10 Questions with Eli Montaigue
Rather than the usual where one interviewer asks all the questions, these are questions from WTBA members to Eli.
If you have any good questions for Eli that you’d like answered publicly, please send an email to [email protected]
1. With regard to how
you run the WTBA, would you say you are more or less strict than Erle?
Strict? Well let’s see. I run things with more structure than he did, but I’m less strict.
For example, we now have a proper grading system people can follow, where is Dad use to just hand out instructors certificates when he thought that person was ready. We now have members on file and keep records of everything; membership is still free to join unless you want to get the special offers on videos and workshops.
Dad never kept records of anything! No mailing list, no record of what grades instructors were etc.
So I am more structured…But strict? Dad was far stricter than me.
There are many instructors in the WTBA now who Dad would have kicked out for sure! I’ve seen him do it for far lesser reasons. I tend to be a lot more lenient, so I will only kick someone out if they really step over the line, and even then I will give them the option to correct what they’re doing or leave, so it’s on them should they leave or not. I’m very easy going, but I won’t let someone walk over me.
2. Do instructors have
to attend a minimum amount of training each year to remain an instructor?
No, this is something that Dad wanted to bring in, he actually was just about to enforce it before he died, it was going to be come and see him once a year or you’re out! It really upset him when instructors couldn’t be bothered to attend a workshop, when he made it really quite easy for people by travelling around a lot. I also thought about it many times, but in the end, seen as the WTBA is small, I think we would lose too many instructors, because a lot of people are simply slack!
So I’d rather have someone to send a student to, rather than kick them out.
The way I would like it to be is that an instructor who is teaching for the wtba has to be seen once a year by me, that could be a workshop, a private class, or even a video correction lesson, not much to ask I know. (This would not apply to those who have already paid their dues like Wally Simpson and some other seniors for example)
3. Apart from teaching, who runs the business? Website, video orders etc?
When Dad died, Ben took care of the website, he also helped Mum with any business banking etc, changing everything over into her name. Mum took all the DVD orders, made the DVDs and shipped them out; Kathleen would help with this as well.
Now though, since I built the new website which I finished in 2015, it’s pretty much a one man show, I do all the website management, answering of emails, video orders are now all automated with the MP4 downloads, but should there be any problem then you’ll deal with me. Mum still does any DVD orders, I take the order in, but she will make the DVDs and send them out, though we only get about 5% of orders in DVD format now. Mum also sends out your Membership T shirts when you sign up.
All MTG video sales profit goes to Mum, both Dad’s videos and mine, I figure I have been given enough from Dad with the amazing job I have teaching, so the videos I make are to support Mum.
4. Have you had many
problems running the WTBA since Erle
Well Dad made me head of the WTBA a few years before he died, but I guess it wasn’t really official in my mind till he was gone, as I always had him to fall back on when in doubt. I’ve certainly had my ups and downs, but I have a great council of wtba senior instructors to help me out! If ever there is a question with no definite answer, we have a special Facebook page dedicated to working these things out, so we get on there and chat together posting our thoughts on the matter at hand, we all have different strong points, so we put them together.
I rest assured knowing that even Dad didn’t have all the answers, often I would ask him questions and we would work them out together, just like I do now with the other instructors.
There have not been any specific things that have caused me real trouble in how things are running, apart from maybe just being way to busy! Now I know how Dad use to feel when I would see him at his computer all stressed out.
5. Have you changed much
of what Erle taught?
No, a lot of people think I have, this is because their information is out of date, so for example I have people saying that I have changed the way something is taught, only because they are basing it on how Dad did it back in the 80’s, they haven’t kept up to date with Dad’s teaching, so they have not seen that it was in fact he who made these changes. I of course show video proof that Dad did the changing, most people accept this, how could you not when seeing it with your own eyes.
Some people don’t like to admit they were wrong, so they make some excuse and then keep saying I’m the one changing things.
Having said that, I am totally open to change, I don’t like this idea that something is perfect and should stay the same forever, after all, the system we all know and love would not exist if it were not for change.
The only thing I have changed so far is two movements from the wudang hand weapons where I added a little something, and in the Bagua circular form there’s one small change that I explain on my video, but nothing major.
6. Did you have any problems from other
instructors wanting to take your place as head of the wtba after Erle died?
Yeah just from two people, they never gave a reason why they turned on me the way they did, but it seems pretty obvious they didn’t like someone younger than them being in charge, even though I never treated them like I was above them, always treated them as equals, but equal was not enough it seems, they wanted to be at the top. It’s quite sad really, not because they betrayed me, but they betrayed Dad, they told him they would always be there to look out for me should anything ever happen to him, then turned their back the minute they saw a possibility for themselves to get ahead.
It was the same when Dad was still alive though, when Dad made me head of the WTBA, one of his senior students who had been with him for about 20 years, basically said that he should have been given this position as he had been training longer. Dad explained to him that although he had been training for twice the years, I had trained with Dad for 300 times the hours, he said the same to all instructors who had a bit of ego coming up.
After this the instructor posted some nasty things about me on his website and facebook etc.
Dad’s response? He destroyed him...... Completely and utterly. Makes me wonder what Dad would do if he came back and saw what these new ones are doing, as it makes the other guys actions seem like petty school ground behaviour in comparison. Anyone who knew Dad knew never to mess with his family!
7. Why do you take so much longer to bring out new videos compared to Erle?
Basically because I plan them out.
Dad would just hit record at a workshop and that would be the video, he had a rough idea of what that video would be about, but did not plan it out.
Meaning that very often you’ll have another video come out after to add more info or correct something he taught in a previous video. Not to knock Dad’s videos, I’m glad he did it the way he did, if he had done it my way he would have never put down as much info as he did.
The difference is, Dad was putting out videos as he was figuring it all out himself, where is I have everything there, it’s all on video apart from a few things here and there.
So my job with my videos is to consolidate everything Dad taught into an easier to follow format.
So you don’t get to a workshop and then have your teacher say “oh no we don’t do it like that anymore”
I want to have a structured format of videos to learn from, with no overlapping info, no outdated info, and made so that the student knows exactly what they should be doing.
For example, my new Bagua Basics videos you might have seen, I spent one whole month on a little island off Greece, did the form for about 6 hours every day, both practicing and working out the best possible way to put it across to beginners, then I started filming.
I’m currently working on Large San Sau, every day going over and over it figuring out the best way to get it across.
8. Did Erle ever teach things to instructors in person that he did not put on video?
Not intentionally no, maybe back in the 80’s he may have done this, but since I’ve been involved it was always his aim to get everything he knew down on video. So of course there are things me and some other instructors know that are not on video, but this is not because they are secret, it’s simply because he never got around to putting them down.
No information was intentionally kept out of videos, Dad was all about openness, no closed door students, no secret methods, even his so called “instructors only workshops” were not really that at all, he had started with that thought, not because he was giving out secret info, but just because he was aiming the classes at advanced students, but then seen as they were the only classes he was running on a regular basis, he opened to classes to anyone who wanted to attend, even a total stranger to the system.
9. Unlike most instructors in your position, you still offer one to one training for anyone, even those who do offer it charge far more than you, did Erle offer one to one training? And will you always offer it?
I’m not sure about when Dad used to run his full time school in Sydney if he gave one to ones there, but at least since the mid 90s or so he only gave private classes by invitation only.
these were for his top students, those who he might have been staying with overseas while giving a workshop, or if a special student came out to Australia from America or Europe. He also would give corrections classes to small groups of instructors in Australia.
Once we moved to the UK in 2003, he then only gave very small doses of one to one, usually it was if someone was training with me, Dad would come in and give some insight. I can only remember one time where he actually had a couple of students over together to have their form and push hands corrected. So by then he basically did not give one to one and to my knowledge he never offered it to a normal paying student, only to the people he wanted to teach.
I on the other hand offer one to one to anyone, have done now for 15 years, I don’t yet have a family you see, meaning no kids yet.
One to one training takes a huge amount of time to benefit only one person, so I can take a weekend and train someone for 5 hours each day, or I can do a workshop with 40 people.
For now I will keep offering one to one for everyone, I may always offer it, I don’t really know, but most likely once I have kids I will want more time free to spend with them, as I remember such a wonderful upbringing myself having Mum and Dad around so much.
So I will probably have a rule as to who I will teach one to one, I will only teach those who are passing it on with their own classes, that way even though I’m only teaching one person, my time spent with that person will be helping many more people.
10. What would you say is the most annoying thing people say to you?
I’d say probably when people tell me that they knew my Dad better than me or my family did.
It seems like a crazy joke I know, but there are many people out there who think that because they use to email him all the time, or attended a workshop once a month that they knew him so well.
I think it’s because he came across so open to everyone, they felt like they knew the real Erle, but the only people who truly knew him were his immediate family.
I once had a guy tell me that I’m teaching everything wrong, saying all this stuff about how Erle use to do things, explaining to me how he use to run workshops etc, this guy had never even met Dad, he had only learnt from the videos.
Another funny one was a guy tried to convince me that Dad had secretly left him in charge, along with 5 other senior instructors, they were instructed to continue my training should anything happen to him, he said how Erle had wanted this to be a secret, so he didn’t even tell my Mum.
When I said ok great I’ll ask the other 5 senior instructors, he said no you can’t ever speak of this! Erle did not want you to know, the others cannot know I told you!
So of course I asked the others to which they all confirmed this guy was off his head and trying to undermine me.
I find it annoying yet also quite funny that people actually think they knew Dad better than me and my family and try to use it against me.
Oh and when people ask where do I get my protein from…