Somewhere in the eastern hemisphere, thousands of female ninjas are being trained for battle. And no, it’s not in Japan — or in a new Quentin Tarantino project.
Some 3,500 women in Iran have registered as official ninjas-in-training, according to a recent video report by state-run Press TV. In the more than six-minute video, filmed at the Iran Ninjutsu Club in the “heart of Iran,” the female warriors are shown practicing stances of attack, stealth methods, defensive gymnastics, wielding bows and swords, and making a whole lot of “huaaaah” noises.
While the video is extraordinarily campy (it’s been variously compared to a Michael Bay film and 1980s straight-to-VHS tapes), the Atlantic’s Max Fisher points out that the women take their training very seriously. He writes of the so-called “ninja army,” which appears to be training only for sport:
Watching the video ... if you look past the tiger-striped costumes and over-the-top production, you can glimpse the self-empowerment of these women in a society that seeks to rob them of power, and perhaps begin to understand why ninjutsu, and athletics in general, have become so popular with Iranian women.
The Iranian government has long attempted to restrict women from sports, including a 2006 rule that joined men and women's sports administrations, and a police circular in November that said women cannot ski except with a male guardian.
But women have kept right on playing. Fischer points out that the first two Muslim women to summit Mount Everest were both Iranian, that an Iranian women rugby league is growing, and that international women's competitions in the Chinese martial art wushu have seen several Iranian champions.
Iranian female athletes have also faced setbacks not instituted by their government, most dramatically when the 2012 Olympics banned the Iranian female soccer team because they wear headscarves during the game.
The soccer team’s former head coach Shahrzad Mozafar told The Post: “When a serious women athlete can’t participate internationally, which ambitions are left for her?”
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