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I never got around to watching Avatar when I was younger, so now I am finally catching up by watching it with my kids, which makes it even better :)

Anyway, there is one thing I have been wondering about: when Aang and Katara (or any other water bender) are fighting against someone why don't they just bend the air and water inside their opponents' bodies. I mean, our bodies are 65% water so it should be quite easy. Also, Aang could manipulate the air in their lungs or something similar which could easily disable (or even kill) them.

PS: We have only watched 2 seasons so far, so if it is explained later please bear with me. Also, I am familiar with blood-bending, but I am not talking about controlling people - more like using the water in their bodies to lift them or hurl them away (since killing is not really this show's style).

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    About using manipulating the air inside the lungs, just wait till The Legend of Korra's fourth Book. I believe that technically bloodbending could be used as you describe, but I don't remember if it's ever done in any of both Avatar series. – Alfredo Hernández Jun 9 '15 at 9:13
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    My thoughts about this is that they have probably left it out since it would be quite overpowered. I mean, being able to obliterate all your opponents with a single move would make for a boring story :) I was just thinking that there is some kind of explanation to why it wasn't/couldn't be done – pajevic Jun 9 '15 at 9:16
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    Yeah, probably it would just ruin the plot. I mean, obviously, bending someone's internal fluids to move them as a puppet must be over 9000 times more complicated than just lifting them as it were a mere uniform fluid body. – Alfredo Hernández Jun 9 '15 at 9:19
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    Bloodbending is used to lift and throw people in the show. I'm not sure I understand the distinction you're making. Also, in the episode where bloodbending is introduced, it's made clear that bending water in living things is a novel concept invented by Hama, that Katara hasn't seen or considered before. Supposedly it's not as easy as just bending regular, free water. – jono Jun 9 '15 at 11:02
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    @NobleK you are also making the assumption that the benders themselves know that our body is mostly water. I'm not sure how common that knowledge is, since almost all of that water is inside cells and not readily visible... – KutuluMike Jun 9 '15 at 13:18
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Bloodbending is used to lift and throw people in the shows, most notably Legend of Korra - Book 1, by

Amon

enter image description here

Also, in the episode where bloodbending is introduced, it's made clear that bending water in living things is a novel concept invented by Hama, that Katara hasn't seen or considered before. Supposedly it's not as easy or obvious as just bending regular, free water.

There are other examples on the show of novel uses of bending "non-pure" versions of the elements, that require either special training or a rare insight. Toph was the first person to invent metalbending, by bending earth impurities inside refined metal. The swamp benders bend the water in vines to create monstrous disguises.

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    You are probably right about the water not being "free" and thus requiring bloodbending. Maybe I just get confused by the word "blood" which only constitutes about 7% of our bodies, leaving the other about 60%. Well, to be fair, most water in our bodies is bound in cells and muscles, but there is still an amount in our stomach. It might not be much, but we have seen what Katara can do with the water from her small bottle. Altso, there is always "free" air in our lungs which Aang should be able to bend. But perhaps I am just thinking too much :) – pajevic Jun 9 '15 at 11:28
  • @NobleK compared to total body mass, the air in our lungs is really pretty insignificant, and it also seems a bit redundant to introduce to the show when you've already got bloodbending. If you really want to get gruesomely creative with airbending, I'd start looking at embolisms and rupturing eardrums, but that might be a little inappropriate for the show >_> – jono Jun 9 '15 at 11:34
  • @NobleK I believe it's somewhere stated that Bloodbending does not only refer to the blood-bending, but the bending of body fluids in general. Any way, in terms of physics, a body lifted by the chest (internal organs) would behave exactly as the guys shown in the picture provided by jono. – Alfredo Hernández Jun 9 '15 at 11:40
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    More like it's extremely difficult (Hama could do it only during full moon) than not obvious to consider: since there is flesh in-between and you don't see the water/air, it must be hard to "grasp" it and then bend it. Plus, in the season 3 of The Legend of Korra, there's also an airbender who is extracting air from Korra's lungs in order to make her suffocate, and then again it's a powerful bender who does it, not a random one. – Ananas Jun 9 '15 at 12:07
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    @KRyan Crap, you're right. It's been so long since I watched that season, I completely forgot that was a big reveal >_> Fixed now – jono Jun 9 '15 at 17:55
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This is less of an issue of can they, and more of an issue of "would they?"

The most highly skilled waterbenders are able to blood bend. We see this with Hama, and Katara in The Last Airbender and Amon in Korra. We also see some water benders bending water in trees and plants.

But Katara has a major philosophical issue with it as controlling someone, even an enemy, goes against everything she believes in. She only does it in the most dire of circumstances.

Katara is a waterbender. While waterbending is often used for attack and defense, their true talents are in healing. That said, the evil waterbenders we see, do use it for purposes you describe, using it to hold/stop or throw their opponents.

Aang, while never demonstrating either ability that I can recall, would have similar issues. Remember that Aang was raised as an Air Nomad. It can be noted that Aang was not necessarily a particularly skilled Airbender, having not finished his all of his training. Air Nomads are non-violent, and early on, Aang has a lot of difficulty intentionally harming someone. Airbending is meant to be used to evade fights, not participate in them. The destructive nature of firebending, and using bending for attack comes into play in a big way when Aang must learn to firebend, as Aang refuses to firebend ever again, after accidentally hurting someone. Similarly, Aang has psychological difficulty with Earthbending, as it is the psychological and elemental opposite of Airbending.

Using bending for such attacks just isn't in the nature of most benders, and especially not for the ones we follow.

  • Thanks for a great answer. You touch at some points I hadn't really considered. Perhaps your answer combined with jono's give the complete picture of why this isn't something that we see done in the show. – pajevic Jun 9 '15 at 12:35
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    Down vote for the Aang not being a skilled Airbender part. – user16696 Jun 9 '15 at 14:10
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    @cde I didn't say he's not skilled, I said he didn't finish his training and likely isn't as skilled as he could have been. – phantom42 Jun 9 '15 at 14:18
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    @phantom42 He is repeatedly portrayed as a prodigy, even in flashbacks where the other airbenders are there to compare with and to comment on his progress. As a child, he invents novel forms of airbending (e.g. the scooter) which I have to assume is decidedly non-trivial, and the air masters seem very impressed with his abilities. He definitely is portrayed as a “particularly skilled airbender.” Perhaps not having mastered every single thing, but he earned the tattoo, again apparently at a much younger age than others (none of his cohort is shown as having one). – KRyan Jun 9 '15 at 17:21
  • Not to mention he earned his airbending tattoos before he was 12 years old. We see what a big deal Tenzin makes of giving Janora her tattoos later in Korra – childcat15 Jun 9 '15 at 19:17
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Why Aang and Katara don't use their bending on their enemies' fluids to cast them away?

You mentioned that Aang and Katara are pacifist so they wouldn't use that ability to kill people by bending the water and the air inside them to make them explode or something like that, which is correct. However they could use it to send them away, right?

I believe the reason they don't do so is because it's overly complicated for such a simple task. Why bend people's lung's air if you can simply bend the air around them to hurl them away? It serves the same purpose and it's easier since it's "grasping" and bending the air you can see as opposed to the one within the flesh.

As for Katara, she almost always had water at her disposal and didn't need to use people's fluids.

In season 3:

She once use her own perspiration to escape a prison as she doesn't have water but it's a pain at the moment. It would have been easier if she had waterbended her fluids then, but if she didn't think about it, it's probably because it's not pure enough (bloodbend) so she simply couldn't.

And later

She learns to bloodbend but she only uses it when she has to, because she doesn't have water to bend or to counter her opponent bloodbending.

Then why didn't their opponents use it since they didn't care about killing?

In The Season 3 of Legend of Korra, there's one occurrence of an airbender who airbends Korra's lungs' air to suffocate her. But once again, it's a very powerful bender who does it. So if people don't usually do it it's simply because it's difficult: it demands more power, precision and time. It's easier to simply hurl them away and knock them out against a wall, for example, than to bend the air out of them. Plus you can attack multiple people at once this way.

As for water, once again, since you can't waterbend fluids but only bloodbend (which is thus more difficult) there's only a small number of people who could bloodbend, and for almost all of them it was only during the full moon. So it's also simpler to use the old-style waterbending to fight.

So their opponents simply weren't strong enough to do so and wouldn't have much reason to do it anyway.

TL;DR Why bother to bend enemies' bodies if you can bend the pure water/air (which is simpler) to cast them away or knock them out?

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