KARATE fanatic Mike O'Connor made all the right moves to become a top 20 hit at the weekend.
The 51-year-old from Huntington, Chester, became one of only 20 people in the UK to pass his fifth dan examination when he came through the grading with flying colours.
Dan gradings follow on from black belt awards with a greater knowledge of practice and theory needed for each award.
Mike, who took up karate in 1969, said: 'After the fifth dan, you can only study for further gradings by invitation only. I passed my third dan in 1980 and my fourth in 1993 but I didn't want to stand still, so I decided to try for my fifth dan.
'The grading was a rigorous 40 minute test which demanded the highest of standards. One wrong move and that was that.'
Mike was one of three martial arts devotees who attempted to earn the accolade at Chesterfield Sports Centre in Derbyshire on Saturday.
'I was the only one of the three who passed, and in 20-odd years in the sport, I have never known anything so tough,' he said. 'There was simply no respite. In karate, there are 20 different Katas, which are moves against an imaginary opponent. For a fifth dan, you have to understand and perform all 20 because you can be tested on any of them.'
The grading also required Mike to demonstrate his understanding of other practical aspects of karate, as well as submit a written thesis.
'My thesis was on the relationship between Katas and Kobudo, the name of the ancient weaponry used in karate. Up until 1945, most of the karate schools in Japan used some form of weaponry. My work had to be authenticated by the Karate Association of Great Britain's historian, so all told, this grading was anything but a walk in the park.'
Mike, who works as a plant protection officer at Vauxhall Motors in Ellesmere Port, trains at Liverpool Red Triangle Club and at Old Hall Country Club in Huntington. He also runs the Handbridge Shotokan Karate Club at Queen's Park High School.