Martial arts instructor honored for training U.S. Army in combat techniques

The National Infantry Association presented The Order of Saint Maurice Award medallion for civilians to Francis Fong, 73, on Saturday at his martial arts school. Courtesy Tracey Fong

Combined ShapeCaption
The National Infantry Association presented The Order of Saint Maurice Award medallion for civilians to Francis Fong, 73, on Saturday at his martial arts school. Courtesy Tracey Fong

The owner of a Johns Creek martial arts academy has been honored by the National Infantry Association, for martial arts training he performed decades ago for U.S. Army Ranger School instructors at Fort Benning.

The association presented The Order of Saint Maurice Award medallion for civilians to Francis Fong, 73, on Saturday at his martial arts school.

The National Infantry Association is a nonprofit that primarily supports Chief of Infantry Larry Burris, said Robert Choppa, president of the organization. But the association also honors infantry men and women, and supporters who have made significant contributions to the infantry.

Master Sergeant (ret.) Max Mullen, who contacted Fong in 1988 to teach Fort Benning instructors combat techniques, presented the medallion.

The award was long overdue, Mullen said, during a Friday phone call. Fong trained Army Rangers for three years in the use of combative techniques with no weapon, Mullen added.

The training included angles of attack against any type of weapon.

In 1991, Fong updated the U.S. Army Combative Manual with numerous techniques in long range, mid range and up close combat such as Kali, Maphilindo Silat and Muay Thai martial arts, Mullen said, adding that Fong is not credited in the manual.

“There’s a difference between Army combative and self-defense,” Mullen said. “(With combative) you want to .. take the fight to your enemy. You want to kill and destroy your opponent.”

Mullen said Fong didn’t accept any monetary compensation for the training he provided.

“I don’t expect anything,” Fong told the AJC. “I just wanted the soldier to have support. I do whatever I can to support the Constitution and this country.”

Fong, a native of Hong Kong, said he moved to the U.S. in 1968 at age 21. He came to Atlanta in 1975 and opened Francis Fong Martial Arts Academy on Medlock Bridge Road a year later.

At his academy, he is called “Sifu,” a Cantonese term meaning both teacher and father.

“Students treat the teacher more like your father,” Fong said of the term. “The teacher treats students more like the son.”

Mullen said the U.S. Army Combatives program has continued to be updated by other experts with Jiu Jitsu ground fighting techniques and other forms of martial arts.

“I consider Sifu Francis Fong a trail blazer and an early co-founding father of the Army Combative program,” he said.

Saint Maurice, the namesake of the medallion, was a leader of the Roman legion that marched in service of the Roman Empire 287 A.D., according to the nonprofit.