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 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, his first true passion, in favor of the martial arts which he had recently discovered, "I went up to New York City where I had attended undergrad to meet with my first great mentor. I'm a huge believer in mentors! 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 never discover one. To rest on it, trust in myself, and then move on it with the same passion that I had the college campus." 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, as well as assume the privileged role of mentor himself, to his protege Soraya Garcia-Semedo.
Grandmaster Taylor is a 10th degree black belt and head of the Board of Masters at Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios. He first met Sensei Mike in China in 2008 and awarded him his black belt in 2009. He has served as his exclusive instructor and mentor since 2013. GMT travels from California quarterly to interact with and train the Urban Kempo students, and oversees the promotion of every Urban Kempo brown and black belt. In addition, 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, we 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.
Raised overseas in Nepal and Indonesia, Soraya first moved to the sates at age 13 and immediately discovered Urban Kempo. At age 14 she became an apprentice of Sensei Mike's, and today she knows her way around the dojo like home. Soraya is somewhat of a dojo prodigy, meaning that she is able to cater to the needs of the dojo without much effort. From teaching four-year-olds, to executing advanced black belt forms precisely, to sparring with our most advanced and skilled black belt adults, Soraya finds comfort in caretaking to the many facets of the dojo. And people are always shocked to learn that she is only a teenager. Indeed, she is a master in the making.
Soraya received her black belt from Grandmaster Paul Taylor in September of 2016 and teaches classes five days a week at the dojo. A senior at Washington Lee High School, she enjoys hanging out at home and watching TV in her free time.