I was a nine-year-old boy from Bayside, Queens, the block bully fast on my feet. Growing up in a tough neighbourhood, I had to contend with friends who made fun because I studied classical ballet. But the best defence was a quick offence. The kids who jeered never got a chance to finish their sentences. I just whacked them and left a string of bloody noses in my wake. There were times I was bloodied and bruised myself, but I was too proud to tell my parents about the reasons for my scuffles.