Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra are among some of the greatest shows in pop culture. They trust their audience to understand the deeper meanings the shows are trying to convey, while also having amazing action sequences utilizing real Chinese martial arts.
The Avatar series use “bending,” or controlling certain elements, as a way of fighting and a way of life. In addition to the four main elements, some characters develop a subset form based on what their original element is. Here are the best types of bending in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra.
Lavabending is a subset of Earthbending. Since Lava consists of heated molten rock, it is a part of Earthbending, instead of Firebending.
Lavabenders are rare, but powerful. They are able to manipulate Earth into Lava and vice versa. Lavabending was first invented by Avatar Szeto, and later used by Avatar Kyoshi.
While Earthbending is defensive, Lavabending allows its users to operate offensively.
Lightningbending is a subset of Firebending. Firebending is a source of light and energy. Iroh explains
Lightningbending as separating negative and positive energy to guide and release them as they return together. Directing lightning is a difficult skill to learn, as its energy can become harmful to the user’s body.
Before the end of the Hundred Years War, Lightningbending was a rare skill to learn. However, as the knowledge and understanding of Firebending grew, so did Lightningbending.
Metalbending is a subset of Earthbending. Toph Beifong invented it during the Hundred Years War. Since metal is purified and refined earth, Metalbending is manipulating the earth inside of it.
Metalbending created a new era for Earthbenders as they used the new skillset to create innovations such as a new type of armor, weaponry, all the way to entire cities. It became one of the most renowned types of bending throughout the Avatar series.
Flying is a subset of Airbending, and one of the rarest abilities to learn. It can only be achieved when a person lets go of all their earthly tethers: love, power, greed, or virtually any kind of attachment.
Only two people were able to accomplish flying on their own. Zaheer was one of the most ruthless villains in Legend of Korra. He started as being a Nonbender until the Harmonic Convergence made him an Airbender. He was able to fly when the love of his life P’li was killed in a fight to capture the avatar.
Earthbending is known for its defensive style. Earthbenders stand their ground, absorbing their opponent’s attacks until the opponent is overwhelmed.
In Season 2, Episode 9 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Iroh explains to Zuko that Earthbenders are persistent and enduring. Toph Beifong, one of the greatest Earthbenders to ever live, mastered a style of Earthbending that is meant for waiting and listening for the right opportunity to strike. What looks like doing nothing is one of the most important styles of fighting.
Waterbending is adaptive and uses an opponent’s attacks against them. It helps the flow of energy, making it versatile in its fighting style.
Waterbenders can function based on the amount of water around them. However, they can also pull water out of many sources, such as steam, humidity in the air, and even sweat.
Due to their quick nature, waterbenders are capable of switching from offense to defense quickly. They draw their power from the moon; when it’s full, they become stronger.
Firebending is the most offensive and ferocious of all the elements.
Firebenders are strong-willed, driven to accomplish anything they put their mind to. They often overwhelm their opponents with multiple attacks at once.
During the Hundred Years War, many Firebenders believed that the key to Firebending was hatred. However, dating back all the way to the Sun Warriors and the original Firebenders, the key to Firebending is energy.
Quick and evasive, airbending is the element of freedom.
Iroh teaches that the Air Nomads typically detach themselves from worldly concerns while believing that all life is sacred.
Their style of fighting is using their momentum to beat their opponent. They typically live in the moment and are very playful by nature.
At the same time, the Air Nomads, as their knowledge grows, become more focused on their spiritual nature. Some can even project themselves into the spirit world and develop special bonds with the beings there.
Energybending is a dangerous form of bending. Very few people have learned to Energybend, and fewer people have used the ability.
To use this ability, your Hundredenergy has to be pure. If not, it can corrupt and destroy you.
Only the avatar can learn to use this type of bending—and only once the ancient lion turtles have passed the power down to the avatar.
Avatar Aang used this ability to take Fire Lord Ozai’s bending away from him, instead of killing him. Years later, he used it again on a Waterbender named Yakone.
Bloodbending is a subset of Waterbending, and is one of the deadliest forms of bending. Typically used to manipulate a person’s body, this bending art can slowly kill them.
A woman named Hama, a prisoner of the Fire Nation during the Hundred Years War, invented bloodbending.
At first, Bloodbending was only possible during a full moon. A man named Yakone learned to do it without a full moon, then taught his children to bloodbend as well.
Later, The first villain in Legend of Korra, Amon learned to use Bloodbending as a way to block a person’s ability to bend anything.
The types of bending in Avatar: The Last AirBender are fascinating to long-time fans and new viewers alike. Complex and storied, the bending arts almost feel like characters themselves, and serve as crucial plot devices throughout the series.