Koga History

This is a short history of how ninjitsu started in South Africa. The intention of this short history is to capture the early years of ninjitsu in South Africa and not to elaborate on the structure today with their different affiliations, etc. This timeline has been created by Shihan Sven Holfelder, who started his ninjitsu training under Shihan Barry Pictor around June 1984.

Updated February 2009

The Black Dragon Fighting Society (BDFS) in South Africa started in the Eastern Cape (Port Elizabeth ) in the early 1969 by the well-known Captain Ben Mängles, at the time working in the South African Air Force. There were two students training with Capt Ben Mängles in the early 1980's that are relevant to this timeline discussion. They are Barry Pictor and Stoffel van Vuuren.

During the mid 1980's Shihan Barry Pictor, loacted in Randburg (Johannesburg), started teaching Koga Ryu ninjitsu in South Africa under the banner of the South African Institute of Unarmed Combat (SAIUC), affiliated to the Black Dragon Fighting Society (BDFS). A few years later, the SAIUC was renamed the South African Ninjitsu Federation (SANF).

During 1989, a student of Shihan Barry Pictor, namely Peter Thomson (spelling of surname may not be correct), broke away from the SANF and started training and teaching Togakure Ryu ninjitsu under Brin Morgan from the United Kingdom. Peter Thomson called his group the Shadow Warrior Society. Also during the latter part of 1980, Capt Ben Mängels returned to the United States of America, with the training in the Eastern Cape thereafter falling under the leadership of Stoffel van Vuuren.

At the beginning of 1990, the first SANF dojo in Cape Town was opened under Sensei Chris Engels, who opened a dojo in Bellville. Sensei Sven Holfelder, who was a 1st Dan at the time and was studying engineering at the University of Stellenbosch, attended Sensei Chris Engels' dojo as an instructor. There were two students who started training with Sensei Chris Engels and Sensei Sven Holfelder during 1990, and they were Paul Bothma and Dawie de Villiers.

After completing his engineering studies at the end of 1991, Sven Holfelder moved to Pretoria. The Pretoria dojo at that time was being run by Sensei Bob Nicholls and then Sensei Harry Collins, from whom Sven Holfelder took over the leadership during early 1993.

During 1994, Shihan Barry Pictor decided to stop teaching due to personal reasons and sold the SANF to one of his instructors, namely Sensei Adrian Fitzgerald. During this transition period, the SANF de-affiliated themselves from the BDFS. Sensei Stoffel van Vuuren decided to continue teaching Koga Ryu ninjitsu under the banner of the BDFS, and not to follow the SANF. Sensei Chris Engels also decided to not follow the SANF migration, and renamed his dojo the Cape Ninjitsu federation. During the mid 1990's, Sensei Chris Engels also stopped teaching and left the leadership to his two students Paul Bothma and Dawie de Villiers. After a while, Paul Bothma and Dawie de Villiers separated, with the Cape Ninjitsu Federation (CNF) being continued by Paul Bothma.

During the mid to end 1990's, the CNF under Sensei Paul Bothma affiliated to the SANF, however this affiliation only lasted a few years. The CNF then affiliated to the BDFS, however during the early 2000's, the CNF de-affiliated from the BDFS and became a stand alone federation.

The SANF continued until the early 2000's under the leadership of Sensei Adrian Fitzgerald (Northgate), Sensei Sven Holfelder (Pretoria), Sensei Nathan Lee (Linden) and Sensei Pieter Meyer (Edenvale). During the early 2000's, Sensei Adrian Fitzgerald started to train less and less due to work commitments that took him out of South Africa and Sensei Sven Holfelder moved to Cape Town (at the end of 2001). The SANF continued for another few years and then started to separate, with the majority of students and instructors affiliating with the BDFS. Sensei Pieter Meyer did not follow the migration to the BDFS and continued with the SANF. One of Sensei Nathan Lee's students, namely Sensei David Field, moved on to create his own organisation called Ninja SA.

At the time of writing this history, the following can be said about the people mentioned in this writing:

  • Capt Ben Mängels is located in the United States of America.
  • Shihan Barry Pictor is living in Johannesburg and has a honoury membership with the BDFS in South Africa.
  • Soke Stoffel van Vuuren is living in Pretoria and is a Soke with the BDFS.
  • Peter Thomson is understood to no longer be living in South Africa. The Togakure Ryu style of ninjitsu still continues to this day in South Africa.
  • Shihan Brin Morgan is living in the United Kingdom and has a successful international organisation.
  • Sensei Chris Engels is no longer teaching ninjitsu.
  • Shihan Sven Holfelder is teaching Koga Ryu ninjitsu in Cape Town, under the organisation Koga Ninjitsu.
  • Shihan Paul Bothma has continued with the CNF as a stand alone organisation.
  • Dawie de Villiers is continuing to teach ninjitsu in his personal capacity.
  • Sensei Harry Collins has moved to Durban and is no longer teaching.
  • Sensei Adrian Fitzgerald has stopped teaching ninjitsu, although his does remain in contact.
  • Sensei David Field is continuing to teach ninjitsu under Ninja SA.
  • Sensei Nathan Lee is assiting Sensei David Field in teaching ninjitsu.
  • Sensei Pieter Meyer has continued with the SANF in Edenvale, Gauteng.
  • Bob Nicholls has stopped teaching ninjitsu and is a director of Nicholls Steyn & Associates