Sensei Michael Herway is the founder of Urban Kempo. He has been teaching Shaolin Kempo full-time for fourteen years and opened Arlington’s first Kempo studio in Clarendon in March 2013. He has trained under multiple 10th degree black belt grandmasters, as well as with the Shaolin Monks in China. He is a member of the Kenpo Lineage Association and studies directly under 10th degree black belt Grandmaster Paul Taylor.

“When I first began studying, I had no intention of teaching and my experience was one-dimensional. It was very much a show up, workout, and go home type of routine. After I became an instructor however, I began to realize the community potential that existed in the dojo. Once I became responsible for managing the daily operations of a dojo and shaping its personality, I began to get a high from being around the students.

Everybody got a nickname specific to their character and we began to crack a lot of jokes during the workouts. Slowly, the dojo began to resemble a family, where a myriad of personalities existed alongside a commonality that allowed people to feel relaxed. I felt that this was an important attribute to emphasize and so I opened Urban Kempo—an easy going place to get a killer workout, learn an amazing martial art, and yes, it sounds cheesy, but smile a lot and crack up uncontrollably at times.”

“I was raised in a large family with almost 30 cousins, all of whom lived within minutes of one and other. Being one of the oldest, I began changing diapers at age 7 and babysitting quite early. When you have 30 cousins and you’ve personally helped raise a huge portion of them, you learn a lot about people and you learn to love them and have patience with them. Through that love and patience strong relationships are developed, and through those relationships grow motivation and support systems that carry us through life.

Urban Kempo evolved out of some very challenging and adversarial conditions, and the students that followed and supported me from the beginning exercised an enormous amount of understanding and patience with me as well. I see the dojo as an extension of my family and I cherish that people utilize it as a catalyst for living happier lives. I am extremely thankful for the gift of being able to reach people simply by spending some time with them in my dojo and doing what I love to do. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else.”

“To me the martial arts is a journey to be enjoyed and I heavily warn against preoccupations with achieving belts because they never mean what people want them to mean. Similar to the purchase of a new jacket or vehicle, they feel really cool for a while, but when the butterflies wear off, what are you really left with? When the experience becomes secondary to the belt, one accomplishes only a bland façade of martial arts. If you’ve read this far then you can tell that martial arts means a lot more to me than some cool moves and colorful belts. Similarly, if you’re studying with Urban Kempo then your interest lies in the everyday experience of being around us and practicing Kempo with us. From that experience evolves happiness and progress, and if you are true to the journey then the color around your waist becomes darker by nature, not by desire."