Avatar: The Last Airbender is a popular American television series set in an Asiatic-like world. In the show, people can manipulate natural elements by use of psychokinetic variants of Chinese martial arts, known as "bending." This guy takes us through the art of bending. Imgur user: YellowSnowman
“Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns, and they found peace and freedom -- And they apparently had great senses of humor!” - Iroh
1. The Airbenders
In the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) and The Legend of Korra (TLOK), each of the four nations have their own customs, traditions, and histories. Of those four nations, the Air Nomad’s history, and particularly Avatar Aang’s history, is the most tragic. After the Fire Nation, under the order of Fire Lord Sozin, nearly wiped out the entire Air Nomad civilization, Avatar Aang was the only airbender left to continue the airbending traditions and form.
The Air Nomads were peaceful people. They detached themselves from worldly problems and concerns. Finding peace and freedom was the key to solving their difficulties in life. Airbenders continually sought spiritual enlightenment, and, as a result, all children born into the Air Nomads were benders. The first airbenders learned their art from the flying bison.
Airbending is my personal favorite of the four elements to watch, because it is based off of a very unique kung fu called Baguazhang.
The Baguazhang style of martial arts, also called "circle walking" or "Eight Trigram Palm", is known for its constant circular movement, which makes it difficult for opponents to attack directly or land a blow.
It is an impressively evasive form, which makes it very well suited for the air nomad philosophy of nonviolence.
Baguazhang involves smooth coiling and uncoiling actions. Such moves employ dynamic footwork, throws, and hand techniques. A common tactic is to maneuver behind an opponent and mirror their movements, preventing them from turning to face the practitioner.
Baguazhang also utilizes a large variety of weapons in their training. Some are common weapons such as knives, straight swords, spears, and staves. Then there are the not so common weapons, like the deer horn knives shown above...
… And the massive Bagua broadsword. (How bad do you want a reason to take one of these magnificent fuckers into glorious battle?)
The reason Baguazhang is also called "circle walking" and "Eight Trigram Palm" is because it utilizes training method called “circle walking of the Eight Trigrams”. Practitioners walk around the edge of a Bagua circle in various low stances, facing the center, and periodically change direction as they execute forms. Above is an example of a real-world Bagua circle…
… and here is one in the courtyard of Air Temple Island. Kinda cool that the creators threw that in there.
Airbenders have the power to overwhelm many opponents at once with large and powerful attacks, and could potentially be the most deadly of the bending arts. However, due to the pacifist nature of the Air Nomads, they often adapt to the situation surrounding them and prefer evasive maneuvers as opposed to direct confrontation.
Air is the element of freedom. The key to airbending is flexibility and finding and following the path of least resistance. While airbending is notable for being almost purely defensive and evasive, it is also the most dynamic of the four bending arts.
“Airbending is all about spiral movements. When you meet resistance, you must be able to switch direction at a moment's notice. The key is to be like a leaf in the wind.” – Tenzin
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