Hwa Rang Do, Special Forces and Michael Echanis

Michael Echanis was born on November 16, 1950 and grew up in Ontario, Oregon.

He was a United States Army Special Forces and 75th Ranger Battalion enlisted soldier. As an enlisted soldier, he served in the LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol).

The LRRP were special small four to six man teams used in the Vietname War on highly dangerous special op missions deep in enemy terriorty.

During Echanis” tour in Vietnam he was badly wounded in the leg and was forced to return home and live as a civilian. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his sacrifice and the Bronze Star for his bravery in combat. In Vietnam, he had at least 26 confirmed kills while on active duty.

Echanis had previous training in Tae Kwon Do and Judo, and wanted to continue his study in military combatives and the martial arts. He actively sought out martial arts systems, which would help him in this pursuit but was still unsatisfied with what he had found.

Through a referral by another martial artists, Michael found Hwa Rang Do and Dr. Joo Bang Lee, who”s headquarters was located in Downey, Ca. Echanis requested instruction from Dr. Joo Bang Lee, but was initially turned away.

Dr. Lee could see the lasting effect combat had on Michael, and was unsure about taking on the responsibility of mentoring someone who had suffered the external and mental scars of war. But Michael was persistant and Dr. Lee finally agreed to take him in.

Dr. Joo Bang Lee agreed to train Echanis, and as a Doctor of Eastern Medicine also helped heal the wounds Echanis sustained during Vietnam. During his training with Dr. Lee, he also was instructed on Hwa Rang Do”s “Sulsa” tactics, (or guerilla & stealth tactics).

Michael Returns to the Military

After training under Dr. Lee, he took charge of a Hwa Rang Do school in La Habra, Ca. as the head instructor. Unfortunately, Echanis was far too tough on his students in the La Habra school. He was unable to shed the intensity of a combatant.

For the civilian world, he was far too intense, but for the military he was perfect. Dr. Joo Bang Lee encouraged Echanis to return to the US military and to bring what he had learned from Hwa Rang Do with him.
He became a hand-to-hand combat instructor for the US Special Forces responsible for training Green Berets, Navy Seals and other elite military groups.

While working as a contract employee for the CIA, Echanis began working for the Nicaraguan president, Anastacio Somoza during the 1970″s. He trained the Nicaraguan military and was very close to Somoza.

At some point, his relationship with Somoza soured and it is believed that Somoza was responsible for the assassination of Michael Echanis.

In September of 1978, Michael Echanis was killed while riding in a helicopter in Nicaragua along with his colleague and Hwa Rang Do Black Sash Charles Sanders and other members of the Nicaraguan armed forces. The helicopter was brought down by a bomb, which was placed on board the aircraft.

Before his death, Echanis with the help of Dr. Joo Bang Lee, authored three military hand-to-hand combat books based on Hwa Rang Do. During a time in the 80″s, these books were actually outlawed by the US government and deemed too dangerous for the general public.

Michael Echanis is buried at St. John”s Catholic Cemetery in Ontario, Oregon.