By Robert Poyton
Robert Poyton is the owner and editor of the Magazine, Tai Chi International put out in Great Britain. The Magazine has ceased production for now, however Robert's own club magazine, "Taming the Tiger" is still available and contains many quality articles. You can E-mail Robert at: email@example.com for a subscription or pay £2.00 per issue.
The following comes from the latest issue of the Magazine, April 1999.
A few moths back, news came through that Erle Montaigue would be paying a visit to the UK to run a weekend course in Swansea. The even better news came through that prior to his, Erle would be running a one day course in Manchester for his rep. there, Bill Barnes.
I had been in touch with Erle over the past year or so (he was a regular contributor to Tai Chi International) and had for many years previous to that, watched many of his excellent videos on the various training methods of Taiji, Bagua, etc. However, I had never actually met or trained under Erle -- the last time he was in the UK, around 4 years ago, it was 'not allowed' by my then teacher to see anyone else! I had heard nothing but good things from the people who have trained with Erle, so I was looking forward to meeting him.
An early morning run up the A1 and a trek across the Penines brought me to the outskirts of Manchester, where a friendly local led me to the hall where the workshop was being held. Erle started the day with an outline of what Taiji is about and something of his own background. The group of around 30 students were then taken through standing post Qigong with all the relevant points detailed.
Erle then spoke about the medical and healing properties of Taiji and gave a very interesting demonstration of how exactly the same movements could be used to heal someone, if done one way or to harm, if done explosively. The extent of Erle's knowledge regarding the body's internal systems soon became apparent and many interesting points were covered.
Students then paired up to practice fighting techniques. Erle stressed the importance of fa-jing and showed how, when the body is used correctly, one move flows effortlessly and explosively into another. Of course, Erle is a pioneer of Dim-Mak / Point striking and once again his deep knowledge became apparent as the effect of each strike was explained. Erle expanded on the fighting theme by talking about the structure of the human brain and how it is divided into three sections. The Reptile Brain, that 'oldest' part is the one responsible for survival and Erle explained how practicing the internal arts allows us into 'animal' mode.
After lunch it was time for pushing hands. Erle's view on what push hands is about is very clear. he has no time for push hands competition but explained that push hands was about learning body movement at a sub-conscious level. He demonstrated and then led the class through a push hands method that really got the body working and explained exactly how and why it is used for self-defence. This led us into a brief explanation of the various ways of dealing with a knife attack and with this, as with everything else, you certainly get the feeling that Erle knows what he is talking about!
The day ended with a stepping exercise called "The Post", which is a grounding method which helps develop a good root. Students were led through the basic method, step by step (literally) and Erle explained and demonstrated the hows and whys once again.
Throughout the day, Erle literated his teachings with a wealth of personal anecdotes and observations, demonstrations of parts of forms, two person sets and so on. The amount of information coming across was incredible and Erle's knowledge and expertise evident. I also pleased to say, that as I had heard, he's a bloody nice bloke, completely down to earth. This was reflected in the atmosphere of the day which was serious but at the same time very relaxed and light-hearted.
At the end of the course, Erle was presented with a certificate by way of thanks for his teachings over the years, then it was time for photos and the drive back home. Following the Manchester day, Erle taught at Swansea in Wales at the weekend with over 100 people in attendance (coming from as far a field as Europe, the USA and Canada). The signs are hopeful that Erle will return later this year for a slightly longer visit -- if so, I highly recommend a trip to see him -- you won't regret it.