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Meet my interesting neighbor, ‘Kung Fu Jack’

    On most warm sunny days in a pleasant neighborhood in Crystal, it’s not an uncommon sight to see Jack Spizale enjoying tranquil moments in his backyard near his koi pond. At the age of 90, Jack spends quality time in this special place, where he begins his early-morning killer-strength workout program, which he faithfully does every morning. During his dynamic tension training and mental focus drills, his only interruption might be the caw of a blue jay that would break the silence of the early-morning hour. Jack can be seen by his neighbors doing captivating movements, as he is mimicking the movements of an insect called the praying mantis. Jack is practicing the art of the southern praying mantis kung fu. His movements are quick and snappy, and his concentration is intense. His stance is sturdy, and his strength is remarkably strong. He has no need for heavy weight lifting equipment, nor does he desire the atmosphere of a gym to keep him fit. He does his training outside, where he can breathe in fresh air and enjoy the warm rays of sunlight. Jack makes no bones about the simple truth that sunlight improves his mood. It also gives him a surge of energy that allows him the extra endurance to take his dog on a two-mile walk. This jaunt is amazing to behold, since he was in need of a hip replacement some 15 years ago. During his walks he encounters many people that are drawn to him. He always has a story to tell and a smile on his face. He can make you laugh in a minute. The people he meets go on their way with a business card in the their hands welcoming them to his classes. Jack first started his kung fu training at the age of 40. Some would consider him a late bloomer to this martial arts style, but age has always been an opportunity for Jack. He would say to me that, “age is only a date on the calendar and a state of mind.” Jack’s training in kung fu is unique by today’s standards. Partly, because his teacher is a Chinese man who, as a child, trained in the Shaolin temples of China and is a world master of this praying mantis martial arts system. As luck would have it, their paths crossed in Minneapolis. Jack was an incredible window display director for the Liemondt’s store, and a freelance window displayer for the five-state area. Jack’s skill was put to use as he transformed a Scandinavian restaurant that his Chinese friend bought and turned it into a fine Chinese restaurant. The two men traded their services, and Jack received an incredible martial arts training. Jack can’t talk about his training without showing a great fondness for his teacher. The two men are still very close friends. Over the past 40 years Jack has taught hundreds of people this complex martial art style. His nonprofit organization made this a very affordable way for people to learn something very interesting, and it was something the whole family could enjoy. Jack loved when an entire family would come to class. If you had little money or no money Jack would teach you. If you had problems you could talk to Jack, and he would have a solution. He was very inspirational to all his students. He always had a kind word to say. Many students who are now adults are still thanking him for the positive influence on their lives. A few years ago Jack came up with a program called Elder Fu. This class is dedicated to the seniors in the Crystal community so they can develop strength and balance. In his class he shares the same workout plan that he has at home that keeps him fit and happy. Jack feels older people can easily stumble, and he has the answer to a good, strong stance. As I watch his class I notice he is truly interested in helping these people. In most cases he is still 15 years older than most of the seniors in his class. At  the age of 74 Jack was selected by Medica as the athlete of the year. He was awarded a plague during the Minnesota State Fair. Jack said, “making kung fu a part of his life and understanding the philosophy behind it was a great way to take care of his health.” Jack always said he was the luckiest person in the world. He always mentions how proud he is to be an American and live in this great nation. I feel I am the luckiest person to know him. If you spend just one hour a day with Jack you will have a positive outlook on the day. He certainly is a good neighbor.

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