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Japanese martial arts include more than karate, more than the traditional blows of the samurai. In a nation in which shopkeepers still shutter their display windows against long-vanquished burglars, martial arts experts keep alive the concept of the joka-machi, the walled town of pre-modern Japanese urban planning.
Unlike the walled towns of medieval Europe, unlike Chimayo and the other walled towns of colonial New Spain, the joka-machi stood against not invading armies nor angry Indian nations, but against lawless maurauders, warlords, and criminals too powerful for police. The joka-machi secured its inhabitants against everyday lawlessness, and it did so by walls and guarded gateways, and by gates closed after nightfall. In America, already home to countless schools of karate, Kung Fu, and other Asian martial arts, is it any surprise that the joka-machibegins to flourish too?
Just as most public-school administrators, teachers, and critics ignore the extraordinary proliferation of “self-defense academies,” so most planners ignore the growing impact of barricaded subdivisions.
This ignorance results from discomfort. The public-school official realizes that martial arts academies are outside mainstream American education, yet prosper by offering instruction in respect, physical condition, and defense against crime. The planner understands that for those residents behind its walls and gates, the barricaded subdivision offers protection against burglary, robbery, and other crimes, a protection that until recently had been outside “mainstream” thinking about public, family, and personal security.
While the profusion of barricaded subdivisions has recently been “discovered” by newspaper and television reporters, most planners still give them little attention, perhaps because they represent something planners are reluctant to admit: that many Americans see guarded communities as desirable places to live. …
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