Erle Montaigue: Remembering a Legend

No artist-teacher, in these early days of The CombativeCorner, garnered more inquiry than did Erle Montaigue.  It was with both shock and sadness that when I approached his son, Eli on January 26th to see if his father would be keen on doing a 10 question interview with us, that I would read the words, “You’re a day late… we lost him yesterday afternoon.”  Erle was a monumental fixture to many martial artists over the years for his lively, and thoughtful teachings of the internal arts.  In 1979, Erle burst on the scene with books, articles and videos and introducing people to something that many people became fascinated over, ‘Dim Mak’ (translated: The Touch of Death).  Erle, from his earliest days, was an honest and giving teacher and one that felt that it was important for serious students of the martial arts know the inner sanctum of its teachings, and not get washed away with the hype and mysticism that so many people place on the internal arts.

What was to be a “10 Question with Erle Montaigue” is now something completely ‘different.’ Which is probably how Erle would have liked it.  In this article I hope to both introduce Erle (to those who do not yet know him), and to ‘stroke the embers’ of Erle’s teachings so that we do not lose sight on what’s important.  For more articles on Erle, his articles, books & dvds, music and more, please click on the above image.  For more information on Erle’s second passion, music, click the link –here-.  A friend of mine did an article on Erle in his blog, Nagual Time (“The Real Deal“).

So, without further ado… some ‘snip-its’ from the writings of the “Bad Rock Musician of Neigong.”  You will be missed but never forgotten sir!

Friends, students and family of Mr. Erle Montaigue – we’d love to hear about your experiences with Erle.  Please use the comment box below and tell us all just what impact he had on you.

Are shortened-forms bad for you?

The main aim in our Tai Chi practice is to try to emulate the internal flow of energy with a set of natural movements. So we do a posture that works upon the Colon, then we do a movement that works upon the Lung etc. So if we change these postures around, and our movement is linked to our internal Qi/energy, we will upset that balance because our movement is no longer flowing from one organ to the next. And we then become ill over time, allowing external pathogens into the body because we no longer have protections.

(read full article: here )

Are the internal arts meant to be soft?

There really aren’t any translatable words for ‘soft’ and ‘relax’ in Chinese. Both of these words need a sentence or two, in order to say what they old masters really meant. And you must also take in to consideration that when the old masters spoke about Tai Chi ch’uan for instance, they weren’t only talking about the slow form but rather the whole shebang of training methods that are present in all internal systems. What most ‘masters’ only ever teach and actually know are the initial basic beginner’s forms and when we stick the two words ‘soft’ and ‘relax’ over the initial basic forms, and especially if those masters then teach that those forms are used for self defence, you get a somewhat different view of what the old masters actually meant!

(read full article: here )

What do you think about the practice of Fa-jing?

Fa-jing is the motor of tai chi, it is what makes it go and is the reason that tai chi’s translation hold the lofty name of “Supreme Ultimate Fighting or Fist”. The Yang tai chi form that Doc-Fai Wong (regarding an article from Kungfu Magazine July 2004)  mentions not having fa-jing is only the very beginner’s form where one learns about balance and timing and begins to get his or her internal workings in harmony with the external movement. This is of course essential to any healing or self defence art. As one progresses, slowly, the fa-jing is introduced teaching the student that they have great power locked within their body that can be accessed with this fa-jing or “explosive energy”. If a student were to practice fa-jing too early, they might cause damage to their skeletal structure unless they have been doing some other martial system where their body is used to rigorous movement.

(read full article: here)

How do you get your Qi to sink?

The trick to getting the Qi to do what you want it to (to SINK) lies hidden in a phrase that I always remember, told to me by one of my teachers way back. In fact it was one of the very first things he told to me, thus: “Qi is like a shy girl; she looks at you from behind a tree when you are not looking and you see her out of the corner of your eye and she disappears. Then you TRY to see her every day after without success until you are not trying and then swhe will appear again when you least expect it.”

And this is the total secret to your advancement and understanding of your Tai Chi practice. Simply DO IT! No silly mind games, no thinking low, or I must sink my qi, no thinking of honey rolling down your body etc., or the many other games that we are told to play as these are all CONSCIOUS thought and another important classic saying that I was told way back was that: “Conscious thought will block the Qi”.

(read full article: here )

Is there Pushing in Pushing Hands?

When I first began my training in Taijiquan, I too was impressed with masters who could push people several feet away. I trained and trained until I too could do this. But my first real confrontation in the street showed me that I had been wasting my time and had to revert back to what I had previously known in order to defend myself! I then began investigating real Taijiquan rather than giving it up altogether and I am thankful that I did not give up as I met my main teacher who did not teach any pushing during push hands, he only struck!

I would ask why he struck me (rather hard) from such short distances as I would find it almost impossible to defend. His answer was that fighting happened HERE (in my face) and that if I could almost defend myself against his close attacks, then I would have no problem in the street.

(read full article: here)

What do you do about the Taiji ‘Doldrums’?

The (taijiquan) form causes us to feel good, so good in fact that there comes a time when we begin to slow our practice until we are not doing any practice at all! The good feeling lasts a little longer so that we then make excuses for not practicing as it is after all time consuming and take some effort, especially in the early mornings. One great excuse is that how can this set of physical movements help me in any way. Surely it is just a lie or some invention by someone to make some money! So even the masters begin to doubt whether Taijiquan is actually able to help and put it down to just the simple exercise that it brings to the body. So, some take up walking or swimming as a substitute and this works for a time.

However, over time, the body and especially the mind slips right back into normal Western living patterns where we become depressed, drink lots of coffee (as a substitute for Taijiquan as it makes us feel good) which causes the depression to worsen. Eventually, life is just not good anymore, especially if you are over around 45. Everything seems like there is no purpose and we become just like everyone else on the planet with the same depression diseases!

…Once you know that it is the Taijiquan alone that is healing you, you will then practice every day no matter how great you feel as you will realise that it is this simple set of movements that is causing you to be in this great area of health and well-being.

(read full article: here )

How ‘intense’ should Taijiquan be?

Probably, like just about 90 percent of the western martial “arts” community, you will be contemplating on words like, peaceful, running brooks, soft music, ballet, yoga, calm, Taoism philosophy, non-violence. If those words did come to mind, then you, again like most of the western martial arts world would be dead wrong.

Sure, Taijiquan has the above aspects simply because the body must be relaxed, or as the Chinese put it, in a state of sung, but for the most part, Taiji is a very violent martial art. In fact, I always tell people when they are looking for a Taiji class, to look for violence in that class. If it is not there in the advanced classes, then leave that class.

(read full article: here )

Can anyone learn the Dim-Mak (or Death Touch)?

Anyone is able to learn the very basic Dim-Mak strikes and make them work. We in the original Dim-mak arts such as Taijiquan call these strikes, the “Children’s Strikes”, those that are taught to children so that they can protect themselves very quickly not requiring any real training or power. These strikes include those to the back of the head using an open palm slap, those to the ST 9 point (carotid sinus) which works upon the physiology of the body to maintain a relatively even blood pressure. When struck, this point, which is located directly over the carotid sinus, causes the brain to think that extremely high blood pressure is present so it sends a message to the brain which in turn sends a message to the heart via the vagus nerve to either slow right down or to even stop! This is how this strike works. And literally, ANYONE can do it on a ‘sitting duck’, those who make themselves available in seminars for instance, to a teacher who thinks nothing of damaging those students just for a boost to his own ego. There are however, many other points on the body that also act to lower the blood pressure like those associated with the gallbladder, intestines and the urethra. The stomach for instance has nerve endings in the lower part of the stomach coming from the vagus nerve which when struck also cause the knock out from a sudden lowering of blood pressure and heart slowing.
Those strikes to the back of the head using an open palm shock the brain when even light pressure is used, often causing a knock out. Strikes to the back of the neck will also cause the ‘easy’ knock outs by the action upon the ‘brain stem’ or reptile brain when it is kinked. This is a medical fact that when the brain stem is kinked, the brain goes into knock out.

(read full article: here )

What role does the mind play in performing Gung-fu?

Imagine that you are holding a big yellow juicy lemon in your hand. You must SEE the lemon in your mind’s eye, you must feel the waxy texture and that little lump at the end. Take a big knife and cut the lemon holding one half up to your mouth and squeeze the juice into your open mouth.

What happened? Your mouth produced saliva didn’t it. You really didn’t have a lemon, you were only imagining it. Your mind however, still caused your body to do what it would have done had you a real lemon!

It is the same with the martial arts. When we practice our forms or katas, we imagine the opponent in front of us. Provided that you have a good imagination, your sub-conscious mid will be doing all of those self-defence applications as you go through your forms. The good thing is however, that you do not have to imagine the applications every time you practice. Only once or twice do you have to be told what the applications are and only once or twice do you have to go through the whole form imagining that you are performing those applications. After that, those movements go into your ‘long term’ memory and you no longer have to think about them, they will just happen sub-consciously. IT does not take long for a ‘short term’ memory to become long term.

(read full article:  here)

What do you think of teachers that teach you how to knock someone out?

Even the proverbial little old lady is capable of knocking someone out after being shown how and where to strike. But put her in to a situation where she has to defend herself and she will of course not be able to use her newly found knock out methods.

No one is able to knock someone out who does not wish to be knocked out. One of the first things I tell people at my seminars is to ask if anyone would like to try to knock me out. Of course they expect me to just stand there and allow them to strike me. I do not do this and of course they are unable to even get close enough to touch me let alone knock me out.

Now this is nothing special as I have known experienced kick boxers who have challenged some of the better known knock out specialists to KO them when they are simply covering up as they would normally do in a match. The ‘expert’ was in all instances unable to get anywhere near the recipient. For this you have to have the ‘opening techniques’ using fa-jing or explosive energy.

My advice is always find out what you are going to be taught at any knock out seminar. If you are only going to be taught what points to strike, then do not waste your money. If however, you are going to be taught HOW to knock out a good fighter who is not allowing you to do so, then go. And in my years as a self-defence instructor, I have never come across anyone who was able to show exactly how to knock someone out who was not a willing subject. You might as well go to a physiology lesson with a good doctor and learn about the carotid sinus and other points on the human body which will cause the recipient to be knocked out when struck.

(read full article:  here )


* Looking forward to hearing everyone’s comments.  Drop them below.

18 Responses to “Erle Montaigue: Remembering a Legend”

  1. I love the title. It’s fitting. He was a great man and he’ll be missed by many. Your post here is a fine tribute, and the articles referenced are gems. My own work in the internal arts would never have happened without Erle’s influence in 1993. My work at is in many ways founded on Erle’s generosity, fierce attitude, and deep kindness.

    Eli, his son and the current Head of the WTBA, is a good man and a profound martial artist. He’ll lead the World Taiji Boxing Association well, and make his father proud.

  2. wuwei sifu Says:

    Thanks for the information/efforts on Erle’s return to Wu Qi.

    what cause this to occur. i didn’t know he had issues. i’ll still be investigating what ere has left for us. ciao

  3. Paul Conklin Says:

    I was also surprised and deeply saddened at the passing of Mister Erle Montague. I know he frowned on formal titles. I will give him that respect.As a student of martial arts for many years. the last several the internal arts. I am a student of chi kung healing and practicioner of chin na and dimak. I have learned so much from his teachings. I hope his inspiration will remain available to us . You will certainly be missed Sir.

  4. (by: Melissa S- via Facebook)
    I truly loved this man. What a great loss. One of a kind in every which way. RIP Erle. You will be sorely missed.

  5. Master Erle, He was a great man. He shared his wisdom and knowlege with many of us, I am one of the greatful people to learn from his books and tapes. He had much to teach, now we will look forward to Eli, to learn from his wisdom. I will sadly miss Erle. Rest In Peace my Friend!!! R.C.Pero

  6. […] [Note — February, 2011:  Sad to learn that Mister Montaigue died recently.  See this blog…] […]

  7. I have trained in Erles styles since 1995, and met him first in 2001 at UK workshop when he gave me permission to teach his old yang style tai chi. I also trained with his teacher Chu King Hung in the 1980’s { after erle had left}, so we had some common history there. Very kind to me over the years, like many he supported me through hundreds of emails on my questions. Was in Thailand training as instructor with mantak chia when erle died but didnt find out this till i returned home. Performed my versions of his sword and sabre forms at a party in front of MC and other instructors. It would have been a few days after his death. They were very impressed with the performance MC asking who my teachers were. Erle would have laughed- me all kitted out in a big floppy white costume jumping about!

    I was deeply shocked by his death and although we didnt always see eye to eye in recent years I will really miss him deeply, and always be grateful for how he helped me along on my Tai Chi journey.

  8. Hi Eli, Charlie here from Donegal Ireland, I only heard last night about the sad passing of your dear father and master. As I wrote to him in the early eighties as I was a young man soul searching back then. He was the one person that changed my life and I was so lucky to have crossed his path as we meet in Sligo in 2005.

    Truly a lovely man with an amazing amount of knowledge of the arts I will always remember him for his direct approach and humourist wit. The world was so blessed to have him in it and indeed you will carry his mantle, for that I’m sure.
    I only had Erle for the most part on books and videos which he sent some to me for free and I have learned lots and lots of stuff but you have live and learned with him every day, think about that;
    Many blessings to you all, so proud to have met your Dad, Charlie

    reply to this comment

  9. Murari Boag Says:

    Erle’s legacy is not limited to the art of tai chi quan ,He became a legend and will live on in our hearts because he was a man that openly displayed his passion for life with uncompromising honesty and courage. Erle became the embodiment of the expression “be the change you’d like to see in the world” I am a wing chun practitioner and Erle has inspired me to pursue my martial arts training in a sincere and honest manner and more importantly he inspired me to approach life in the same way. Thanks Erle enjoy the journey, Murari

  10. El Chicharito…

    […]Erle Montaigue: Remembering a Legend «[…]…

  11. I ‘ve got the news three days ago, and all the night i didn’t sleep at all! Erle (Master) had gave me more than many without being physicaly present, just by free ebooks i’ve all downloaded and sucked, and on Viedo too! I had invited him to come in Cameroon two years ago, it will noww be a dream i made sharing his knowledge around me with my people! I’ll miss you so much but will meet Eli and other WTBA for sure!
    Fabrice T

  12. Erle was an incredible kind man and a great teacher – I and many others miss him.

  13. Jon Cooke Says:

    What a great man Erle was. He could have kept these secrets gaurded and all to himself but he didn’t and I expect probably had to explain teaching these methods to westerners and fought for our cause. How hard must he have had to of worked to gain Master status and break the ice for the rest of us westerners I often wonder? My dad was a student of Preying mantis in his era and his Sifu was constantly attacked for teaching “round eyes” just like as told in the stories of Bruce Lee. Erle has provided us with free info in a time were money is tight for the likes of a humble Ambulance call taker like me. I am truly grateful as I assume his own learning was very expensive (what a generous man). Erles Fa Jing teachings explained to me how I seem to hit hard for a skinny musician at that time and this helped me progress. I’m sad that I didn’t get to meet him. However when I next see Eli near my area I will swim there if I have to… Eli, your dad was a cool dude and I would love to study under your guidance!

  14. Sachin sunny Says:

    I’m a great fan of Earle montaigue I like dimmak and he knows that we’ll he is a legend

  15. I had the honor to train for 6 months under Master Montague. My greatest influence both in the Martial Arts, my ethics and my heart. May his memory and his teachings live for ever in our minds and our hearts. The last of the Great Ones. My respects always!

  16. Brandon Broderick Says:

    Earl was one of the most giving and honest Sifu’s that I have come across. Many times when I was purchasing DVD’s, he would throw in some others that he thought I would need or enjoy. How many people today will do something like that? He was great and was very sad to hear about his death.

  17. Mark Greenwood Says:

    I can’t believe this, 5 years late and i ve just learnt about his passing. Elle used to send me stuff from Australia, without asking a penny. I never to got to meet him in England either. A truly great man.

  18. DAVE GOODGER Says:


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