Profile of CPA Mackenzie Duke, who wrestles in his spare time

Mackenzie Duke

Canada | Profile

True grit

CPA Mackenzie Duke balances his martial arts pursuits with his job as senior audit manager at BDO Canada

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Mackenzie Duke can remember the exact moment when Brazilian jiu-jitsu entered into his life. He was working out at a Calgary boxing gym when he started trading verbal barbs with one of the mixed martial arts guys who used to drop by. “He was about 30 pounds lighter than me, but he challenged me to wrestle,” Duke says. “I took him on and he beat the crap out of me. That was a game-changer. I took my first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class a few days later.”

That was nine years ago. Duke has since gone on to become a seasoned and successful competitor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with several championships under his belt. The 32-year-old CPA, who recently earned his black belt at the JR Academy in Calgary, balances his martial arts pursuits with his job as senior audit manager at BDO Canada.

Duke says he loves the raw grittiness of jiu-jitsu. “It’s all about trying to impose your will on someone else.” But, he says, “it can sometimes be ugly to watch. It’s mostly about grappling and control and trying to maintain position. It’s not as fast or flashy as tae-kwon-do or karate.”

The Japanese martial art of jiu-jitsu was introduced to Brazil in the early 1900s. The Brazilians modified the art, emphasizing ground fighting and submission holds, and in recent years, the success of Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship popularized the sport and its techniques.

Duke, who is 6’3” and weighs 177 pounds, competes as a middleweight. He has won the Alberta provincials four times in his weight class and twice in absolute (where various weight classes compete against each other). “In those bouts you can end up fighting someone who weighs 300 pounds,” he says. Duke has also won the BC provincials three times in his weight class and once in absolute, and the Western Canadian Championships five times in his weight class and twice in absolute.

The feeling he gets from competing is addictive, he says. “Before a match there is always the fear of losing and the anticipation of physical stress or pain,” he continues. “Once the fight starts everything becomes instinctual, but there is still a high degree of duress. I think the entire emotional wave I go through just heightens the feeling of euphoria when I win.”