Sensei McDonald began his martial arts training in 1972 under Sensei Malachi Lee. Shortly thereafter Sensei Lee introduced his students to Master Cooling and the dojo became a member of the Order of Isshinryu family. Following Sensei Lee’s death, Sensei McDonald along with Master Latimer, Jose Diaz and Maria Melendez continued running Sensei Lee’s dojo under the leadership of Maria Melendez who was elevated to Sensei by Master Cooling. Sensei McDonald was elevated to the rank of Sho-dan on May 21, 1977 by Sensei Melendez.
Sensei McDonald has continued his training under the auspices of Master Isham Latimer and utilizing his training in Isshinryu, Modern Arnis, Chi’na, Liuhe Bafa, knife fighting and firearms collaborated with Master Latimer and Sensei Costanzo to develop a new style: Chi Ryu Jujitsu.
Sensei McDonald (whose professional name is John Danelle) is a 1968 graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University’s School of Drama. When he graduated he became the first African-American to receive a BFA in Acting from that institution. His first professional acting job was as a member of the Lincoln Center Repertory Company. His Broadway credits include Alton Scales in Lorraine Hansberry’s The Sign In Sidney Brustein’s Window, directed by Alan Schneider and the dual role of Leroy Jackson (John Amos’ son) and Young Luther (John Amos as a young man) in Tough to Get Help, directed by Carl Reiner. Off Broadway he co-produced and originated the role of Val Johnson in Dennis McIntyre’s play, Split Second. The critically acclaimed play is included in the Burns and Mantle THEATRE YEARBOOK: THE BEST PLAYS OF 1984-1985. Subsequent productions have been mounted in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, San Diego and London. The play continues to be performed on various levels across the country. Sensei McDonald is known to many for his portrayal of Dr.Frank Grant on ABC-TV’S All My Children and Lt. Art Hindman Loving. When he signed his first contract with ABC in 1972, he became only the third African-American ever to be put under contract in a daytime drama.
In the late 1980s, Sensei McDonald left acting to go into theatrical production. After several years as a freelance production manager he became the first African-American to be named Director of Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City and then became the first African-American to be named Director of Operations at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Sensei McDonald, also, developed the concept and co-wrote the 1993, feature film titled: By The Sword which stars Eric Roberts and Academy Award Winner, F.Murray Abraham. As a producer he was a founding member of the company that arranged the 6.5 million dollar financing as well as domestinc and foreign distribution. The film was critically acclaimed by Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Entre Acte and the Los Angeles Times and has developed a cult following among fencers.
Sensei McDonald is now a private acting coach who specializes in preparing high school students who wish to become professional actors for the grueling college audition process. He has a 99.5% success rate and his students have been accepted at such prestigious schools as Carnegie Mellon University, Baldwin-Wallace, Cornich College of the Arts, Elon University, Emerson, Fordham, Ithaca, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, University of Hartford/The Hartt School, University of Michigan, Muhlenberg, Northwestern University, Marymount-Manhattan, NYU, Syracuse and Yale.
Sensei McDonald has been married for 35 years to Cagle McDonald and has two daughters, Amanda and Mary.