- TAI CHI MASTER PROFILES -
Over the last half century or so tai chi has spread to many western countries, giving rise to a new population of non-Chinese tai chi masters. Among them, Erle Montaigue stands out as an individual of extraordinary personality, enthusiasm, and achievements. Over the years he has brought tai chi to new generations, creating many devout students and leaving behind fond memories of his life and teachings.
Erle Montaigue was born in 1949, 50 miles from Sydney, Australia in a small mining village. Surviving a difficult delivery, he was born six weeks premature and weighed only 4 pounds at birth. Doctors warned his family not to expect much from him. But then he never was one who was easily held back, thus growing in mind and body far beyond expectations.
As a child he was seen as different and didn’t fit in well with schoolmates. He was often targeted for beatings at the hands of bigger kids. Early on his one saving grace was music. The son of a musician/father, Montague became skilled at several instruments in his youth and got a guitar when he was 13. With the distractions of peer abuse, his school work suffered greatly and he fell far behind. Realizing his dilemma, he focused on catching up and rose to top of his class in a remarkably short time.
During his youth self-defense became a necessary topic of interest for him. When he was 11 he joined the local police Boy’s Club in his village and learned karate and judo. This also lead him to learn wrestling, resulting in him having a short run as a pro wrestler.
Always independent and a bit mischievous, he frequently acted counter to the normal order of institutions and society in general. Painting the school building yellow got him into a spot of trouble and dyeing his hair green and singing on the job got him released from employment with the phone company.
In the 1960s Montaigue started a band and appeared on stage in several musicals. In 1969 he penned the song, “Can’t Wait for September,” which became a #1 hit. He then met a former teacher, Wong Eog, who told him of a martial art that could make him “superman.” Interested, he began learning an art from Mr. Wong, called tai chi chuan.
In the ‘70s after his teenage marriage ended, he traveled to London, in an effort to extend his music and acting careers. While there he met Yang Tai Chi Stylist, Chu King Hung from Hong Kong, who would become his second tai chi teacher.
In 1978 he returned to Australia, married a second time, and eventually met tai chi master, Chiang Yu-chun. Chiang was one of the very few students of the great Yang Shao-hou and would become Montaigue’s primary Chinese internal arts teacher. From Chiang he learned tai chi, Wudang martial arts, and the mysterious dim mak, the legendary delayed death touch technique. With this his career in acting and music were sidelined although he always maintained his love for music, eventually recording in a band comprised of his family members.
In 1981 he travelled to Hong Kong where he met and studied with Yang Sau-chung, the eldest son of Yang Cheng Fu. While there, he also trained with other masters including bagua master, Ho Ho-choy, Shao Shan-kan, and Fu Zhongwen, Yang Style Tai Chi master and nephew to Yang Cheng Fu.
In 1985 he was the first Westerner to participate in the All China National Wushu Tournament. After three hours of testing by a panel of three internal martial arts masters, he was awarded the degree of master. Over the years he taught in Sydney, London, and Hong Kong, also teaching workshops around the world.
In 2003 Montaigue and family moved to Wales in the west of England. From there he continued to run his Chinese internal arts teaching business, offering classes and successfully selling a long list of his books and DVDs, mostly about tai chi, bagua, self-defense, qigong, weapons, and dim mak. He also posted an extensive list of training clips that have totaled hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube over the years.
Sadly, one day in 20ll, as he walked with his son, Eli, and wife, Kathleen, on their property in Wales, he suffered an artery blockage caused by his life-long diabetic condition. Despite great efforts to revive him, he passed on.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Erle Montaigue but everything I’ve ever seen of him has told me that I would have greatly enjoyed the encounter. What I’ve seen tells me that he was frank, colorful, insightful, down-to-earth, honest, hard-working, funny, and a great friend to have. He was not one to accept things blindly, which lead him to a life of learning beyond what is commonly accepted. This tendency brought him to higher plateaus of learning, making him a great teacher for those fortunate enough to be his students or view his many works. - TCJ