Airbending, one of the four elemental bending arts, is the aerokinetic ability to control and manipulate currents of air. The peaceful Air Nomads utilize this type of bending in their everyday lives.
Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detach themselves from worldly problems and concerns; finding peace and freedom is the key to solving their difficulties in life. Airbenders continually seek spiritual enlightenment, and, as a result, all children born into the Air Nomads are benders. The first airbenders learned their art from the flying bison.
The key to airbending is flexibility and finding and following the path of least resistance. Airbending is notable for being almost purely 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. Due to their aforementioned spirituality, they often adapt to the situation surrounding them and prefer evasive maneuvers as opposed to direct confrontation.
During the era of Raava, the power of airbending was temporarily bestowed on the inhabitants who lived on a giant lion turtle while they left the village to stock up on food. After the inhabitants permanently left the care of the lion turtle, airbenders learned to reconnect and refine their bending from the flying 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 within the culture.
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 blast: A more offensive move involving a direct pulse or jet of strong wind from the hands, feet, or mouth. The force of the attack is generated more from the bender's own power, rather than assisted by momentum. The blast can reach further distances with greater accuracy and is used to inflict greater damage.
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 bullets: A technique causing two or more marbles to spin in a circle between an Airbender's hands. It could be used to shoot small objects, like marbles, at very high speeds, similar to bullets, but it can also be used to impress rather than to attack.
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 loaded and fired out of the opposite end.
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.
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, in the sense that it involves the firing of compressed or solidified air at an enemy in a disjunct fashion i.e. the bender does not create a single great stream of air.
Air shield: The most common defensive tactic, though less powerful than the air barrier, it 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 suction: A technique used to bring people or things toward the airbender.
Air swipe: The air swipe is both a defensive and offensive technique in which an airbender conjures a crescent-shaped structure of compressed air capable of deflecting colossal projectiles, such as catapulted rocks, and sending them off course.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Master Level TechniquesEdit
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.
Air grapple: Air is used to pull an object or a person to the bender's direction.
Air spout: Similar to the waterspout, master airbenders are able to rotate and control the direction of an 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.
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.
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.
Flight: In the same way flying 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 to form a 'cloud' like board under their feet and surfing through the air, thereby emulating flight.
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.
Avatar Level TechniquesEdit
Air sphere: 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.
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.
Strong wind: It is possible for the Avatar to unleash extremely powerful winds.
Tornadoes/hurricanes: In addition to very large and powerful air movements, an Avatar level airbender can create massive tornadoes and hurricanes at will.
Air scooter: The air scooter is a spherical "ball" of air that can be ridden balancing on it like a top. It is used usually to provide quick bursts of speed as well as to overcome vertical surfaces, although it can be used as a method of travel or even for leisure. The air scooter was also shown to be capable of levitating in the air for short periods, about five to ten seconds in a stationary position. Master Airbenders can stand atop an air scooter while maintaining full balance.
Cloud manipulation: Because they are made with air and water, a skilled airbender can manipulate clouds easily to create various shapes, for example to provide a message to nearby villagers, but only with an assisting waterbender.
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.
Opposing Bending ArtEdit
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. However, firebending is the spiritual opposite of airbending. Airbenders are passive and peaceful, while firebenders are aggressive and passionate.
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.
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 benders of other nations, who 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 have also been seen to be used in combination with airbending.Bladed weaponry could also produce interesting results.
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 the greater good, although airbenders are taught to never do anything in aggression. 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.
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 helped their airbending. The Northern and Southern Air Temples are exclusively male and staffed by airbender monks, who instructed young benders in their art, while the Eastern and Western Air Temples are exclusively female.
An airbender is declared a master once he or she has fully mastered the thirty-six tiers of airbending and/or when he or she creates a new airbending technique. 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 traditionally shave their foreheads, but they leave the back of their hair uncut, although sometimes they will shave off all their hair and wear a hood at all times in public.
Air Nomads generally espouse a philosophy of conflict avoidance and respect for all forms of life; an airbender will never seek a fight, and they will never seek to strike an opponent directly. 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. This makes airbending the most dynamic of all the bending arts, and air itself is considered to be the element of freedom.