Mestre João Pequeno was born João Pereira dos Santos on 27 December 1917.
He began his life in Capoeira as a student of Mestre Gilvenson and later became a disciple of Mestre Pastinha - the father of contemporary Capoeira Angola. Together with Mestre João Grande he is later to share the honour of being one of the late Mestre Pastinha's two most learned students - the ones to whom he entrusted his legacy.
In 1970, Mestre Pastinha said the following about João Pequeno and João Grande, "They will be the greatest Capoeira players of the future and I have worked hard with them, and for them, to achieve this. They will be true masters. Not just impromptu teachers, as can be found anywhere, who only destroy our tradition which is so beautiful. I've taught everything I know to these young men. That's why I have the greatest hopes regarding their future."
Mestre João Pequeno dedicated his life to teaching Pastinha's style of Capoeira Angola ever since and has graduated students who today are well-known Mestres in their own right. Into his 90s, Joao Pequeno continued to teach and practise capoeira at his academy in Forte de Santo Antônio Além do Carmo. Mestre João Pequeno died on 9 December 2011 at the age of 93.