Jesse Brauner

In the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, airbending is the ability to mentally manipulate air through the use of martial arts.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (known outside the United States as ‘The Legend of Aang’) is an American animated television series created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The series ran from 2005 until 2008 on the channel Nickelodeon and was later adapted into a feature film by director M. Night Shyamalan. The aesthetics of the program were heavily influenced by the style of Japanese animation (anime), but Avatar was equally notable for its well-developed plotlines and for drawing inspiration from a wide array of sources: These included artistic, cultural and historical influences from around the world, diverse species from the animal kingdom, and storytelling themes from popular movies and books.

Airbending is one of the four primary “bending arts” found throughout the world of Avatar, and was practiced by the culture known as the Air Nomads. Through the use of a specific kind of martial art (inspired aesthetically by Baguazhang, according to the creators of the series), airbenders can move and manipulate air into virtually any shape or form they wish. The most basic techniques in airbending involve the creation of blasts or streams of air at various sizes, strengths and speeds. Other abilities include the creation of many types of whirlwinds and tornadoes, throwing up a dome of air as a shield against attacks, and using the wind as a booster to increase the speed of your running. Two of of the most ubiquitous airbending techniques in the series include flying by way of a specialized collapsible glider, and something called the “air scooter”, the latter of which was invented by the main character Aang. By creating a large ball of highly concentrated spinning air and balancing atop it on one foot, the user can travel at greatly enhanced speeds and even scale vertical inclines.