Michael Echanis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Michael Echanis
Born(1950-11-16)16 November 1950
Nampa, Idaho
Died8 September 1978(1978-09-08) (aged 27)
Rivas Department, Nicaragua
Years active1969–78
OccupationMartial arts instructor, author
Jump to: navigation, search
Michael Echanis
Born(1950-11-16)16 November 1950
Nampa, Idaho
Died8 September 1978(1978-09-08) (aged 27)
Rivas Department, Nicaragua
Years active1969–78
OccupationMartial arts instructor, author

Michael Dick Echanis (November 16, 1950 – September 8, 1978) was a former enlisted soldier who served in "C" Company, 75th Ranger Regiment Infantry in Vietnam.[1] Following his Vietnam service, Echanis was a martial artist, writer and editor. He died while working as a private security contractor in Nicaragua at the behest of the Nicaraguan National Guard. This account was first reported by Soldier of Fortune Magazine (SOF), which published the article after Echanis' death. Echanis had been the magazine's martial arts editor from 1974–1976.

Early life[edit]

Echanis was born in Nampa, Idaho. He enlisted in the US Army in 1969 upon graduation from Ontario High School.[2] Echanis had long been interested in the military and came from a family where his father, Frank, and his uncles had all served during World War II.

Military service[edit]

Echanis attended basic training at Fort Ord, California and went on to Airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1970 he volunteered for duty in Vietnam where he served with Company C (Rgr), 75th Infantry, FFV/USARPAC as a scout-observer.[3]

Echanis received the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), Purple Heart and Bronze Star with "V" device for actions during a company size NVA ambush in which he is credited with saving the lives of six of his comrades. He was also awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.[4] Although severely wounded to include a head wound Echanis was the only soldier capable of fighting back until help arrived in the form of U.S. helicopters. The closing paragraph of the Army's award narrative states:

Spec 4 Echanis' aggressive spirit and undaunted courage were decisive in preventing the anhilation (sic) of the truck and its personnel. His actions, at the risk of his own life, were in the highest traditions of the military and reflect upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

His service in the Army was a total of 15 months. He was evacuated stateside to the military hospital in San Francisco where he made a his recovery over a seven month period of time.

Echanis' military record shows during his short military career he did not attend/graduate Ranger School and although he participated in Phase One of the Special Forces Qualification Course he did not, for administrative reasons, progress further than this.

Martial arts[edit]

After his medical discharge in December 1970, Echanis returned to Ontario.[5] He renewed his study of Judo and trained with now Ninjitsu Sensei Toshiro Nagato who had become a childhood friend[6] According to a family member Echanis trained for a short time as a boxer during this period. This was under Al Barros, who lived and trained fighters in Boise, Idaho. Echanis fought several times as a boxer in the heavyweight class but left boxing to continue his study of the Eastern martial arts.

Echanis developed a two-week hand-to-hand Instructor combat course sponsored by the United States Army John F. Kennedy Center for Military Assistance (USAJFKCENMA) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The program was authorized in December 1975 and Echanis was formally appointed the "Senior Instructor and Advisor to the USAJFKCENMA Hand to Hand Combat/Special Weapons School for Instructors" in a Memorandum For Record signed by Major Jerry C. Williams, then Chief, PSD, at the JFK Center. Six courses were presented in 1976. Echanis' combatives program was titled the "Hwarangdo Hand to Hand and Special Weapons Program".[7]

The USAJFKCENMA, then commanded by Major General Robert C. Kingston, issued formal Certificates of Participation in the "Hwarang Do/Hand to Hand Combat School" to include the Instructor Course the participant attended. Both MG Kingston and Colonel Timothy G Cannon, Chief of Staff, signed the certificates. Joo Bang Lee, founder and then leader of the International Hwarang Do Federation affixed his personal seal to each certificate which conferred Black Belt ranking on the participant.

Echanis then moved on to Little Creek, Virginia and A.P. Hill where, courtesy of Richard Marcinko, then the commanding officer of SEAL Team 2, he taught three 2-week H2H courses for the SEALs. These courses, titled "SEAL TEAM TWO Hwarang Do Hand to Hand Combat/Special Weapons and Special Tactics School for Instructors" were attested to in a memorandum signed by LT Commander Bruce Van Heertum, United States Navy. Van Heertum took over command of SEAL Team TWO upon Marcinko moving to his next assignment in Washington DC. Van Heertum designated Echanis as being appointed "...the permanent senior advisor and head instructor for the SEAL Team TWO Hand to Hand Combat/Special Weapons/Tactics School for Instructors."


Echanis wrote three books about hand-to-hand combat:


Echanis was historically a free style fighter and after his wounding and recovery he traveled both the west and east coasts challenging and successfully fighting a number of black belt ranked studio owners/operators in their own backyards. Echanis served as the Martial Arts Editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine from 1974 to 1976.[7] Echanis was vetted by now deceased San Francisco martial arts instructor Art Gitlin. This at the request of Soldier of Fortune publisher and editor Robert K. Brown well before the 1978 printing of the SOF paid for book series("Si Gung Art Gitlin - Haak Lung Chuan", by Michael DeAlba, Fighting Knives Magazine, January 1996, Page71) According to Gitlin he was to "smoke out" whether Echanis was just one many "ninjas" then coming on to SOF in the hopes of coverage or self promotion.

Warrior knife[edit]

Echanis contributed to the design of the Warrior knife.[8][9] In an article published in SOF written after Echanis' death by Randy Wanner, the author, playing the role of the attacker, is seen using one of the prototype Warriors he had made for himself. Wanner refers to the knife he uses in this article as the "Echanis warrior knife".[10][8] However it was the Gerber Mark II and the shorter Mark I fighting knives that became Echanis' most recognized personal weapon and signature trademark.


On September 8, 1978, at 1300 hours, Echanis, Chuck Sanders, Nguyen "Bobby" van Nguyen, and General Alegrett would die in an aircraft accident at the mouth of the Sapoá River near the Nicaragua/Costa Rican border.[11][12]

President Jimmy Carter sent the Echanis Family a Presidential Certificate honoring their son's service to the country several months after his death.[13]

On October 8, 2013, Echanis was designated as Black Belt Magazine's 2013 Weapons Instructor of the Year.[2]


  1. ^ "Vietnam Vet Earns Bronze Star for Heroic Action". Daily Argus-Observer. February 23, 1971. 
  2. ^ a b Marfice, Christina (February 27, 2014). "Black Belt hall of fame: Ontario Vietnam veteran receives posthumous honor". Argus Observer. 
  3. ^ DD 2-1, Echanis, Michael D, Record of Assignments, FOIA/Greg Walker)
  4. ^ Information Releasable Under the Freedom of Information Act, National Archives and Records Administration, Michael Dick Echanis, Decorations and Awards, The Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/ Palm Device, FOIA/Greg Walker)
  5. ^ "Vietnam Vet Earns Army Bronze Star for Heroic Action". Argus – Observer. February 1971. 
  6. ^ Gattegno, Ilan. "Toshiro Nagato: the gentle giant". USA Dojo. 
  7. ^ a b Koenig, Peter (January 1977). "America's Special Military Forces Learn Ancient Guerilla Tactics". Black Belt Magazine (Active Interest Media) 15 (1): 20–23. 
  8. ^ a b Kertzman, Joe (25 August 2011). Knives 2012: The World's Greatest Knife Book. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. p. 51. ISBN 1-4402-1691-6. 
  9. ^ Walker, Greg (1993). Battle Blades: A Professional's Guide to Combat/Fighting Knives. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 0-87364-732-7. 
  10. ^ "Circle of Stealth – Echanis' Revolutionary Sentry Removal Technique". Soldier of Fortune 5 (10): 39. 1980.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  11. ^ Bernard Diederich (1989). Somoza and the legacy of U.S. involvement in Central America. Waterfront Press. pp. 186–197. ISBN 978-0-943862-42-2. 
  12. ^ Prensa Latina (1984). Prisma, Latin American focus. Prenza Latina. pp. 48–49. Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Walker, Greg (2013). "Hwa Rang Do's Immortal Warrior – The Untold Story of Michael D Echanis". Black Belt Magazine. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]