I'll admit that I'm more familiar with TLoK, rather than TLA, so maybe it was explained there, but this still confused me.

What is the point of the Avatar mastering all four bending arts? The Avatar's responsibility is to maintain balance, and be a link between the human and spirit worlds - mastering all four elements doesn't seem to improve (or even affect) their abilities in either regard.

I suppose that, when they must fight, having all four might be a good thing, but I would argue truly having mastery over four would only be a dubious improvement over having mastery over three.

3 Answers 3


There are several possible reasons:

  1. Politics. You're an earthbender. Say, a farmer. The current Avatar happens to have been born in the Fire Nation. This Avatar goes out and learns waterbending, air bending, is great at fire bending, but earthbending? Maybe the Avatar doesn't see the point, maybe that's just a real sticking point for them, but they don't do it. You, the humble earth kingdom farmer, realize that this Avatar doesn't speak for you.

  2. Discipline. Much of the Avatar ethos seems to be based on mastery of the self, in all its aspects. If you are the Avatar, mastery of each element is a fundamental part of your being. It is what you are, on a very basic, spiritual level, and I suspect it would be strongly at odds with in-universe philosphy to ignore any part of that.

  3. Versatility. Avatars fight. Avatars build. Avatars occasionally create landmasses just because they can. The more practical skills someone has, the more useful they become, and the Avatar basically gets to multiclass for free. There are situations where waterbending won't save your life, but airbending will. If you're going to be in danger, don't you want to be able to save your own ass in as many unexpected ways as possible?

  4. Planning for the future. Avatars (with the exception of Korra) are in touch with their past incarnations. You, as the Avatar, are a resource to your future selves. Your skills and knowledge get passed down for generations. You want to be able to do as many things as possible, as well as possible, to make it easier for the next guy to save the world all over again.


Actually, it's shown many times with Roku, Aang and Korra that a fully realized Avatar capable of going into the Avatar state at will is only possible after mastering (or at least being competent with) all four elements. Then, the Avatars go from being above average benders who can do the neat trick of bending four elements to being incredibly powerful forces of nature. Aang is never shown to be capable of going into the avatar state at will until he became a competent firebender. Korra also is never shown going into the avatar state at will until after she figures out how to airbend. Roku used to be Sozin's sparring partner before he was identified as the Avatar and sent off for training. After being trained, when he and Sozin have their big blowup disagreement, he is more than a match for Sozin, and levels his entire palace.

It's also about being the bridge between all four nations and the spirits. The avatar is more likely to see things from the perspective of a nation they're not born into if they travel there and spend years mastering the national bending arts. Of course, in Korra's time, this is less important, but it still matters to some extent.

Also, each element is incredibly useful and powerful all on it's own. Think about how powerful and amazing Azula, Toph, Katara, Iroh, Iroh II, Lin, Suyin and Tenzin are, and the feats they have pulled off over the course of the two series. And that's just with one element at each of their disposal. An avatar who can only use three of these elements is basically fighting without a quarter of their full skill set. Terrain and circumstances also matter, if an avatar can't waterbend, and they're fighting in the middle of an ocean, that's a definite disadvantage. If an avatar needs to get somewhere really quickly, or escape their enemies, but can't airbend, that's a definite disadvantage.


Because if the avatar is not controling one of the four elements for example water, the waterbenders would fell forgotten but it's impossible cause mastering all four elements is going to help him to bring balance to the world

  • 2
    Can you try to explain this in a more clear fashion and cite reference(s) why this is something more than an opinion? Sep 5, 2015 at 16:33

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