Under: Self-defense
10 Nov 2010

How many times have you seen a guy in a wheelchair and thought how he could not do anything? I mean many probably assume that someone in the chair could not defend himself let alone help another! Well I saw this clip on the news and it warmed my heart.

In a day and age that many look the other way this man decided to get involved when a would be robber started man handling the woman shopkeeper. In this post we will examine this hero’s actions (who acted without regard for his own safety with limited mobility – in my book qualifies as a hero) and the question about his or anyone with a disability ability to fight.

First take a look at this video.




Larry Skopnik happened to be at the right place at the right time. From what I saw and heard in the video, Larry noticed the robber cross the counter so he came to the rescue. It does not look like he had a clear cut plan as he rounded the corner but as the shopkeeper pushed the robber back – Mr. Skopnik took the opportunity to start a choke to pull him back.


The robber twisted so Larry transitioned to a body/head hold and kept it up allowing his body weight to pull the robber to the ground!


Way to go Mr. Skopnik!!!


This situation could have easily turned out badly for the lady shopkeeper because it does not take long for someone to get hurt badly. The other customers while did eventually help out – were waiting on the sidelines to see what was happening first. Easy to understand because many robbers have weapons but it makes Larry’s actions even more commendable.


It is hard to be the one to make the first move but Mr. Skopnik was apparently raised right and decided to help the woman being attacked in her own store.


Can handicapped people defend themselves or others? I mean if they can barley get around – why would they take the chance? One explanation is ones own standard and ethical view point. A person has lines they draw in the sand. Handicapped people are no different. Larry may have been in a chair but he was easily better equipped to wrestle with the robber than the shopkeeper. And what’s more – he seemed to be far more worried about the woman getting robbed then his personal safety.


I think we can safely surmise that in Mr. Skopnik’s world – men don’t mess with women and they sure as heck better not do it in front of him!


I respect that and while not everyone in today’s society have such wonderful old fashion values – they should.


Looking at how people in wheelchairs can fight – the obvious thing is to take advantage of their perceived disadvantage. I mean a guy looking at another guy in a wheelchair does not thing he can defend himself anymore then he thinks a women can defend themselves!


So having surprise is a great thing. Another advantage a wheelchair bound person has is great arm strength. Think about it… if you have to use your arms for everything – wouldn’t you be stronger than you are now (in upper body strength)? I’d say so.


So with surprise and a bit of grappling and striking – a wheelchair bound person should be able to handle him or herself quite well.


If you would like to more information about how people with disabilities can defend themselves, check out Erik Kondo’s website: Not Me! Mr Kondo is also wheelchair bound and has built a website – consulting around helping others with similar challenges.


I am really glad that Larry Shopnik happened to be in the store that day and through his heroic actions, the shopkeeper is ok!

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9 Responses to “Man in Wheelchair Foils Robbery – Protects Woman!”

  1. SueC Says:

    Hi John, what a great inspiring post! That guy really is a hero. Thanks for bringing the story to our attention.

    Clearly, being wheelchair bound is not an obstacle to learning martial arts if you can find the right instructor. I was equally inspired by an essay written by a wheelchair bound woman who achieved a black belt in aikido. Her name is Lydia Zijdel and her story is told in the book ‘Women in the Martial Arts’ edited by Carol Wiley. There is an impressive photo of Lydia throwing her training partner whilst sitting in her wheelchair. Great stuff!

  2. Marie Says:

    We have a new karateka at my club who is confined to a wheelchair. Our Shihan is having a great time adapting the syllabus to suit his needs and training with him has given us a myriad of new things to think about in terms of body mechanics etc.

    You’re bang on with the upper body strength comment too. We had a moment the other day were our highest ranking Dan grade couldn’t even undo his grip on her Gi. Scary.

    Marie recently posted..Reward and FrustrationMy Profile

  3. Matt Klein Says:

    Well done Larry! Liked how he had a look of calm as he approached the perp; the mark of a true warrior. He just knew he was going to take this dude down. Looks like he has some pretty good upper body strength. Funny how the other guy whacked him with the sign, then finally engaged at the end. Good tag team effort!
    Matt Klein recently posted..Kids Kick Boxing- Is it EffectiveMy Profile

  4. TheMartialArtsReporter Says:

    That’s a great story, John.
    Yeah, I also think that we sometimes underestimate what some people in wheelchairs are capable of doing, especially with their upperbody/arm strength. Awesome!
    This guy really is a hero in my book, too.

  5. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Sue, Took a look at Lydia Zijdel on a video – neat stuff to work through martial arts in a wheel chair. Thanks for pointing it out!

    HI Marie, Thanks for sharing – I remember when I had to teach a guy with no arms – I had to throw all of the traditional approaches out. He had to focus on distance and getting in and out while sparring. You know – no arms to cover with.

    I’m sure the new student is in good hands.

  6. Chris | Martial Development Says:

    Inspiring story. Do you know anything more about the other guy mentioned in the video, who faced charges for holding a robber down?
    Chris | Martial Development recently posted..Should Dueling Be LegalizedMy Profile

  7. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Chris,

    I think this is the story you are looking for and it apparently ended up ok for the shop keeper after his day in court. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2010/10/29/chen-verdict.html.

  8. Sly Says:

    This story is so Inspiring and just goes to show everyone out there that Disabilities don’t have to put you at a Disadvantage. What a great choke hold Larry had on that would-be robber. I LOVE IT !!! Wonderful Post.

  9. Ryan Says:

    Wow! Don’t mess with people in wheelchairs!

    The guy in the wheelchair beat the other guy up!

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