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Earth has Metalbending, Sandbending, and Lavabending.

Water has Bloodbending and Healing.

Fire has Lightning/Electricitybending and Combustion.

What is the subset of Airbending, if there is one?

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    Water has three specialized bending disciplines, none of them Icebending. Bending ice and snow is standard for Waterbenders. The three specialized bending techniques discussed for Water are Bloodbending, Plantbending, and Healing. – Gabe Willard Apr 22 '12 at 22:31
  • youre right!... – OghmaOsiris Apr 22 '12 at 22:32
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    I agree with @Arachno-Sapien - it might be flying. Aang normally needed his glider to fly, but when he went full Avatar-state during the final battle with the Firelord, he was pretty much flying un-aided through half the fight. – Omegacron Nov 26 '14 at 18:00
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    @TylerH Yes, grammatically in English they can refer to the same thing, but in the world of Avatar people such as Combustion Man and P'Li are referred to specifically as "Combustion benders." It's a very specific sort of firebending, very much equivalent to metalbending or healing. – Nerrolken Nov 26 '14 at 19:16
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    @TylerH Yes, a combustionbender is shown firebending in Legend of Korra Book 3. Plantbending is shown in the swamp episode in The Last Airbender Book 2. – numaroth Nov 26 '14 at 19:29

10 Answers 10

21

In Season 3 of The Legend of Korra, the subset of airbending was revealed:

The subset of airbending is flight. This is not the glider-assisted flight that is fairly common, but unsupported flight. It is similar to how Superman or other superheroes fly.

The subset of airbending is unlocked by fully realizing the Airbender Nomad philosophy of removing all earthly attachments. The first airbender to achieve this was Guru Laghima, an airbending master who lived over 3,000 years before the 100 Years War.

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    Only two people in history have ever achieved this ability. I think that makes this less of a subset of airbending, and more of an anomaly, as Sokka comments about Yakone's ability to bloodbend without the full moon. – Nerrolken Nov 26 '14 at 18:56
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    @Nerrolken All of the subsets seem to need a certain amount of talent in order to use, as shown by Bolin's inability to metalbend. The way this ability is talked about it seems that any airbender with the right mindset would be able to use it. It's just that the mindset is incredibly difficult to achieve. Still you might be right, what defines a bending subset vs an unique anomaly is unclear. – numaroth Nov 26 '14 at 19:24
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    Fair enough. I suppose there isn't anything to indicate that other airbenders who achieve that level of serenity couldn't also develop it. – Nerrolken Nov 26 '14 at 19:35
  • Superman is an airbender!! – William Dec 21 '16 at 13:20
20

Air-bending does not have a subset or amplification mode of its power.

Airbending Scroll by Jeffrey Scott

A replica of an airbending scroll by Jeffrey Scott

The Avatar Wiki reports:

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.

Aang has show some unique abilities using his air-bending which could qualify as an amplification but does not include any combat techniques. Again from the Avatar Wiki:

Sound-bending: 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 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 at the Sun Warrior ruins.

One of the possible reasons for a lack of an amplification mode is the defensive nature of the Air-bending style of fighting. Air-benders were pacifists and preferred to avoid conflict rather than engage in it. Many of the amplifications expand the fighting properties of their art significantly and make sense for their development to occur as a practitioner became more skilled in the art. This does not mean there could not be an amplified mode of Air-bending, only that we have not seen one.

enter image description here

While Air-bending does not appear to have an amplified mode, it is one of the most dynamic of the bending styles and offers its practitioners a diverse array of techniques for engaging in and avoiding conflicts. When used by a skilled bender, the air element allows the bender to move faster than the eye can see, increase their combat agility and avoid damage with a fighting style designed to misdirect the opponent, project bursts of air as weapons, create durable shields of moving air, redirect physical objects focused at the bender, and sweep away multiple opponents simultaneously.

enter image description here

Since the series has been restarted with the Legend of Korra, there is always the possibility we will see an amplified mode of airbending.

  • Healing has nothing to do with combat. It's more likely they simply haven't explored Airbending's specialized discipline yet. – Gabe Willard Apr 22 '12 at 22:34
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    I was referring to your statement "All of the amplifications expand the fighting properties of their art significantly." Healing is considered to be a specialized discipline of Waterbending. – Gabe Willard Apr 22 '12 at 22:38
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    And the ability to receive healing has everything to do with combat. If you have a fight and someone can heal you afterward, you will fight differently than if you can't. It is a psychological advantage and in a fight, that can make the difference between winning and losing. – Thaddeus Howze Apr 22 '12 at 22:41
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    That's tangential. The Northern Water Tribe only allowed women to study Healing. The same women who they refused to teach regular Waterbending. The fact remains, Healing as a bending discipline has nothing to do with aggression or combat. It's a defensive art, probably like whatever Air's unrevealed specialization is. – Gabe Willard Apr 22 '12 at 22:55
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    But that still doesn't justify "All of the amplifications expand the fighting properties of their art significantly." Because you could theoretically heal in combat doesn't imply that healing is a "fighting property" of Waterbending. – Gabe Willard Apr 22 '12 at 23:06
5

I personally don't think every form of bending needs subsets and such, it seems to be an expectation of the fans that there be parallels in every branch equivalent to the others, rather than anything stated in the show. As Sokka says during a Korra flashback, some benders just have strange abilities. Bending seems to a very organic landscape.

That being said, the best candidate is probably Spiritual Projection, which is specifically described by Jinora as "a high level airbender technique."

Spiritual Projection

So far she's the only one we've seen do it, (I thought I remembered Aang doing it at some point, but I suppose I'm making that up). However, the way she talks about it, it sounds like it's not terribly difficult to achieve for (unlike Tenzin) spiritually-connected airbending masters.

  • Aang does it multiple times. To go to see Roku, to talk to the face stealer, etc. – user16696 Jul 6 '15 at 13:18
  • @cde Aang uses Spiritual Projection to go into the Spirit World or to talk to his past lives, but that's something Korra does too. I don't remember him using Spiritual Projection to explore the physical world, the way Jinora uses it to go places her body can't reach, or to talk to (or spy on) people in distant areas. – Nerrolken Jul 6 '15 at 20:00
  • Fang's spirit first appeared to Aang when he was attempting to stop Hei Bai from destroying Senlin Village. After Aang discovered he was in his spirit form for the very first time, he was confronted by Fang's spirit, who took the young Avatar to the Fire Temple on Crescent Island to see Avatar Roku's statue, where he learned that Roku wanted to speak to him during the winter solstice about Sozin's Comet. Afterward, the dragon took Aang back to his body – user16696 Jul 6 '15 at 20:27
  • Is there any evidence that Jinora is using air bending to control her spiritual projection? Or is she simply just a person that's really spiritual and can thus project her consciousness outside her body? All we ever see her do to trigger it is meditate. – Ellesedil Jan 15 '18 at 8:08
  • @Ellesedil We never get explicit confirmation that it's an Airbender thing, but we see multiple Airbenders performing the technique and/or attempting the technique, and we never see anyone else even discuss the possibility of doing it. Within the canon as it exists right now, it seems to be an Airbender-only ability. And since bending is the only form of super-human ability known in that universe, it can therefore be reasonably assumed that spiritual projection is a facet of Airbending. Plus, you know, Jinora specifically refers to it as "a high level airbender technique." – Nerrolken Jan 18 '18 at 19:48
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Airbending is the rarest bending ability and thus has not been fully explored in detail as it was with other bending arts. Plus, most of the knowledge that was present in older generations of airbenders never got passed down to anyone. I think there might have been more, had Firenation not destroyed and burned most of the temples/monks. If there is a subset, it may not have been discovered or it may have been lost.

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    Hey Kotleta, thanks for the post, I think that answers should stand alone, and thus it doesn't make much sense to start this with 'Also...' but you raise a really good point. Do you think you could reformat your post slightly? There's an upvote in it for you....:D – AncientSwordRage Aug 5 '12 at 16:16
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With the exception of a few Firebenders using fire "jets" to glide short distances, Airbenders are uniquely able to fly under their own power. "Flightbending" perhaps.

Legend of Korra has already shown that technology and science has advanced such that one group of people have learned the physics of aerodynamics with airplanes. Perhaps when the Airbenders/Avatar learn the physics behind flight they can improve upon their stick flyers or to learn to fly without airfoil assistance...

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    Except I don't see them flying without using a glider. Real, unassisted flight however I would consider a subset. – AncientSwordRage Aug 5 '12 at 16:18
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    @Pureferret Funny you should say that... – user1027 Nov 26 '14 at 19:42
  • @keen Eh I don't follow... – AncientSwordRage Nov 27 '14 at 21:40
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    @Pureferret Uhh, watch the S3 finale of Korra... – user1027 Nov 28 '14 at 1:04
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    Always funny to have something you predicted get downvoted and have people say it won't happen, only to have it happen. :) – Michael Neth Nov 30 '14 at 22:52
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I've seen this debated elsewhere without a concensus, but possibly vacuation (the formation of a vacuum). This may just be an advanced technique rather than a subset.

In Book 3, Episode 10 ('Long Live the Queen') of the Legends of Korra, Queen Hou-Ting of the Earth Kingdom is killed by Zaheer through vacuation. He suffocated her by pulling all the air out of her lungs.

enter image description here

  • It might not even be an advanced technique. I assume that it's something that a normal, peaceful airbender normally wouldn't do. – jamesdlin Sep 18 '17 at 20:31
0

It could be 'pressure-bending', creating a Vacuum around the target or releasing the gases in the body. that would make it the possible deadliest of the specialized techniques.
I could imagine the air-nomades discovering this technique, seeing the horrible impact on the human body and deciding to erase the knowledge from their teachings. it may even be the origin of their passive nature.

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If Waterbending has the Deadliest Bending; Waterbending. Maybe Airbending has Oxygen bend. maybe the Air Nomads didn't learn this is because of they're love of peace and freedom. And they apparently had a great sense of humor.

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I don't agree that subsets are actually a thing.

I've never agreed with this 'rpg' like approach to bending techniques. All bending techniques for an element are just things someone with that element can learn. Bloodbending isn't metaphysically more special than octopus arms; its just another application of waterbending. Some techniques require special things, true. You can't lightningbend with a clouded heart, void-fly with earthly attachments or bloodbend without a full moon. But that's no different than saying you can't sword fight without a sword. Some techniques rely on certain tools or circumstances. Likewise, some techniques are more difficult to learn but, again, that does not make them special, just hard.

Of course, not everyone will find all techniques easy - even setting aside how difficult they are. Just as some people are better at long jump than high jump or are better than calculus than creative writing, some benders will find some techniques easier than others. In some instances, they may be incapable of a particular technique for all practical purposes (see Bolin and metalbending) but that's because of the way they think and learn, not because they're on a different metaphysical development track.

Fundamentally, and I think this is my thesis, I don't agree that you can pick you one particular technique from a bending school and say, 'this is special. This is a subset.' It comes across as highlight arbitrary.

Certainly their are people who might specialise in a 'subset' (see the metalbending police of Republic City) but that is true about any bending ability. You could have a (hypothetical) Earth Kingdom dojo that is all about using earthbending to sling rocks very fast and very hard. Does that make 'rock throwing' suddenly a subset.

Why is lavabending a subset but not waterbenders ability to change between ice, water and steam, controlling all three?

Why is metalbending a subset when it is literally just controlling the bits of earth left behind in metal?

Take a look at what Iroh said in 'Bitter Work' about lightningbending. "Lightning is a pure expression of firebending without aggression. It is not fueled by rage or emotion the way other firebending is. Some call lightning the cold-blooded fire." Does that sound special or just a cleaver way of using firebending?

The answer is they are not. What is too often labelled a 'subset' is just a slightly rarer use of bog-standard bending. It doesn't have the metaphysical weight to ask why it does or does not exist for airbending.

  • This is more of a rant regarding the terminology than an actual answer. You should expand it to discussion regarding the more advanced skills used by Airbenders. – phantom42 Jun 23 '17 at 13:01
  • This sounds like a rant, with a question attached, which if you're actually interested in, you should ask. In brief: The reason why subsets/specializatioons exist is because characters in-universe specifically describe them as such. Characters appear to categorize them due to rarity, but it's not immediately clear if that is indeed the case. Freezing water isn't a subset because it seems to be a very common waterbending ability. Bloodbending is a subset because only a limited number of people have demonstrated the ability to do so. Bolin's experience with metal/lava bending is a good example. – Ellesedil Jan 18 '18 at 20:01
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I would like to posit that Energybending is actually a subset of airbending, and here's why:

Of the 4 Elements of the show, Air is the only one that isn't actually an element in Taoism.

However, Air is equivocal to Energy in Taoism. Qi and Wind are often used interchangeably, and breathing is the method of circulating qi. Because of this, it could be assumed that Energybending is actually the subset of airbending.

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    This is pure speculation and isn't backed by anything in the show. – svick May 7 '12 at 10:15
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    I never said it wasn't speculation. That said, it addresses a thematic hole using the tools available. It's actually kind of surprising that we never found out about the subset in the show-- likely due to the rushed end of the production. – Travis May 8 '12 at 21:21
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    And despite the downvotes, it is an interesting premise to consider. That would make a very unusual subset power and I have wondered why Amon moves like an airbender... – Thaddeus Howze Jun 14 '12 at 2:34

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