Sunday, January 30, 2011
In the last two weeks we have seen the passing of two great athletes; fitness guru Jack Lalanne, and now Kung Fu expert Erle Montaigue.
Australian Erle Montaigue was a larger-than-life character who pioneered his unique brand of Hippie Kung Fu, and I mean that in a very wholesome and respectful way. Montaigue always had a following of pretty women, athletic men and his ever-present children who he shared in video demonstrations.
This aspect of Montaigue's presentation drove some more conventional martial artists crazy; Imagine that... Hippies doing Kung Fu.
But it was right up my alley. Montaigue had a folksy communal air about his art. Some of his videos had the sounds of farm animals and chirpy birds right outside his training areas, in one case a barn with a concrete floor.
When I began the transition from Karate to Chinese Internal Martial Arts, I wanted to understand the subtle methods of Chinese infighting. Erle Montaigue's work was recommended by some students of George Dillman's Ryukyu Kenpo. Dillman had a professional jealousy with Montaigue, as both were recognized as experts in pressure-point fighting. Montaigue had written the definitive catalog on Pressure points: "The Encyclopedia of Dim-Mak".
Volume one is over 400 pages, and I read it cover-to-cover.
Montaigue wrote on his website about a seminar he attended when George Dillman went to Australia. He volunteered to have Dillman demonstrate on him, and recalled how Dillman nearly tore his fingers off to make a point in front of Montaigue's students.
Because both men were involved in the more esoteric side of their respective arts, they were often treated with derision by more conventional members of the martial community. That didn't slow Montaigue down a bit. The guy produced book after book, and video upon video. He may be the most prolific author and videographer in the martial world.
What most people don't know about Erle Montaigue is that he was also a pretty good musician. His family had a little band and appeared to play at all the gatherings. In his younger days, he fronted his band "Earl's Court", (spelling correct) which was a popular hang-out for Australians visiting the UK.
As yet, no official announcement is posted on Montaigue's website, but there is a Facebook page notification, and a confirmation by Montaigue's friend and co-author Michael Babin that Montaigue had passed.
I was in contact with him by e-mail several times in 2000. He provided me with contact information for his students in the U.S. and reminded me that he could not cash my U.S. Postal Money Order in his native Australia. I promptly sent him a cashier's check as he had sent me a requested video despite my knucklehead method of mispayment. I still have several of his books and videos in my extensive collection. Erle will be remembered as a skilled martial practitioner, a student of Chinese Master Chang Yiu-chun. But more importantly, he will be remembered for his personal and communal family; the leader of a merry little band of eclectic Hippie Kung Fu artists.
Rest in peace, Erle.
Erle Montaigue's "Tai Chi World" Website