Information and Trivial, An Autobiography
"One Mind, Any Weapon" - Hunter Armstrong
Donna Alta Mathews
Hanshi 9th Rank
A hundred years from now, it will not matter the kind of house I lived in, what my bank account totals were, or the kind of car I drove. But, the world may be different because I was important in the life of a young person.
When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you are the one smiling and everyone around you is crying.
I was born, June 14, 1953, at Lutheran Hospital, in Baltimore. When I was three, we moved into our new home. Because both my parents worked, I stayed with my grandmother, but I was picked up almost every night. I remember a lot of good things during that time. My grandmother and I would walk to all kinds of places in the area, crime was not as bad back then, as it is now. She would take me to the park, to visit other friends and relatives, and to the open-air market. The market was my favorite place to visit because I always got to pick out something from the stands. Until I was six, my life was like any other kid's have. During my sixth year, things would happen that would set off the chain of events that have shaped my life today.
One of those events was the birth of my brother, Donald. I was no longer the only child, I became the first child. The 'grown-up' child that was older and should watch out for the "baby." I was in constant competition with the "baby" and like most six year olds, I did not want the "baby," around getting my stuff. When I was six, the baby was my sixth year Christmas present. Some gift, not even a return slip-- and I was stuck with him! It took me years to train him, but I think I did a good job. My brother is one of the most important men in my life. I'm really glad I did not get that return slip after all. Also in that year, I started elementary school and made my first in a series of trips to the hospital.
At six years old, I was an overly active child that found my way into things that I knew would result in unpleasant consequences. One thing for sure, going to school did not curb my urge to get into trouble. My mother spent almost as much time at school as I did, due to the many summonings by teachers and other faculty members. I made it through six years of school by the skin of my teeth! School was not my thing, but somehow, I survived. ( school and my mother, that is ) Life went on....
Fortunately, for my sake, my mother was the type that believed in pushing her children into every activity she could find. I became a girl scout, took tap lessons and got involved with sports. My parents were always there for me. They attended every ball game, tap recital, and even came to my Ju-Jitsu black belt promotion. However, because of my shyness It was hard for me to fit in. I had nothing in common with most of my peers. Because of my disabilities ( which I will discuss later ) there was always a problem between me and someone. I was a fighter, good or bad, walking away from someone that was making fun of me was not my way. Therefore, fights were a big part of my schooling career.
Like I mentioned earlier, my life consisted of many trips to the hospital. During the summer just before I was to attend Jr. High School, the doctor noticed a lump on my back. Then, during that first year of Jr. High, I started having pain in my lower back. With numerous trips to different doctors, I was finally put in Kerans Hospital for tests. A team of doctors came from all over the world to study my condition. I had a very rare condition. So rare, in fact, they had never seen it before. Over the next three years, I underwent two spinal fusion two six month stays in bed in body casts, and relearned to walk twice. Needless to say, I had absolutely no social life. I went to school by phone and relied on teachers coming to the house to give me my lessons. One would think that being confined to bed would keep me out of trouble. Being confined to bed was a challenge. I had to concur and control my territory. By going to the bottom of my bed I found that I could prop myself up on the bed rail and slide myself onto the window ledge. There I could hang out of the window and wedge myself between the frame. This was fun until my mom came home and scared the both of us. Even while confined to bed, I was still expected to attended school. Each student had their own phone, which was connected to a switch board downtown. My class had nine students from different grades and different areas of the city. If I did not want to have class one day, I would hang out over the bed and unhook my school phone than put it back when class was over. I took my test over the phone. I found that if I were real quiet, I could have my book in front of me and turn the pages very slowly until I found the answers. To this day, I believe that obstacles are in your mind.
By my first year of high school, I was able to go back to school with restrictions. I had to wear a brace from my hips to up under my chin, which unfortunately, made me really stand out. I had to stay away from all athletic activities, and worst of all, fight off the rude comments and jokes. High school was a real learning experience, ( and I don't mean the lessons ). Of course this did not help my already-aggressive nature. I took advantage of my disabilities to get me out of things I did not want to do, especially with the work settings. Because I was associated with The Department Of Social Services disability department, I only had to talk to my worker to get special accommodations. I don't want this to sound that I am proud of my younger years because I am not, but the circumstances and my shyness made me seek out anyone that would accept me and anything to make my life easier. And I would almost do anything to stay on the inside of the group. I drove racing cars, did drugs, stayed out late, and totally disregarded what my parents told me. Of course, they did not know that I was going through this rebellious period. If they had known of my double life, I would not have seen the light of day again, until I was at least 30.
In 1972, I graduated from Northern High School with a Business Diploma. My parents offered me a choice. I could go to college or have a car. With my attitude about school I took the car. Four years of high school down the tubes! In all honesty, I was just not ready for life in the real world. I wanted a job and money. The problem was getting a job that let me sleep late, work the hours I wanted to work, and get good money for doing it. As you might have guessed, I had to get a real job. The kind you are not suppose to like. It took a while to find one. In the meantime, I took short term and part time jobs to keep my car on the road and me on the wrong road. One of the quickie jobs I got was delivering telephone books. Sometimes the areas were not so good. That is when I ran into my first attacker. I really believed that it would never happen to me. During the attack I was trying to be polite like my mother had told me to be with older people. (One lesson I am happy to say I no longer hold on to if the person is trying to assault me). It scared me into realizing that I was not as tough as I wanted to believe. I had to do something.
Not long after the attack, I enrolled in a self-defense class given by the police department. I not only learn how to protect myself, but also learned things about myself that helped me wake up to the real world-- at least some of it. After the self-defense class, I still felt I needed to learn more so I took the advanced training. With help from some of the officers, I enrolled in a police special-force-training program with the intention of working in the school system. Just before school was to begin, the program was cut due to funding. I took the self-defense instructor course and became an instructor. I was also training in security, protection and investigation work, teaching swimming, and working with the mentally retarded. I had also found a full-time job working for the State of Maryland. With all this, I had not given up my bad, influential friends.
One night on my way home from Fells Point I found myself in a part of town in which I was not familiar. After driving around a while, I stopped at a well-lit house to ask directions. What I saw when they opened the door was, to me, unbelievable. I had knocked on the door of a Buddhist monastery- right in downtown Baltimore City, on the other side of the harbor. It had been built inside of a group of four row homes that had been reconditioned, and housed about 20 monks. I was not happy in or with my own church and religion so basically, I was looking for something to attach my stay-above-water life. Within the first six months, I was totally off of drugs, had my own apartment, and was heavily involve in the Martial Arts. Master yLee Tai was the person that helped me turn my life around. He taught me a whole new set of values that I could understand and follow. He changed my life completely. For many years, I studied under Master Tai. I received my sash in 1979. In 1981, after much thought, I decided to follow my beliefs into Buddhist religion with a full ceremony. Soon after that, the city of Baltimore decided to renovate the harbor and tear down the only place that I could find peace and comfort. Master Tai explained to me that I would always carry his teaching and my learning with me. That I was to look to the world and the power it held.
After the city destroyed the monastery, I began looking for somewhere else to train. At that time, I was working for the YMCA. One of the classes they offered was Ju-Jitsu. After watching a class and talking with the instructor, I began training in the art. It was all physical, there was no spiritual teachings, but I enjoyed the art because of my Sensei. My Sensei was a female, and took the time to help me find a way to do the techniques in harmony with my disabilities, which by this time, were starting to interfere with my life. In 1983, I left the state with a disability retirement and got married. Mistake! Looking back at my life, I do not know why I thought I could live equally with another person. He was passive, and me, you know the story, aggressive and short-fused. My marriage lasted for two years. The divorce took longer.
After receiving my black belt in 1987, I started teaching at Loyola and have been there since. During my life, I have had to fight for every inch I got. I know now that every setback made me stronger. I still do not have many friends, but the few I have are solid. Besides my family, the most important part of my life is my students. Teaching has given back many things. I am still a little shy, but I now have the ability to push myself into doing what, to me, sometimes seems like the impossible. My students are special they allow me to give without feeling that they are only listening to get that coveted black belt. I will never have a child of my own due to my physical condition, but I will always have the chance to influence our future. I can only do my best.
My life now is good. My disabilities will progress as they will. I am still strong of will, and set in what I believe. I owe my ability to still live my life my way to my mother and father, who were always there with plenty of support. My mom died, April of '96, and my dad in 2005. If they were here today, my life would be perfect. I have done a lot in my life, horseback riding and shows, Kung Fu tournaments, other martial arts, life-guarding, scuba-diving, rock-climbing and repelling, hunting, search and rescue, hang-gliding and many other things. If the day comes that I must accept the wheelchair, at least I can say I did those things, instead of, I wish I would have tried.
Born: Baltimore, Maryland
Date Born: June 14, 1953 Year of the snake Month of Gemini Hour of the snake 666
High School: Northern High Graduated with a business degree
College: AA Essex Community College
Started Martial Arts Training: 1972, after being attacked
Styles Studied: Tai Chi Chaun, Ju-Jitsu, Chinese Weapons, Karate, Judo, Qigong, Iron Palm
Belts Held: Ju-Jitsu, Karate, Tai Chi Chaun, Akido and Kung Fu
Certificates: Kudan, American Ju-Jitsu Association and Dai-Nippon Seibukan Budo/Bugei-kai (USA) Koto, Japan as Hanshi 9th rank, Self Defense Advanced Level Instructor, Police Special Force Training, Executive protection, Hand Gun certified, Private Investigator
- Owner and Head Instructor of the Maru Dojo at Loyola College
- Worked in the field of Special Education
- Aquatic instruction
- YMCA/WSI Maryland Red Cross
- Health Center Director YMCA
- Handicapped Service Coordinator YMCA
- Mail Services Department of Social Services
- Private Investigator Paragon Investigations Service
- Patrol and Protection Unit Pinkerton Security
- Private Investigator Pinkerton Security
- Executive/Private Personal Protection Security
- First Aid/CPR/Instructor Maryland Red Cross
- Special Olympic Maryland State Aquatic Director
- Special Security Marrios Mechanic Theater
- Eastern Philosophy
- Trying to raise Bonsai Trees
- Martial Arts & Weapons
- Eastern Culture
- Computer crashing
Favorite colors: Red, Blue
Favorite foods: Peanut Butter, mint chocolate chip ice cream, payday candy bars, beans and rice
Favorite drink: Tea
Favorite movies: Princess Diaries (1 & 2 ), The Blind Side, Last Holiday, Bourne Trilogy, The Stand, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Avatar, D.E.B.S
Favorite TV Shows: Xena, NCIS, Bones, Hawaii Five-O ( new version), Chase, Saving Grace, Bump, Rizolli & Isles, Spartacus, the new Nikita, Stargate, Highlander, Glee, Sanctuary
Favorite actor: Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Jet LI
Favorite actresses: Jordana Brewster, Anjelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Tapping, Emile Ullerup, Halle Berry, Jamie lee Curtis
Favorite kind of books: Science Fiction/ Fantasy, Zen and the Martial Arts, The Last Ship, Eastern Philosophy, Spirituality
Favorite music: Blues, Old time Rock and Roll, Rock, Country,Christelle Berthon, Bagpipes
Favorite singer: Celine Dion, Cher, Tina Turner, k.d.lang
Favorite past time: Learning something new and philosophy
People most influenced by: My Mother/Father Secretary at the YMCA, Master Lee Tai, Master Anthony Gogh
Person from I admire: John F. Kennedy, Oprah