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Airbending is one of the four elemental bending arts, the aerokinetic ability to control and manipulate currents of air. The peaceful Air Nomads utilized this type of bending in their everyday lives.
Air is the element of freedom. Airbenders continually sought for spiritual enlightenment, the result being that all Air Nomads are benders. The first Airbenders learned from the Sky Bison.
The key to Airbending is flexibility, finding and following the path of least resistance. Airbending is notable for being almost entirely defensive, however it is reputed to be the most dynamic of the four bending arts. Airbenders can overwhelm many opponents at once with large and powerful attacks that could prove fatal; however due to the pacifist nature of the Air Nomads such attacks are rarely used.
Notable Airbenders Edit
- Avatar Yangchen
- Avatar Kuruk
- Avatar Kyoshi
- Avatar Roku
- Avatar Aang
- Avatar Korra
- Monk Gyatso
- Sister Iio
- Monk Pasang
- Monk Tashi
- Air Nomads
- Sky Bison
- Unnamed Fire Avatar
It is said that Airbenders first learned their bending from the Flying Bison, a sacred creature in the Air Nomads' culture. The Bison typically use their massive beaver-like tail to create gusts of wind, and as the name suggests, can fly without any visible means of propulsion. It is also said that the Airbenders had borrowed the arrow mark from the Flying Bison for their tattoos. These tattoos symbolize a person's mastery of the Airbending art, and are given to a practitioner once their training is complete. Unlike other nations, all Air Nomads are born Airbenders, due to the high amount of spirituality infused in the culture.
On Aang's wanted poster in The Blue Spirit and Sozin's scroll in The Avatar and the Fire Lord, the word Airbending is written as 截氣神功 (jié qì shén gōng) which translates as "The Divine Ability to Halt Air", while the word Airbender is written as 風脅功師 (fēng xié gōng shī) which translates as "Wind-Coercing Master".
Fighting Style Edit
Airbenders never seek a fight, and they never seek to strike an opponent directly. Airbending is based on the Ba Gua style of martial arts, (also known as "circle walking" or "Eight Trigram Palm",) along with a small hint of Hsing Yi, (also known as "mind heart boxing".) These martial arts feature swift, evasive maneuvers that evoke the intangibility and explosive power of wind, drawing energy from the center of the abdomen.
Ba Gua, which utilizes circle walking (the idea behind it being the act of walking the Eight Trigrams), is known for its constant circular movement, which makes it difficult for opponents to attack directly or land a blow. Since it's always maneuvering, nobody can get a solid hold-on of this maneuver. Maneuvers employ the entire body with smooth coiling and uncoiling movements, utilizing dynamic footwork, open-hand techniques, punches and throws. A common tactic is to maneuver behind an opponent and mirror their movements, preventing them from turning to face the practitioner.
Unlike other bending disciplines, Airbending is almost entirely a defensive art, similar to its practitioners, and is the most dynamic of all other elements.
According to Iroh, air is the element of freedom.
Airbending Abilities EditAir Manipulation: By using circular, evasive movements, Airbenders build up massive inertia; this buildup of energy is released as massive power. It also allows for wind-based counter-attacks that knock opponents off-balance, mimicking the sudden directional shifts of air currents. Attacks vary from simple gusts of wind to miniature tornadoes and cyclones, maintaining the circular theme. Even a simple movement can create an air gust, and Airbenders increase the power of their moves by performing larger sweeps and spins, using the momentum of their movement to simulate larger gusts. This is also demonstrated with their use of staves or fans to increase or create precision within the air currents.
Air Shields: The most common defensive tactic involves circling enemies, suddenly changing direction when attacked and evading by physical movement rather than bending. However, an Airbender can still deflect as needed by throwing up gusts of air close to their bodies as a shield. This is rarely to stop attacks directly and more often pushes the attack aside and away, conserving energy and allowing them to turn the movement into an attack at the same moment. Since air can affect almost all physical objects, it can also be used to enforce the momentum of thrown objects or manipulate other objects (though requiring a higher degree of precision).
Air Barrier: This is a more powerful defensive technique where the entire body is surrounded by a dome of air that deflects attacks from all directions.
Air Marbles: A useless technique used by Aang. He causes two or more marbles to spin in a circle between his hands in an attempt to impress people. He rarely does it. It could however be used to shoot small objects, like marbles, at very high speeds, similar to a bullet.
Air Blast: A more offensive move involving a direct pulse or jet of almost solid wind from the hands or feet. The force of the attack is generated more from the bender's own power rather than assisted by momentum. This direct blast can reach further with greater accuracy and is used to inflict greater damage. Aang once used the air blast to completely shatter one of the Fire Navy's projectile rocks in mid-air with a single powerful kick.
Air Punch/Kick: Another more offensive move than is typical of airbending discipline, air punches or air kicks are small, compressed formations of air that can be fired off the fists or feet of an airbender. This is similar to many firebending abilities and the air blast, yet in the sense that it involves the firing of compressed or solidified air at an enemy in a non-continuous fashion i.e. the bender does not create a single great stream of air. This move is seen in the episode "Nightmares and Daydreams" when Aang produces several air punches in rapid succession towards a practice-Fire Lord dummy.
Air Swipe: The air swipe is a dual defensive and offensive technique in which an airbender conjures a crescent-shaped construct of solidified air capable of deflecting colossal projectiles; (such as the catapulted flaming rocks often used by the Fire Navy ships) and sending them off-course. In some instances, such as when Aang and his group are traveling on the The Serpent's Pass together, these projectiles can be redirected back at the attacker. Aang has also been shown firing smaller versions of the air swipe as a weapon, shown for example in his chase of Azula in The Day of Black Sun, Part 2: The Eclipse.
Air Suction: A technique used to bring people or things towards the airbender. It is used by Aang in many episodes, like "The Boy in the Iceberg" and "The Library", when he pulled Professor Zei out of harm's way, and "The Warriors of Kyoshi", when Aang takes up the fans dropped on the ground when he was fighting Zuko.
Breath of Wind: Very similar to the standard air jet but created from the mouth and lungs. It requires extremely good breath control to employ effectively. Size and focus is more easily controlled, including narrow jets that can strike targets as small as insects, to large gale force gusts capable of cooling magma into solidified rock. This has been exhibited by both Aang and Roku.
Enhanced Speed: Airbenders enhance their movement in battle; they can run swiftly by decreasing air resistance around them and even sprint across or run up vertical surfaces by generating a wind current behind themselves to propel them forward. Aang has been shown using this to run many times faster than an average human and maintain this for very long periods, allowing him to travel long distances without gliding or jumping. When used by a skilled Airbender, this technique can enable the Airbender using it to travel at a speed almost too swift for the naked eye to be able to see properly. A master Airbender can use this technique to briefly run across water, as shown by Aang in "The Warriors of Kyoshi".
Enhanced Agility: Air movements can also be used as a levitation aid. Airbenders jump high and far by riding on strong gusts of wind and can slow or deflect falls by creating cushions of air. The constant movement required by this art makes airbenders naturally flexible and agile. Even without bending they can easily maneuver around an opponent by ducking, jumping, and side stepping, appearing to flow around their opponents without expending any energy at all, letting the opponent tire themselves out and thus creating exploitable openings. This conservation of energy combined with high stamina gives them an advantage in prolonged combat.Air Funnel: Similar to an air vortex but to a smaller scale, Aang inventively used this technique as a cannon by creating a small air funnel through which small rock projectiles could be entered through the top and could be fired out of the opposite end.
Air Bomb: A technique which creates an powerful, outward-moving air current in all directions around the bender. Usually performed after landing on the ground from above, this airbending form has great concussive force and the capacity to completely blow away anything within its radius.
Air Ball: An airbender can create a compressed ball of air by moving their hands together in a circular motion. This technique has many applications such as levitating small objects or tripping opponents.
Multiple Target Attacks: An airbender can send large, wide-spanning waves of air towards multiple enemies with one long, sweeping motion from an airbending staff or from the bender's limbs. Aang has been shown to use these moves countless times throughout the series often completely blowing opponents away.
Airbending Master Level Edit
Air Vortex: A spinning funnel of air of various sizes. This can be used to trap and disorient opponents or as a potent defense since it will deflect and repel any objects and can even throw them back at an opponent (as demonstrated by Aang in his duel with Bumi, the air column easily throwing aside a boulder the size of a bus). In Avatar State an air vortex can reach winds up to 125 miles per hour.
Air Wake: First shown by Aang in "The Crossroads of Destiny", by running in a circle and instantly building huge inertia, a master Airbender can shoot a blast of compressed air shaped like the user's body at a target. This move seems to have great concussive force.
Air Blades: A more offensive move than is typical of Airbending principle, this involves a focus slicing air current that can cut through stone or timber with relative ease. This is frequently conjured with a staff rather than the body, using the narrow profile of the object to create a more focused and precise air movement. This move could prove fatal if used on an individual.
Air Spout: Similar to the Water Spout, master Airbenders are able to rotate and control the direction of the Air Spout enough to levitate them off the ground and remain in the air for as long as they wish to or can maintain it. First shown by Aang in "The Avatar State", when Aang, enraged and in the Avatar State, rose into the air to destroy General Fong's base with a wave of earth. Avatar Roku also demonstrated it by using it to get to eye level with Fire Lord Sozin (who was suspended in the air with only an earth column to keep him from falling to his death) and deliver a final warning in "The Avatar and the Fire Lord".
Mini-Tornado: This is a smaller scaled version of the air vortex which Airbending masters can use as a means of both combat and transport. By encircling themselves in a spiraling air current, masters can travel at high speeds and even ascend near-vertical drops as shown by Aang during the battle of Wulong Forest where he narrowly avoids a lightning blast from Fire Lord Ozai by creating a mini-tornado and moving to the top of a rock column. Aang was also seen wielding this maneuver on the offensive against The Combustion Man in "The Western Air Temple" where he summoned the tornado with a kick in mid-air to conjure a powerful ranged attack.
Flight: In the same way sky bison can fly and stay aloft for extended periods of time, a master airbender can achieve this same feat by generating and controlling air currents around their bodies.
Avatar Level Airbending Edit
Augmented Airbending Moves: While in the Avatar State, all of the previously discussed Airbending moves are generally augmented making them far more powerful in an Avatar than even a bending master. This ability of the Avatar State to increase the power of an Avatar's bending technique is not restricted, of course, to Airbending; in fact an Avatar's power increases with all the bending styles once they have entered the Avatar State.
Tornadoes/Hurricanes: In addition to very large and powerful air movements, an Avatar level bender can create massive tornadoes and hurricanes at will.
Air Sphere: Similar to the air shield, this powerful defense surrounds the bender in a sphere of spinning air that deflects anything coming in at them, levitate across varied distances and can even disintegrate the ground beneath them. Aang subconsciously uses this every time he enters the Avatar State when angered. Avatar Roku used this technique in "The Avatar and The Fire Lord" when protecting his village from the volcano.
Strong Wind: It is possible for the Avatar to unleash extremely powerful winds. In "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang", while extinguishing three enormous fire whips, Aang unleashed a straightforward wind attack at Ozai. Ozai was shaken, but apparently didn't take much damage from the hit. However, the same attack did great damage to a nearby rock pillar, weathering through the entire thickness of the pillar in a matter of seconds.
Air Sphere: Aang was initially able only to hover for extended periods of time while in the Avatar State, but in "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang", Aang utilizes this technique for flight. The Avatar flies at high-speeds while inside the air sphere, which also acts as a barrier to protect the bender during impacts, strong enough to withstand a high velocity impact with rock.
Special Techniques Edit
Gliding: Although all Airbenders can levitate or extend jumps via Airbending, most if not all Airbenders possess a glider for mid range flight. These hand-crafted portable wood and canvas structures can collapse into a staff for storage and as an aid when bending. In glider form, it is used in conjunction with bending to fly as long as the bender has the strength to maintain the air currents. With stronger winds, multiple people can be carried for short distances. As a normal staff, it can be used as a weapon in battle, to aid in bending, and even as a levitation aid when spun above the head like a helicopter propeller.
At the beginning of season 3, Aang destroyed his damaged glider, though it was replaced at the beginning of the invasion of the Fire Nation by a more advanced version created by the Mechanist and his son Teo, which can also deposit snacks when a lever is pulled.
Air Scooter: The Air Scooter, a form of ground transportation invented by Aang himself, is a spherical "ball" of air that can be ridden balancing on it like a top. He has used the technique in many episodes, usually to provide quick bursts of speed as well as to overcome vertical surfaces, including in The Drill in order to scale the wall of Ba Sing Se. The Air Scooter is also shown to be capable of levitating in the air for short periods, only 5-10 seconds in a stationary position. The Air Scooter is seen in the opening credits of every episode except the first, and first appeared in actual episode content in "The Avatar Returns", where Aang uses it to escape Zuko's ship. It was Aang's invention of this technique that subsequently earned him his tattoos and title of a master at such a young age. In a flashback in the episode, The Storm, Aang tries to teach this move to his Airbending friends. They all initially fail, but eventually master the art well enough to develop a game that requires the use of the air scooter.Cloudbending: In, "The Fortuneteller", it's shown that (because clouds are made with air and water) a skilled Airbender or Waterbender can manipulate them easily to create various shapes (used in that instance to provide a message to nearby villagers). It was later used as a defense by Aang and his friends to disguise their flights on Appa while moving about the Fire Nation. It has not been revealed if an Airbender can perform this technique without a Waterbender and vice versa. However, due to the knowledge that Hama from "The Puppetmaster" can collect small amounts of water from the surrounding air, it is probable that Cloudbending can be done without the dual effort of both a Waterbender and an Airbender.
Amplification or Soundbending: A specialized form of Airbending in which the bender is able to generate sound waves and manipulate already existing ones as they travel through the air. One possible canon example of this is shown in "Tales of Ba Sing Se" when Aang, while trying to lead the animals out of the city to outside the inner wall, used Airbending to blow his bison whistle, sending massive sound waves throughout the city to call all the animals. He also used it to comically amplify his cry for help when trapped in "The Firebending Masters". In the TCG, Soundbending techniques include "Misdirect" and "Shrieking Wing".Airbending is the only art that apparently has no specific sub-skill or specialized form that has as of yet been revealed. Although it has been speculated Soundbending (see above) could fit into this category.
Opposing Bending Art Edit
Airbending is the most passive of the four arts, as many of its techniques center around mobility, evading and eluding the opponent (together with the Air Nomads passive teachings and pacifistic beliefs). Earthbending is the direct opposite of this. While the Airbenders avoid or deflect oncoming attacks, Earthbenders absorb them or overwhelm them with superior force. Airbenders are constantly moving in circles, while Earthbenders require a firm root in one place to effectively bend.
Like all of the bending arts, Airbending is balanced out as to not be more or less powerful than the other arts, though it is easily the most dynamic and agile of the four. The series has repeatedly illustrated that it is the skill and power of the user that determines victory.
Unlike other nations, who only rarely use weapons with their bending, Airbenders commonly use their signature staffs to augment their powers in battle. This is usually done by enhancing the air movements created by sweeps or thrusts of the staff. With the staff's narrow profile, the currents created can be be more accurately controlled and even shaped into cutting blades. Metal fans can also be used in combination with Airbending as seen by Avatar Kyoshi and Avatar Aang.
Also Aang has proposed the idea of a weapon called a Wind Sword, whilst the group were shopping in a weapons shop in the Fire Nation. Aang stated that an Airbender uses a sword hilt, channels air out and swings it around like a blade.
Airbender Principles regarding Fatal Moves: Though deemed the most dynamic of the Bending Arts, the most controversial aspect of Airbending is its supposed lack of fatal moves, being a more defense-inclined art. This aspect in itself is a reflection of the principles held by the Air Nomads, which preaches the preciousness of all life and avoidance of violence whenever possible. But on the issue of principles, there are instances where an Airbender has resorted to lethal force during a conflict. Such examples include, Aang striking down a buzzard-wasp snatching Momo as seen in The Desert. Even Avatar Yangchen herself confesses to deeds that were in direct violation of her Air Nomad teachings, even though for the greater good ("Sozin's Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters"). Nevertheless, when applied correctly, Airbending can be as lethal as any other Bending art. Airbending moves such as the air blade and air blast could prove particularly fatal against living creatures seeing as they can cut through stone/timber and break entire rock-columns in half respectively. Another example of airbending lethality is Monk Gyatso's off-screen battle with the Fire Nation's invasion of the Southern Air Temple. Although an elderly and gentle person, when confronted with an obvious attempt of genocide to kill all of his people, Gyatso's powerful airbending enabled him to eliminate many Fire Nation invaders before succumbing to fatigue or injury and ultimately, death.
Enclosed Spaces: Though rarely exhibited, an Airbender would be significantly disadvantaged in an enclosed space, restricting their movement and ability to dodge attacks, but this weakness can be neutilized by creative use of airbending, as shown by Aang in The Avatar Returns. Though it is difficult to separate an Airbender from their element, if one was submerged under water or earth, for example, their ability to bend could possibly be compromised. Though, with ingenuity an Airbender could likely use a minuscule amount of air in their lungs, similar to a Waterbender's ability to use their own sweat. Like Waterbending's sweat manipulation, in many situations, this likely would not be sufficient due to its limited supply.
Elemental Symbol Edit
The symbol for Air and Airbending is a closed, counter-clockwise, inverted triple spiral triskele. This symbol is seen on the pendant on Monk Gyatso's prayer beads and also appears on Aang's prayer beads which are seen in "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang".
Spirituality and Airbending Edit
Young Airbenders are raised in one of the four Air Temples, at each corner of the globe, hidden away atop mountain ranges on remote islands, where the strong breeze helps their airbending. The Northern and Southern Air Temples are exclusively male, and staffed by Airbender monks, who instruct young Benders in their art. According to reports from Comic Con 2005, the Eastern and Western Air Temples are exclusively female. However in "The Storm", it was decided that Aang would finish his training at the Eastern Air Temple, and it was at the same temple where he, along with several other young boys, was first introduced to his animal companion, Appa.
An Airbender is declared a Master once he/she has fully mastered the 36 tiers of Airbending and/or when he/she creates a new Airbending technique (Aang being the exception in this case, since he mastered only 35 tiers and made a new move). Airbenders who have mastered the element are marked as such by blue tattoos striping along the head and limbs, terminating in an arrow on the forehead, backs of the hands, and the tops of the feet. Male monks sport completely shaven heads, and female Airbenders shave their foreheads, but leave the back of their hair uncut. Avatar Yangchen can be seen in the episode, "The Avatar State," Book Two, Chapter One. In "Appa's Lost Days", through a flashback, an Airbender nun, Sister Iio, is shown to be in charge of the Female Airbenders of the Eastern Air Temple.
Though this ritual is probably not exclusive to Air Nomadic culture, when the Avatar reincarnation is to be an Air Nomad, the Air Monks test Airbender children to see if they are the reincarnation of the Avatar by asking them to select toys out of thousands. If the child selects the toys used in previous incarnations, known as the four Avatar Relics, the Avatar has been found. Traditionally, knowledge of his or her identity as Avatar is kept from the child until age sixteen. (This same test is used by Tibetan Buddhist monks when a reincarnated Dalai Lama is expected.)
Air Nomads generally espouse a philosophy of conflict avoidance and respect for all forms of life. This accounts for Airbending's stress on defensive maneuvers and its apparent lack of fatal finishing attacks. Due to the spirituality of the Air Nomads in accordance to the size of its population, every Air Nomad retains bending abilities. The Air Nomads have the smallest population but the most increased spirituality while benders in general make up only a small percentage of the larger, more populous nations, as shown throughout the series
Airbenders emphasize intuition and imagination; to an Airbender, there is always another path to take, as air flows wherever it can.
The Air Nomad Genocide Edit
A century before the time of the series, the Airbenders were the victims of genocide at the hands of the Fire Nation. The temples were invaded, and all the Airbender monks slaughtered in an effort to break the Avatar's cycle of reincarnation and ensure the Fire Nation's victory in their imperialist war.
Ironically, the only known survivor of the massacre is the very person the Fire Nation sought to kill in its quest for supremacy: the twelve-year-old Airbender and Avatar, Aang, had run away from home shortly before the war began in earnest and became trapped in suspended animation, frozen in an iceberg near the South Pole.
The last known vestiges of Airbender culture include one surviving Flying Bison, Appa, and a winged lemur, Momo, both of whom are Aang's companions. The abandoned Northern Air Temple has since been colonized by displaced Earth Kingdom citizens, led by The Mechanist. The Eastern Air Temple is inhabited by Guru Pathik, who claims to be an old friend of Monk Gyatso. The Southern Air Temple is the only temple in which bodies of countless Fire Nation soldiers and Monk Gyatso's corpse are present. Also some Air Nomad clothing may have endured the 100 year war as at the end of "Avatar Aang" Aang has started wearing orange monk robes, although it is possible they were specially made for him.
The Last Airbender Edit
In the film, Airbending was portrayed pretty much like it was in the cartoons. Its implementation also required sweeping, circular movements from Aang in order to create variable airbending techniques. He was also seen using rapid movements and even kicks when he was creating the mini-tornado in front of the Northern Water Tribe council.
Aang's mastery of Airbending was quite superb. He can create an invisible wall of air in front or around him with one gesture, enough to repel two Fire Nation soldiers. He was able to jostle a Fire Nation soldier around without hitting an innocent bystander the soldier was holding hostage. He was also able to throw onto the air several Fire Nation soldiers while the Water Tribe Warriors that were standing in front of them were unaffected.
He also uses Airbending to augment his agility, as seen when he escaped from Zuko's ship near the beginning of the film, as well as for attack when he used them, in combination with some training tablets, in the Northern Air temple. He can create a wind strong enough and wide enough to temporarily stun and keep apart two battling armies.
The Air Shield, Air Scooter, and enhanced speed were not seen in the movie, albeit a variation of the air shield (a localized tornado) appeared when Aang entered the Avatar state involuntarily while on the Southern Air temple.
Aang was able to manipulate fog while on the Northern Air temple. Also, it is unknown if Aang was using Airbending to deflect the fire being shot at him and the Blue Spirit, if it was being deflected by the sword, if it was being deflected by Zuko, or a combination of several or all of these.
- "Red Tornado", a super hero in DC Comics with the ability to control wind, might have influenced the shows creator's idea to put arrows on the Airbender's head, as Red Tornado was known for his ability to create strong winds, and his trademark was the yellow arrow on his head.
- Neji and Hinata Hyuga, from the manga and anime series Naruto, employs moves very similar to the ones employed by the Air nomads. Their enhanced "Gentle Fist" attacks are named as Trigrams, similar to the Ba Gua style employed in Avatar. They also uses swirling moves like the air shield and air barrier (Kaiten).
- The Avatar Extras stated that all Air Nomads are Airbenders. This would make the Nomads the only group with every individual being a bender. The creators also explain this is due to bending coming from spirituality.
- Similar to Waterbenders, many Airbenders have A's in their names.