Bloodbending is a sub-skill within the art of waterbending, which allows a waterbender to hydrokinetically take hold and manipulate the various fluids within an organism's body. The technique is referred to as the darkest and deadliest sub-skill of any of the bending arts, and the only known art to put the user's mental state at risk.
The technique was discovered by a young waterbender named Hama while she was detained in a prison designed by the Fire Nation specifically to hold waterbenders. During her detainment, she concluded that all life contains water, and proceeded to develop the knowledge and skills of the art by practicing on elephant rats.
The forms and styles used by bloodbenders resemble how a puppeteer controls a marionette. Whereas waterbending uses flowing motions with the arms, bloodbending seems to require a more rigid and abrupt form of movement, further highlighting how different it is from the primary waterbending forms and its other sub-skill, healing.
Due to its extreme nature, only a handful of waterbenders have demonstrated the ability to bloodbend. The technique is deemed by most waterbenders to be a dark art and is rarely used in combat. The complexity and sophistication required to perform the art usually only allows for its use during a full moon, when a waterbender's power is at its absolute peak. Yakone, Tarrlok, and Amon were the only known waterbenders capable of bloodbending without the aid of the full moon; however, they are also the only ones known to have extensively and rigorously trained in the art. Yakone and Tarrlok had their bending abilities removed which left Amon as the only known bender able to bloodbend without a full moon until his eventual death. Yakone and Amon were also the only waterbenders known to be capable of psychic bloodbending.
Bloodbending is infrequently applied to daily activities. Knowledge of the art eventually became known to the public, and the practice of bloodbending was outlawed due to the efforts of Katara following the formation of Republic City.
After being captured during one of the Fire Nation raids aimed at weakening the Southern Water Tribe, Hama, along with her fellow waterbenders, was sent to a maximum security prison in the Fire Nation designed specifically to hold benders of her kind. There, the guards were cautious of providing prisoners with any form of bendable substance that they could utilize in making a reprisal, going so far as to chain the limbs of the prisoners before they were allowed to drink and using "cruel retribution" at any sign of trouble.
Despite the helplessness she faced while imprisoned, Hama was able to feel the enrichment provided to her by the full moon, and she began to devise a plan that would lead to her escape. It was not long after that that she realized the elephant rats which constantly scurried around the bottom of her cage were filled with bendable water.
Upon the arrival of the next full moon, Hama attempted to take hold of the fluids within one of the creatures, and succeeded. She had performed bloodbending. In the following months, she continued to develop the technique, mastering it to a point at which she could effectively control the movement of an entire horde of rats under the full moon. It was then when she felt she could test the art on the men.
During the next full moon, Hama used bloodbending to control a passing guard, forcing him to open her cage and allowing her escape. Hama walked free for the first time in many years, and eventually settled in a village near the outskirts of the Fire Nation archipelago.
While imprisoned, Hama developed a deep hatred for the Fire Nation, and she vowed to take revenge at every instance possible. She created a makeshift prison underneath a mountain and formulated a plan where she would control unsuspecting Fire Nation villagers and lead them to the prison during a full moon. She used this technique and eventually imprisoned the owner of a quaint little inn. Hama became the inn's proprietor, and was able to repress accusations of being the one responsible for the disappearances by disguising herself as a sweet old innkeeper.
During a full moon, she planned to imprison an old man, Ding. The plan was initially successful, and Ding felt helpless as he was "possessed" by an unknown force. He was slowly led to the top of the mountain, where he looked up to the moon and what he thought would be his last glimpse of light. At that moment, however, the sun began to rise, and the power that Hama held over Ding quickly faded. Regaining control over his body, Ding sprinted away from the scene, and since then he became the only passerby to ever escape the wrath of the bloodbender.
Passing the knowledge to Katara
During the summer of 100 ASC, Team Avatar decided to camp near a Fire Nation village. However, Hama overheard them telling horror stories and deducted from Katara's story about Nini that they were from the Southern Water Tribe and offered the gang a place in her inn.
Upon discovering an old whale tooth comb in Hama's attic, she revealed herself to be a waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe and proposed to teach Katara some original Southern Tribe waterbending techniques, so that she could pass on the knowledge of the Southern customs before her death, something Katara happily agreed to.
Katara spent the next day learning various techniques from Hama, such as bending moisture from the air and water from within plants when no bodies of water were present. Hama stated that she would teach Katara the ultimate technique of waterbending at night, during the full moon, when their powers were at their peak. Katara was hesitant, claiming that villagers had been disappearing during the full moon, however, Hama seemed unaffected, stating that two master waterbenders under a full moon had nothing to worry about.
That night, Hama took Katara to the forest, where she explained her imprisonment and discovery of bloodbending. Katara was horrified, and refused to learn the art when Hama urged her to. This angered Hama, who then used bloodbending to control Katara. The young waterbender pleaded for mercy, but Hama refused to release her. Feeling the power of the moon enforce her waterbending as well, Katara honed her energy and broke free, stating that her own bending was more powerful than Hama's. The two began to duel, and Katara almost immediately took the upper hand.
Having discovered the truth about Hama from the villagers she imprisoned deep within the mountain, Sokka and Aang arrived soon afterwards to aid Katara and told Hama to surrender since she was clearly outnumbered. Hama refused, and used bloodbending to control them. Like a puppetmaster, she used them to attack Katara, who was forced to fight off her own friend and brother. Seeing how her attacks did not faze the young waterbender, Hama maneuvered Aang toward Sokka, who had raised his sword. Katara, in an attempt to save Aang, used bloodbending to stop her, effectively breaking Hama's hold on the boys. She released her following the arrival of Toph and the freed villagers, who escorted Hama away from the scene. Now apprehended, Hama congratulated Katara on becoming a bloodbender, causing the young waterbender to break down into tears.
Later, when Zuko and Katara went to search for the man who killed Katara's mother, Katara, dominated by a feeling of hatred toward him, used bloodbending to bring down the Southern Raiders commander, despite the fact that she was against using the dark art.
Knowledge of bloodbending soon became widespread and, with Katara's involvement, was legally outlawed sometime before 128 ASC. A man named Yakone had the unique ability to use bloodbending without the need of a full moon. He used his skill to rule Republic City from its "rotten underbelly", becoming the city's most notorious criminal malefactor in a matter of years. Following many acquittals in his favor, Yakone was eventually tried and arrested for multiple counts of bloodbending, for which the United Republic Council found him guilty.
As he was condemned to life in prison, Yakone subdued the entire courtroom by using psychic bloodbending, rendering every individual unconscious before he escaped. Avatar Aang, who also passed out following Yakone's display of bloodbending, entered the Avatar State and gave chase to the convict before trapping him in an earth shell. He then removed Yakone's bending, ending his reign as head of Republic City's criminal empire.
Keeping the art alive
Eventually, Yakone was able to flee Republic City and journey to the Northern Water Tribe, surgically altering his appearance to conceal his true identity. There, he met and fell in love with a local woman, whom he later married. The two went on to raise two sons, Noatak and Tarrlok, both of whom were waterbenders. Yakone, fueled by hatred for the Avatar for stripping him of his bending abilities, began training his sons in the art of bloodbending through frequent "hunting trips". With time, the two waterbenders became increasingly more proficient in the art, eventually learning to use bloodbending without the need of a full moon. Noatak exhibited prodigious skill in the art form and mastered Yakone's psychic bloodbending technique by the age of fourteen, successfully using it to control a pack of wolves.
In order to push their abilities to their peaks, Yakone forced both of his sons to bloodbend one another. Although Noatak willingly complied with his father's orders and bloodbent his younger brother into submission, Tarrlok refused to do the same, repulsed by the idea of controlling his brother and making him feel as helpless as he did. Yakone was infuriated, making a move to harm Tarrlok before he was stopped by Noatak, who immobilized him with bloodbending. Noatak asked Tarrlok to run away with him and begin life anew, but the younger refused, prompting Noatak to leave into the wilderness by himself.
Though Yakone no longer trained him following Noatak's presumed death, Tarrlok ended up following in his father's footsteps in taking over Republic City, doing so from a political standpoint while resorting to unsavory methods during his term as a councilman. In 170 ASC, Tarrlok revealed his true identity as a bloodbender during an altercation with Avatar Korra in City Hall, using the art to subdue her before she could finish him off with two fire blasts. Refusing to reveal his relation to Yakone, Tarrlok knocked Korra out and imprisoned her in a cabin outside of Republic City, covering his tracks by attributing the abduction to an Equalist attack. However, his lies about Korra's disappearance were uncovered by Team Avatar, Lin Beifong, and Tenzin, forcing him to use his abilities once again to evade arrest.
Shortly after fleeing Republic City, Tarrlok was confronted by Amon, who stated that it was time that Tarrlok was "equalized". Declaring that the Equalists had not faced a bender like him, Tarrlok proceeded to use bloodbending to immobilize his assailants, subduing all but Amon himself, much to his surprise. Only slightly affected by Tarrlok's hold, Amon made his way toward Tarrlok before removing his bending. Shortly after, Tarrlok recognized the sensation he felt as Noatak's bloodbending hold, and realized that Amon was none other than his brother.
During Korra and Mako's mission to find and confront Amon, the two ran into Tarrlok, who was locked in an attic on Air Temple Island due to his knowledge of the truth. Tarrlok proceeded to reveal Amon's true identity, and suggested that his brother somehow blocked bending through the use of bloodbending. This ability helped him become the leader of the Anti-bending Revolution, as he claimed that the spirits granted him with the special ability to take bending away.
Planning to expose Amon and undermine his revolution, Korra and Mako infiltrated Amon's rally at the Pro-bending Arena, where Amon announced that he would rid the world of airbending forever. Korra and Mako used firebending to free Tenzin and his family and opted to stay behind to create a diversion while Tenzin and his family escaped. Korra hid beneath a table in an abandoned gym, where she was pulled out from hiding by Amon's bloodbending. As she was suspended in midair, Mako emerged and attacked, but was quickly overpowered by Amon's bloodbending as well. Finally having subdued the Avatar, Amon removed her bending.
Despite his victory, the Lieutenant had followed his leader, proclaiming him as a traitor. He then proceeded to attack but was stopped by Amon's bloodbending. Amon told the Lieutenant that he had served him well, before launching him into a pile of timber. He then walked past the now weakened Korra to approach Mako and started to bloodbend the firebender into position, but Mako managed to point his fingers toward Amon and fired a lightning attack that electrocuted the Equalist leader and hurled him away, allowing Mako to take Korra into his arms before fleeing out into the corridor.
Shortly after, Mako was forced to stop again by Amon, who caught up to them. Amon bloodbent Mako and slammed him into the ceiling, the floor, and the two walls on his sides, and then proceeded to bloodbend the firebender into position, stating that it was almost a shame to take away the bending of someone so talented. Korra's desperation for Mako to avoid suffering the same fate, in tandem with a strong desire to protect him, allowed her to break through her spiritual block and perform airbending. Korra began to attack Amon with consecutive air punches, forcing him back to the window at the end of the corridor. Amon retaliated and used bloodbending to subdue Korra, but she was able to resist his hold, using her leg to launch a powerful air-kick toward Amon, blasting him out the window and into the sea. In the process, he was exposed as a waterbender when he instinctively used waterbending to avoid drowning.
The control and manipulation of fluids within a person's body can have many different effects. For instance, bloodbending could potentially be used to crush or disrupt the activity of a victim's internal organs. In a similar manner, it could be used to pressurize, boil, or cool the water inside the body of an opponent, killing them in the process. The technique could even be used to completely extract water from one's body, imitating the technique used with plants.
Despite its dark capabilities, bloodbending could also be beneficial in healing, as it could be utilized to maintain gashes and wounds, as well as prevent loss of blood. More so, bloodbending could be used to alleviate blood clots and internal wounds, and can prove to be beneficial in life-or-death situations. Bloodbending could also help in cardiac arrest, as it can be utilized in helping the heart beat if it were to stop by bending blood into and out of the heart.
Bloodbenders are capable of levitating their victims in the air in a similar way that waterbenders can lift water. Additionally, it can be used to knock its victims unconscious.
Psychic bloodbending is the ability to use bloodbending with minimal motion, making its use nearly imperceptible. Yakone first demonstrated this ability when he used bloodbending to control an entire courtroom while his hands were still bound by cuffs. He passed on the knowledge of this technique to his sons, Noatak and Tarrlok. However, only Noatak mastered the ability, doing so at the age of fourteen by subduing an entire pack of wolves.
Bloodbending can be used to sever the connection between a bender and their bending abilities by disrupting their chi paths, achieving the same effect as energybending. This technique has only been demonstrated by Amon and requires direct physical contact between the user's hand and the victim's forehead. The effects of this technique are longstanding, and, unlike chi blocking, it cannot be easily undone. According to Katara, the technique "severs" an individual from his or her bending, making it impervious to all methods of healing.
Despite being one of the most powerful and dangerous techniques in bending, bloodbending is limited in the sense that it is usually only performable under the full moon, when a waterbender's abilities are peaked. This is due to the fact that bloodbending requires far more sophistication and precision than conventional waterbending, thus limiting its use to only when a waterbender's capabilities are culminated. The only known exceptions to this rule are Yakone and his two sons, Tarrlok and Amon, who were able to bloodbend in the absence of a full moon. These three had each expended a significant amount of time and effort in training, and were thus able to use the technique without the assistance of the full moon.
The degree in which a bloodbender can manipulate another person's body only occurs on a physical level, leaving the victim's mental faculties intact. This was seen when both Aang and Sokka were mentally aware that their bodies were being controlled by Hama, but were unable to control themselves. Consequently, a bloodbender is unable to use the bending abilities of the victims, as bending also relies on the mental state of the bender. They can, however, restrict movement to stop an act of bending, as well as reposition attacks in progress by discretely manipulating the user.
Bloodbending seems useless when applied to a fellow waterbender of the same caliber, if not superior, to the user. This is evident when Katara managed to free herself, after an initial struggle, from Hama's hold, and in Amon's case when Tarrlok attempted to bloodbend him to submission. Bloodbending is also nullified when the Avatar channels immense amounts of cosmic energy through the Avatar State, as demonstrated by Aang, who was able to break free of Yakone's hold instantaneously. However, with the exception of Amon, every person to resist or end bloodbending used against themselves has done so in a state of desperation.
Psychic bloodbending is also limited in that the practice of bending with minimal movement can only accomplish feats such as subduing individuals, but cannot progress to the point of full control without further motion. Furthermore, the use of bending severing can only disrupt active chi pathways, leaving those that are already blocked or dormant completely functional and accessible to the user. More so, its effects are not entirely irreversible, as a bender's connection to their element can be restored by energybending.
Despite these limitations, Yakone and his children have both used bloodbending to levitate people off the ground, as well as knock several individuals unconscious simultaneously, demonstrating the skill's capacity. In particular, Yakone nearly killed Avatar Aang by forcing his neck near its breaking point.
Characters who ended a bloodbending grip against themselves:
Characters who resisted a bloodbending grip against themselves:
- Bloodbending's movements resemble those of Chin Na, techniques in Chinese martial arts which are designed to entrap or lock an opponent's limbs, thus neutralizing their ability to fight.
- It is odd that Katara was able to learn the technique so quickly, despite only knowing of its basis; however, it is important to note that Katara is a proficient healer with extensive knowledge of the human body and has exhibited the ability to advance expeditiously in her studies.
- Katara's effortless use of bloodbending after only one attempt is a testament to the extent of her waterbending prowess.
- Despite having knowledge of bloodbending and healing, Katara cannot reverse the effects of bending severing.
- Katara's use of bloodbending retains the fluidity associated with conventional waterbending, unlike other practitioners of the art who use rigid movements.
- Those who practice this technique open themselves up to madness. This has been shown in the obsessions over vengeance and control demonstrated in Hama, Yakone, Tarrlok, and Amon, and on one occasion, Katara.
- Only Tarrlok, his brother Amon, and their father Yakone are known to be able to bloodbend without a full moon. All three have employed their abilities on the Avatar, however, Tarrlok and Yakone had their bending removed.
- Amon was the only known person that was able to use a special technique of bloodbending which allowed him to remove a person's bending permanently.
- Bloodbending is the only known bending technique to have been completely outlawed by society.
- Bloodbending is the only known way besides energybending to strip a person of their bending indefinitely.
- With all other users dead, Katara is the only known waterbender to still be alive and retain the ability to bloodbend.
- Bloodbending leaves no lasting damage if done right.