Monday, January 31, 2011

The Real Deal

Erle Montaigue, 1949--2011

The martial arts world lost a real giant last week. Erle Montaigue passed away on Wednesday, January 26th. He was a genuine Master of Taijiquan, yet he refused to accept any such titles. His friends and students span the globe. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to train with and get to know him before he left this plane.

Sincerity is a big thing for me. And if he was anything at all, Erle Montaigue was sincere. When I was composing this post my initial thoughts were of that sincerity. And I had to resist the temptation to compare him to some of the shysters I have met in my martial arts experiences. I considered relating some of those experience here, but changed my mind as that would serve no good in the end. Rather than disparage those who easily disparage themselves, I decided to focus on the positive. Getting to know Erle and to learn the system he taught has been a big positive for me.

Although he was one of the most talented martial artists on the planet, Erle was a very humble and unassuming man. As I noted, he insisted that he not be called "Master" or "Sifu" or "Sensei", or any other title that would place him above anyone else. Rather, he treated all his students, even the newest newbie beginner, as an equal. He taught and practiced in his street clothes. He has the largest offering of Taiji training videos known to mankind, most of which were recorded in his old barn or his back yard, with kids and dogs and chickens running around, clothes hanging on the line in the background, and his loyal friends and students all playing a crucial part in the lessons, and all as humble and as unassuming as he.

I am a bit of a latecomer to the WTBA world. But still, Erle treated me as if I had been around forever. We conversed several times via email or Facebook about Taiji and/or music, and I had the opportunity to train with him and Eli (his son) last May in Maryland. Each time, he spoke to me as if he had known me for years. But at the same time, he must have known a million people--easily. His students come from all over the world, and he apparently treated each and every one with the same level of mutual respect and admiration.

He will be missed. But, that being what it is, we must all carry on. Eli is now running the WTBA without Erle. But he will always be with us in spirit. I personally still have a long way to go in that system. But there are tons of videos to reference, lots of willing and qualified teachers, and opportunities to continue. The WTBA-USA will be gathering again this May in Pennsylvania. It should be a good time. Eli will be leading the training. And I feel quite certain the old teacher will still get a few lessons in after all.

I think it is a shame to lose such a treasure. But at the same time, I feel honored to have had the opportunity to have met and trained with him, and am thrilled to still have opportunities to continue in his system. Erle Montaigue was, without a doubt, the real deal.


Matt said...

excellent write-up. I think your experiences really demonstrate the kind of character he had.

Rodney said...

Thanks Matt

Anthony Court said...

Hi Rodney,
Thanks for your comments. I have known Erle for about twenty five years. He was my instructor and personal friend. Many people around the world see Erle the showman, but as you rightly say, Erle was a quiet, kind, gentle and genuine person.
Kindest regards,
Tony Court