In the modern world, most nations cultivate a variety of martial arts disciplines within their borders, not as a formal effort of the government, but rather as a byproduct of public interest. Here in the United States, motivated students can find places to study anything from Japanese Karate to Israeli Krav Maga at their local strip mall, so it should come as no surprise that the military has also come to adopt a variety of disciplines into its own approach to martial arts-based combat.
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, as one example, borrows from no fewer than 17 distinct martial arts disciplines, ranging from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Kung Fu, to ensure Marines are as capable in hand-to-hand combat as they are with their rifles.
Iran has also placed an emphasis on martial arts for the sake of defense, though like the nation's military apparatus itself, their approach has been heavily informed by their culture, internal politics, and unusual military hierarchy, resulting in less than stellar results.
1. Iran has allegedly forced martial arts instructors to work as assassins
According to a cable sent from the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan's Baku Mission that was revealed by WikiLeaks, the Iranian government expects martial arts schools and clubs to serve in the role of "enforcers" when it comes to stemming public dissent, but that's far from the worst that's been pressed upon martial arts instructors.
The wire, which came with the decidedly metal headline of, "IRAN: NINJA BLACK BELT MASTER DETAILS USE OF MARTIAL ARTS CLUBS FOR REPRESSION," goes on to claim that the "ninja black belt master" in question knew of at least one instructor that "was used by the Intelligence service to murder at least six different individuals over the course of several months." These alleged victims were referred to as "young intellectuals" and "pro-democracy activists."
2. The Iranian government built an all-female, 3,500 strong ninja-army
Women in Iran may not enjoy the same rights or parity that can be found in Western nations like the United States, but that's not to say that the Iranian government doesn't occasionally recognize a woman's ability to kick ass for their benefit. Most women may not be allowed to travel outside of their homes without a male escort, but some are trained in Japanese Ninjutsu to become stealthy assassins for their government.
In 2012, 3,500 women were registered to begin their training to become ninjas, according to a segment produced for Iran's state-run media. Some in the United States have opined that Iran permits this training as a means to appease their stifled female population, but it seems more likely that Iran's government believes it has a use for women that can fight.
The video of these women training may seem cheesy, but their form actually looks a lot better than some of Iran's highly trained Special Operations troops…
3. Iran’s Special Operators were defeated by pottery
Every nation occasionally releases motivational videos of their highly trained troops executing unusual techniques. The U.S. does insertion and extraction demonstrations with special operators at SOFIC in Tampa, Florida each year. Russia releases footage of their troops shooting live rounds at each other, and Iran… well, Iran's special operators can be seen in this video losing a fight to a vase.
In the video, Iranian officials are shown looking on as men that have been referred to by a number of news outlets as Special Operations troops execute a series of dramatic spin kicks and even spinning back-hands to a vase that simply refuses to break.
Eventually, the troops set the intact vase down and bow as their clearly disappointed superiors look on. It wouldn't be fair to say that this demonstration characterizes all of Iran's military martial arts efforts, but if these generals were smart, they probably forgot about the demonstration and went straight to the guy that made that vase to see if he was interested in getting into the tank business.
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