Decades ago I became interested in Tai Chi. The World Wide Web and Google was still in the future so a friend and myself headed into Chinatown to see if I could find any books on the combat uses of Tai Chi. In one store I came across a small book called “How to Use Tai Chi as a Fighting Art” by Erle Montaigue. Pretty much what I was looking for and “did what it said on the label”, as they say. Some parts of that book at the time I did not understand, while others had a far greater impression on me that I then realised.
A decade or so passes and I am inspired to write a book about self-defence and common principles found in various martial arts. While I am researching various aspects of this I discover Erle Montaigue’s website. I suddenly realize that a lot of what I have written about principles behind self defence have come from Erle’s book. Rereading the book again I see that many of the passages that previously I did not understand are describing concepts and conclusions that I had arrived at by other routes. Also on Erle’s website was the text of several other of his early books. As I read through these I realise that they could be combined to form a more comprehensive book on Tai Chi and Pa Kua.
I emailed Erle and explained that inadvertently my book had a lot more of his ideas in it than I had realised. Erle had nothing but encouragement for me and I ended up adding a very useful section on Long Har Chuan to the book. An occasional correspondence ensued, with Erle always willing to answer questions and offer encouragement. During this time I took the text of the books that I had found on his website, combined them and wrote some text to bring the various parts together. Erle took this rough work, turned it into a PDF and placed it on the website as a free “Tai Chi Compilation” book. At the time this was a side project for both of us so he never got around to adding the photos referred to in the text. Things got a bit garbled too. Erle labelled some of the text that I had written as his own and some of his comments as made by me. I consider this something of a compliment and an indication that some of my interpretation was on the right track.
Erle continued to provide encouragement with my own book, suggesting several publishers that might be interested. The book acquired some useful passages on Tai Chi-based combat and a sizeable and detailed section on Dim-Mak using my own system for locating points. A pleasant surprise was when Erle volunteered to write a foreword for my book. Erle was also an ex-wrestler so I was pleased he considered my section on Ju-jitsu worthy of special mention.
For a number of reasons it was some time before my book was finally published in mid-2011. I emailed Erle to tell him the good news only to receive a reply from his son, informing me Erle had been suddenly taken from his family that January. Today is Australia day, the anniversary of Erle’s death.
I have heard that some elements of the Tai Chi community took exception to Erle. Erle was a plain-speaking Aussie who had some strong opinions about some of the courses modern Tai Chi had taken. Many people are not even aware that Tai Chi is a martial art. It is largely thanks to Erle that many people now know better and know that Tai Chi is a potent fighting art. My own experience was of a man who was both generous and encouraging. He made a big impression on the world while he was in it and I believe the effect he had was beneficial.
Thank you Erle.