A WIDNES dad has become the first registered blind man to win a coveted brown belt in martial arts.

Widnes dad Mark Shakeshaft lost his sight after a tug of war competition in June 1998 caused a massive brain haemorrhage.

With grit and determination he has mastered the techniques of freestyle taekwondo, kick-boxing and self defence.

Mark, aged 48, a former special constable and drainage engineer, said: ”I had two choices when I lost my sight. Sit and do nothing feeling sorry for myself or get out there and make something out of my life.

“I’ve always been into fitness before I went blind so taking up martial arts really appealed to me.

“Although I am 90 per cent blind, I can still make out shadows. Now I am only two stages away from a black belt. It has been hard work to get to this level but it has done wonders for my self-confidence.

“My only worry was that the physical activity and bodily contact could trigger another hemorrhage so I always wear a head protector. Everyone in class is aware of my situation. The instructors use special caution.”

He has inspired his seven-year-old daughter, Rachael to take up martial arts.

Mark’s wife Jackie, aged 44, said: ”We are both so proud of Mark. He has such a positive attitude to life and has not let his situation get him down after coming to terms with his disability.

“Mark’s an inspiration to us all.”

Mark trains at the Matt Fiddes Martial Arts School whilst his guide dog, Ivan watches.

Martial arts instructor Matt Fiddes said: “I have worked with many disabled people including amputees. I am very impressed with Mark. He achieves the impossible.

“Everyone looks up to him. He doesn’t think of himself as blind and asks to be treated the same as other students. Mark inspires everyone around him.”