By Greg Walker
On July 8, 2023, at the International Training Convention and World Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada, “American Warrior” Michael D. Echanis was posthumously ranked by Chuck and Aaron Norris with a 5th Degree Black Belt in the Norris System of self-defense.
Grand Master Rick Prieto, who likewise knew and trained with Echanis in 1977 at the Norris Hilltop Studio in Virginia Beach, Virginia, offered this to the 500 plus attendees at the evening banquet.
“Few know Mike Echanis became a part of the Norris karate family in 1977. Mike introduced Chuck, Aaron, and myself to self-defense and street combatives that worked. Until then we’ been teaching Tang Soo Do karate and point fighting. Mike’s input and instruction became the foundation for what we teach today in the UAFA curriculum. But most of all, Mike was family, and this honor is long overdue.”
Liz Echanis, Mike’s sister, and Cam Echanis, his brother, accepted the honor during the banquet. “We now have our brother back,” Liz told me afterwards.
Echanis was inducted into the Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame in 2014, the Special Forces Association in 2017, and now the UFAF in 2023. In 1978, Echanis was promoted posthumously by Hwa Rang Do Grand Master Joo Bang Lee during a traditional mourning ceremony in Downing, California, to Black Sash, 4th Degree. Mike was killed on September 8, 1978, in Nicaragua while serving as a CIA operative in the fight against Communism in that country.
This is the first and only time since the UFAF, established in 1979, has extended a posthumous ranking as authorized by the Norris Brothers, Grand Master Prieto, and Grandmaster Gallagher.