Sensei Michael Herway is Urban Kempo's founder and head instructor. Competitive by nature, he played the gamut of sports as a child, eventually focusing on basketball and football which he played into college. In undergrad, inspired by the events of 9/11, he developed a passion for the humanities and traded in his cleats and high tops for books. After completing his MA in American History, Michael decided against the academic path, in favor of the martial arts. "I went up to New York City where I had attended undergrad to meet with my first great mentor. We took a long walk along the Hudson, and I was sure he was going to encourage me to pursue academics after all of the time he'd invested in me. But he simply reminded me that while I have two callings, most people are fortunate to discover one. He advised that I rest on it, trust in myself, and then move on it passionately."
The arts have served Michael perfectly as a healthy balance between the physical and conceptual. Most of all, however, the arts have given him a space to grow a familial community, and discover and cultivate a new relationship with mentor and trainer, Grandmaster Paul Taylor.
Sensei Sean began studying martial arts in California at age four. At age ten he began studying under Grandmaster Paul Taylor's team and within the same Shaolin system that Urban Kempo puts forth today. He met Sensei Mike roughly a decade-and-a-half ago when Sensei Mike began studying Shaolin Kempo in Old Town, and worked alongside of him for a short period before enlisting in the USMC at the age of 18. The two had been talking about teaching martial arts together again ever since.
Stationed in Japan for most of his service, Sean visited Urban Kempo periodically during his leave visits home to his family, who live in Maryland. Eventually Sean was stationed back in California, where he resumed his studies with Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios.
Sensei Sean is not only one of the best instructors in the country, but also one of the most talented martial artists. And while he heavily considered staying on the West Coast and teaching with Z-Ultimate, he decided to return to the DC area to be with his family and to teach at Urban Kempo. Sean is a HUGE addition to the Urban Kempo team, as he not only carries an extensive knowledge-base of Urban Kempo's Shaolin system, but he has been teaching both kids and adults since before he was an adult himself. Sean has been family to the Urban since it's inception, and you will no doubt enjoy his laid back, charming smile that exudes a humble confidence that only a true martial artist can put forth. If you enjoy the finest, then you'll enjoy Sensei Sean, and you'll no doubt want to pursue your martial arts journey at Urban Kempo!
Soraya grew up overseas and moved to the states for the first time at age fourteen where she immediately began her studies at Urban Kempo. Very shortly after joining, Sensei Mike saw a gift in Soraya and encouraged her to begin apprenticing as a teacher. By age 18 she earned her black belt from Grandmaster Paul Taylor, had been teaching lessons on her own for a couple years, and at times successfully managed the dojo all by herself. Soraya came into her own at an early age in the dojo and will be one of the first female masters within the lineage.
While Soraya is one of the most talented martial artists in the dojo, her greatest gift is a passion for people, which is what makes her a perfect fit at Urban Kempo. When asked what makes her such a perfect fit at his school, Sensei Mike will note, “One time I glanced over into the lobby and saw her scoop up a little kid, both of them with gleaming smiles on their faces. You can’t fake that. It said so much more than her ability to slip and duck punches, counter and move her feet.” In addition to her ability to fight and lay into a heavy bag (her round kick being more powerful than Sensei Mike’s), she loves people, especially kids.
Soraya is slated to earn her 2nd degree black belt in the Spring of 2019. Needless to say, it helps to have a female represent so hard in our dojo!!
Grandmaster Taylor is a 10th degree black belt and head of the Board of Masters at Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios. Located out of Huntington Beach, CA, the bedrock of the martial arts in the United States, GMT first met Michael in China in 2008 and awarded him his black belt in 2009, in a special promotion ceremony where he double promoted him past his final rank of Brown.
Having either trained with or under the most notable Kempo grandmasters in the country, Sensei Mike considered GMT solely and immediately upon opening Urban Kempo, "I needed a trainer. But even more, I needed a mentor--someone to guide me through the ins-and-outs of the industry." Grandmaster Taylor embodied the qualities that Sensei Mike admired most in both life and the martial arts--knowledge of the art, the ability to fight, an unmistakable air of sincerity, a ruthless commitment towards honesty, and unparalleled success in the industry veiled under a mystique of genuine humility. Understanding the lofty hope of training under a figure as prestigious as Grandmaster Taylor, Michael crossed his fingers and mailed a letter from Clarendon to Huntington Beach in the Spring of 2013, proving one of the most valuable actions he'd ever taken.
GMT is routinely recognized as the most pivotal figure in popularizing the martial arts, making them easily accessible to the masses. Beginning his career in New England and eventually relocating to Southern California, he organized and opened schools from coast-to-coast, including Virginia, where Sensei Mike first became introduced to Kempo. He has hosted and been hosted by the abbot of the Shaolin Temple on multiple occasions, and continues to take large groups of students to China, where they enjoy the opportunity to train with monks at numerous revered temples, enhancing their practice and strengthening their bond with the ancient culture. Lastly, GMT has cultivated the most renowned group of martial arts masters in the country, who produce instructors at the highest levels, continuing a tradition of bringing the highest quality of instruction to neighborhoods nationwide, a tradition that Sensei Mike is honored to be a part of.
Grandmaster Taylor has served as Michael's exclusive instructor and mentor since 2013. He travels from California bi-annually to interact with and train him, as well as the Urban Kempo students, and he oversees the promotion of every Urban Kempo brown and black belt. Students of Urban Kempo are invited to train at Z-Ultimate dojos across the country, so whether in Virginia, California, Colorado, Washington, Arizona, Minnesota or Utah, students of Urban Kempo are able to continue our practice in a familiar environment.
Urban Kempo is the only Kempo school in the DC area that enjoys a direct lineage through a Grandmaster.