by almost twenty years. He used the notes he collected from Horace's lectures and sayings to compile a book that he gave to those friends who remained close to him till the end.

The last line of Mansell's book reads:

"Sleep well, dear friend. We will remember."

Let's do so.

Note: David Mansell was initially reluctant to print the book about Horace. He knew that Brougham himself had not been fond of the idea, and fended off every request by saying that he had compiled the information for his own satisfaction, as any faithful student would have done. When one of his own former students, a teacher of Law who was an admirer of Horace, insisted that many would benefit from the publication of the book, Mansell responded with a letter, saying, "... To those with a good heart, those issues are already self-evident. But those to whom Horace's words apply most directly will be the first ones to oppose them, because they will take offense. Those who would not try to tear them down by open opposition would gnaw at them by means of pathetic acrimony and sarcasm. It would cause me great shame to submit Horace to such vile treatment. The following day, the former student rushed to Mansell's home, and as soon as he was greeted at the door by his ex-teacher, he declared enthusiastically, "But don't you see, sir... The more those individuals try to prove Mr. Brougham wrong, the more obvious it will be that he is right. Even those who try to appear indifferent will make the loudest statement in favor of his vision! Many of my students already agree with Mr. Brougham's ideas on Civil Law." Mansell thought for a moment, and then replied, "Whether or not I believe in man's accountability to his own humaneness today, let it not be said that David Musa stood in its way. So be it." Less than a year later, a fresh from the presses folio from the private edition of the book was handed to the former student. Mansell wrote as a dedication, "I did my part. Now, it is up to you."


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