A pairing of combat and martial arts bring people together

By William Ludwick


When Dave Alberto learned that he could get his hands on LED lightsabers capable of withstanding authentic strikes, he and his friends went from swinging sticks in King George Park, to forming River City Jedi, an LED lightsaber combat group that combines Star Wars combat and martial arts.

Scott Isaac (left), and Dave Alberto (right) lock lightsabers, a fictional blade made of pure energy wielded by Force-users in the Star Wars universe, during their bi-weekly River City Jedi event in the south gym at Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus. / LUDWICK

“I love to teach,” said Alberto, a Network Analyst at Shaw and founding member of River City Jedi. “I love to see that moment the light bulb goes off in someone’s eye’s.”

Members position themselves in the south gym of Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus wielding green, red and blue lightsabers made of polycarbonate and aluminium. They are motioned through a synchronized pattern of swings by Alberto. He paces and inspects their movements.

“It’s about getting people to expand to something they normally wouldn’t do,” said Alberto. “If you have the drive to have a new experience, do it. Come show your nerd.”

The instructors say they focus on the purpose behind every movement and not simply re-enacting a fight scene. Alberto says he stresses the importance that anyone can learn, and it’s not just for fans of movies or combat practices, it’s about bringing two worlds together.

“Before I started here, martial arts were just about fitness,” said Tim Webster, a Standardized Patient Educator at the University of Manitoba. “Now it’s a lifestyle.”

Webster has been an instructor at River City Jedi for three years and said this program has changed his life.

“You don’t know yourself until you’ve been in a fight,” said Webster. “I got beat badly in my first fight, but here, I learned that I either win or I learn, and I was hooked from the first one.”

River City Jedi meets every second Sunday, with a dedicated group averaging around 20 people. Webster says the two hours the group spends in this gym is more than just a chance to learn the ways of the Jedi.

Alberto and the other instructors have even taken their skills to Central Canada Comi-Con and FanQuest, impressing spectators with their authentic battles, where they genuinely strike each other with their weapons. He says River City Jedi has a place for all skill levels and he encourages everyone to come try something outside their comfort zone.