Entering the field of law requires ability, commitment, and personal sacrifice. Creating a successful practice and scaling the heights to lead one of Canada’s premier law firms, by most accounts, would equate to living your best life.

And then there’s Mark Stacey, Co-Managing Partner at Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP, and Co-Chair of the firm’s Commercial Litigation Group.

Mark helps clients to achieve their goals, and he is recognized as one of Canada’s leading practitioners in complex commercial litigation and business law. Equally impressive about Mark; he has met and bested his professional challenges while training to achieve the hallowed rank of Shihan-dai in the martial art of Shito-ryu Karate.

It’s a signpost on a long, rewarding journey for Mark, who describes his new Shihan-dai status as “assistant master, one step from Shihan, those considered to be masters of their martial art.”

Mark started training after high school and at 19 he travelled to Tokyo to study under Shito-ryu Soke (Grand Master) Seiko Suzuki, thus beginning a relationship that endures to this day. He then returned to Canada and qualified for the BC Karate Team before entering Osgoode Hall Law School.

After law school, Mark resumed intensive karate training and competition. He soon made it back onto the BC Karate Team, and then he joined the Canadian National Karate Team to take part in the Pan American Karate Championships and the World Karate Federation Championships.

Around this time, Mark invited Kaz Hashimoto, his friend and fellow student of Soke Suzuki, to come to Vancouver from Japan and open a karate dojo together. Through this partnership, the Odokan Shito-ryu Karate-do was born, and continues to thrive today, 35 years later, in its East Vancouver home. The dojo is considered to be among the most intensive, successful karate programs in Canada, and its pedigree of many former and current national champions backs up that claim.

Although he no longer competes at an elite level, Mark has continued to train and increase his black belt grading throughout the years. This he does while balancing his teaching responsibilities at the dojo, and of course, the demands of a successful law practice.

“There are a number of parallels that people might find surprising,” says Mark. “Success in karate is a function of preparation—extensive technical and repetitive training to develop a profound skill. This is very similar to the preparation, anticipation, and persistence required to succeed in the courtroom. The difference being that once you’ve stood alone at the ring’s edge at a high-level karate competition, you’re far less likely to be daunted by any challenges faced at trial.”

Mark shares these hard-earned truths with those he instructs at the dojo, and also the young lawyers he mentors at the firm.

In 2018, Mark returned to Tokyo to train with Soke Suzuki. There he was awarded a seventh-degree black belt, along with the rank of Kyoshi, an honorary rank beyond Sensei that is often equated with an associate professor standing.

Of course, the COVID 19 pandemic took a toll on the Odokan dojo, which was forced to shutter for many months. Thankfully those days have passed, and the dojo is once again in full operation, churning out the best and the brightest in Canadian Karate—one of its young students just won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships in Turkey!

This past February, Mark and Kaz both travelled to Japan to train under Soke Suzuki, now in his late eighties. It was at a ceremony during this visit that Mark was awarded the ranking of Shihan-dai.

“I have now been training in karate for almost 50 years,” says Mark.  “Without a doubt it has been the most powerful single influence in my life.  I greatly enjoy practicing law, but at the most fundamental level, I am a karateka in my heart.”

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