Dustin Hazelett was an easy target.
The younger of two sons born to a coal miner and court reporter in Louisa, Ky., he was the subject of relentless taunts and bullying as a kid. His slight build did him no favors. Hazelett spent many of his formative years at a private Christian school but transitioned to public schools in sixth grade. It was a shock to his system.
“At the Christian school, you’d get paddled for saying, ‘Crap,’” Hazelett says. “I went from that to being around a bunch of delinquents who cursed out the teacher almost every day. It definitely humbled me.”
Always on the small side, he did not break the 100-pound plateau until his freshman year of high school. By then, he had long been singled out as a weak link. Torment was a daily experience and had far-reaching consequences.
“I hate to say it, but getting my head shoved in the toilet definitely helped me with martial arts,” Hazelett says. “Just that feeling of being victimized was something I never wanted to deal with again.”
“I still see them. Usually, they throw it up like we’re friends: ‘Hey, this is Dustin. We grew up together,’” Hazelett says. “They really don’t bring up the fact that they bullied me, and it’s probably better for them that they don’t. Being bullied a lot made me strive to be a better martial artist.”
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