The story

About Cindy

Cindy Villanueva is a memoirist and inspirational writer with a passion for helping women achieve lives of strength and joy. She is a seventh-degree black belt master instructor and the owner of Ernie Reyes World Martial Arts in Austin, Texas.

Her love of teaching led her to become an adjunct professor at Concordia University Texas, where she teaches undergraduate marketing and graduate marketing management and leadership. She speaks regularly on leadership and women in business.

Cindy has four children and two grandchildren. She splits her time between Austin, Texas and New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and is currently at work on a novel.


Don’t Fight Mad: A Black Belt’s Quest to Recapture Joy

Golden girl Cindy Villanueva left home for UCLA, full of promise—and one year later was an unwed teen mom and college dropout. After suffering domestic abuse and two divorces, she was on the ropes. Don’t Fight Mad describes her journey back to the joy-filled life she enjoyed as a child.

Through deeply personal stories, Cindy shares how martial arts became a metaphor for recapturing her strength, identity, and joy. She offers a candid and authentic blueprint for those who long to rekindle the wonder of a well-lived existence.

Whether you are an avid martial artist or you assiduously avoid exercise, Don’t Fight Mad has an inspiring message of fighting for joy and living in grace.


This book re-awakened an excitement in me to live unafraid, full of joy, and receiving in grace.

Alison Cooper

Read this! Cindy…makes the reader feel empowered and ready to fight for joy. 

Linda Jones

This book is for every woman who’s ever been held back, held down, or doubted herself.

Laura Wall

Touching story of growth but also practical application of life thoughts that help healing. Wonderful.


This is a wonderful book about resiliency and striving in life despite all the speed bumps we may face.

Jay Juhl


Finding Our Wings:
Seven Entrepreneurs on Reclaiming Hope and Power

Despair, excruciating emotional pain, and loss—and yet glorious triumph. After an initial failed attempt to bring this book to life, this group of entrepreneurs felt as if their wings had been clipped. What to do?

Once again, they embraced the lessons contained in this book—stories of grit, determination, redemption, and joy. This collection of stories is a reminder of the light within us all. We can all take flight, overcome the darkness, and reclaim our strength and joy!

Audiobook available on Audiobooks.com, Bookbeat, Kobo, and Apple Books.


It takes a lot of courage to write from a place of such fierce vulnerability.

Erik Harvey

This is less #bossbabe, more real, actual resilience. After reading the stories here, I felt fearless, and you will too! 

Tolly Moseley

These stories written with such vulnerability are an empowering reminder of our resilience as women.

A. Cooper


Cindy is a regular podcast guest and public speaker, addressing a variety of topics including martial arts, women in leadership, and having a “want-to” life.

To book Cindy for your event, send her an email using the form below.

Contact Cindy


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You Aren’t Your Failures
Living the Life You Want
Modern Manifestation:
Words Have Power
TBW Tuesday, Finding Your Passion:
Getting from Have-to
to Want-to
Love What You Love:
Martial Arts for Everyone
Lead Without Limits:
Intentional Culture
Prickly and Blooming:
Just Stand Up

Short Stories

On Wings of Angels
Shattering Glass
They Don’t All End in -ly