Airbending, is one of the four elemental bending arts, specifically, 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. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly problems and concerns; finding peace and freedom was the key to solve their flaws in life. Airbenders continually sought for spiritual enlightenment, and, as a result, all children born into the Air Nomads were benders. The first airbenders learned their art from the sky bison. The key to airbending is flexibility and finding and following the path of least resistance. Airbending is notable for being almost entirely defensive, as well as 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
- † indicates deceased during the series.
Avatar: The Last Airbender Edit
The Legend of Korra Edit
Airbenders first learned their bending from the sky bison, a sacred creature in the Air Nomad 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 traditional tattoos. These tattoos symbolize one'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 and Sozin's scroll, 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".
An airbender never seeks 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 of the Eight Trigrams, is known for its constant circular movement, which makes it difficult for opponents to attack directly or land a blow. 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 and Tenzin, air is the element of freedom.
Air manipulation: By using circular, evasive movements, airbenders build up massive momentum; this build up 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 staffs or fans to increase or create precision within the air currents. Throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Air shield: 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 bullets: A technique used by Aang. He causes two or more marbles to spin in a circle between his hands. It could be used to shoot small objects, like marbles, at very high speeds, similar to bullets, but Aang uses the move to impress rather than to attack.
Air blast: A more offensive move involving a direct pulse or jet of almost solid wind from the hands, feet, or rear. 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 when Aang produces several air punches in rapid succession toward a practice-Fire Lord dummy. Avatar Korra was able to use two pairs of Air punches in rapid succession and an Air kick to knock Amon off his feet.
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[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 as he chased Azula during the Day of Black Sun.
Air suction: A technique used to bring people or things toward the airbender. It is used by Aang many times, such as when he pulled Professor Zei out of harm's way in Wan Shi Tong's Library, and when he takes up the fans dropped on the ground to fight Zuko in Kyoshi Village. Appa used this technique to steal cabbages from an animal trainer while his back was turned.
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, from 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.
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. Toph Beifong, a blind earthbender, who uses her bending to tell where people are walking or running in relation to her, once told Aang that she could easily identify his walk by the fact that he has a very light step.
Air funnel: Similar to an air vortex but on 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 a 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.
Air wheel: This is a modified version of the air ball. Air is rapidly spun around the airbender and carries the person as inside a wheel. It was shown to be able to cut through solid objects. This ability was used by Tenzin during the Battle at the Equalist factory.
Multiple target attacks: An airbender can send large, wide-spanning waves of air toward multiple enemies with one long, sweeping motion from an airbending staff or from the bender's limbs. Aang uses the move extensively, 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 spout: Similar to the waterspout, master airbenders are able to rotate and control the direction of the air spout enough to levitate themselves off the ground and remain in the air for as long as they wish to or can maintain it. First shown by Aang when he, 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. An air spout was later performed by Tenzin when he fought several Equalists who tried to abduct him at City Hall's roof during the Battle for Republic City. Avatar Korra later used this technique while in the Avatar State at the South Pole.
Air wake: By running in a circle and instantly building massive momentum, a master airbender can shoot a blast of highly compressed air shaped like the user's body at a target. This move seems to have extremely high concussive force. It was first used by Aang in the Crystal Catacombs.
Air blades: A more offensive move than its 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.
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 at 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 airbender can create massive tornadoes and hurricanes at will.
Air sphere: Aang was initially able only to hover for extended periods of time while in the Avatar State, but while fighting Fire Lord Ozai, Aang utilized 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.
Air barrier: 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 technique only while he is in the Avatar State. Avatar Roku used this technique when protecting his village from the volcano.
Strong wind: It is possible for the Avatar to unleash extremely powerful winds. During the Battle at Wulong Forest, while extinguishing three enormous fire whips, Aang unleashed a straightforward wind attack at Ozai. Ozai was shaken, but he apparently did not 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.
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 the handle is twisted.
When visiting Roku's past during the summer solstice, Aang saw his then young mentor Monk Gyatso using a variation of the usual flying, using the glider as a makeshift board to surf on air.
Air scooter: The air scooter, a form of ground transportation invented by Aang, 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 during the battle on the Fire Nation 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, about five to ten seconds in a stationary position. The air scooter is seen in the opening credits of every episode except the first, and it first appeared in an actual episode when Aang used 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, it was shown that Aang tried to teach this move to his airbending friends. They all initially fail, but they eventually master the art well enough to develop a game that requires the use of the air scooter. While he and Katara attempted to invite King Kuei to a meeting with Zuko, Aang met his fan club. There, he showed an enhanced air scooter, where the air scooter multiplied and grow from little balls. He was shown to use this technique much later in his life while chasing an escaped Yakone. The version Aang used then was markedly larger than the one he used as a child, and it was revealed that it could also be used while standing upright.
Cloudbending: During Aang, Katara and Sokka's stay at Makapu Village, it is shown that, because they are made with air and water, a skilled airbender or waterbender can manipulate clouds 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, though a waterbender does not need the assistance of an airbender to perform it, as waterbenders on their own hid the Invasion of the Fire Nation force under a cloud.
Amplification/Soundbending: A specialized form of airbending in which the bender is able to generate massive amplified sound waves with the help of airbending. One possible canon example of this is shown when Aang, while trying to lead animals out of the city to Ba Sing Se#Agrarian Zone, 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 at the Sun Warrior ruins.
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. Along with this, the Air Nomads also taught pacifism. 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. It is the skill and power of the user that determines victory.
Training tools Edit
In the process of mastering airbending, several instruments are used to help mastering this element.
The airball court doubles as a field for playing airball, as well as training several skills involved with airbending. Balance and dexterity are especially trained by this game. Accuracy is also trained, because the ball is mostly controlled by airbending as well.
Spinning gates are designed so that one has to trust on one's evasive airbending maneuvers to successfully make one's way through the spinning gates. Those wishing to master the spinning gates have to be like a leaf, flowing with the wind instead of forcing one's way through.
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 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.
While the group shopped in a weapons shop in the Fire Nation, Aang proposed the idea of the Wind Sword; he stated that an airbender could channel air from a sword hilt and swing it about like a blade, similar to a contained air slice.
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; for example, Aang used an air slice to cleave a buzzard wasp, which had captured Momo, in half, though it is vital to note he was attacking it out of anger, something which airbenders are told to avoid. Even Avatar Yangchen herself confessed to deeds that were in direct violation of her Air Nomad teachings, even though for the greater good. 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 a life-threatening assault on his people, Gyatso's powerful airbending enabled him to eliminate many Fire Nation invaders before succumbing to fatigue or injury and ultimately, death. Yet another example of how dangerous and lethal airbending can be is in Roku's battle with Fire Lord Sozin, using it to destroy a good portion of the palace, albeit being in the Avatar State when he unleashed the attack. Enclosed spaces: Though rarely exhibited, an airbender would be significantly disadvantaged in an enclosed space, restricting their movement and ability to dodge attacks.
The symbol of the Air Nomads 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.
Spirituality and airbendingEdit
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, while the Eastern and Western Air Temples are exclusively female. However, the Council of Elders had 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, were first introduced to their animal companion, flying bison.
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 was 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 they leave the back of their hair uncut. Avatar Yangchen can be seen sporting this hairstyle while Aang learned about the Avatar State. An airbender nun, Sister Iio, is shown to be in charge of the female airbenders of the Eastern Air Temple in a shared memory between Aang and Appa. 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.
Airbenders emphasize intuition and imagination; to an airbender, there is always another path to take, as air flows wherever it can.