"In the era before the Avatar, we bent not the elements, but the energy within ourselves. To bend another's energy, your own spirit must be unbendable or you will be corrupted and destroyed."
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Before the arrival of the Avatar into the world and the separation of the four elements, people bent the energy within themselves. At some point, they discovered the other four bending arts, and, over time, the knowledge to perform energybending was almost completely lost. The last known keeper of the art was the ancient lion turtle, who later passed it down to Avatar Aang, who used the ability to remove Fire Lord Ozai's firebending permanently, and then, twenty-eight years later, used it to remove Yakone's ability to waterbend. After Amon removed Korra's bending, the spirit of Avatar Aang used it once again to restore Korra's ability to bend water, earth, and fire, and grant her the ability to use energybending herself as well. Later, Korra used it to return Lin Beifong's ability to earthbend. The art of energybending has been imbued in past Avatars, though extremely uncommon.
The capabilities of energybending are not well understood; what is known is that bending a person's life energy can impart them with knowledge instantly, remove one's bending completely, or restore one's bending. This bending art is dissimilar to the others because it is so perilous to the user, which is why so few have ever used it. In addition, unlike how the four bending arts are a complete necessity for the Avatar to learn, energybending is optional.
- † indicates deceased during the series.
- K indicates the capability to transfer knowledge.
- T indicates the capability to remove a person's bending.
- R indicates the capability to restore a person's bending.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Legend of Korra
After discovering that the mysterious island on which he consulted his past lives was actually a lion turtle, Aang sought the advice of the ancient creature on what he should do about Ozai, as Aang could not bear the thought of killing someone. He asked for wisdom on how to stop the Fire Lord without taking his life.
The lion turtle answered, "The true mind can weather all the lies and illusions without being lost. The true heart can tough the poison of hatred without being harmed. Since beginning-less time, darkness thrives in the void, but always yields to purifying light." The lion turtle brought up a paw, his two claws touching Aang's chest and forehead, causing a green light to illuminate, and imparted the knowledge of the art to Aang.
Aang did not understand at first, but was comforted by this wisdom. During the battle with Ozai, Aang went into the Avatar State, and with the combined powers of the past Avatars and all four elements, the Avatar was ready to deal the final blow. At the last second, Aang regained control and exited the Avatar State, refusing to end the Fire Lord's life. Ozai mocked that even though he had all the power in the world, he was still weak. He attempted to attack Aang, who sensed the attack with seismic sense and pinned Ozai down again. In this moment, he realized the meaning of the advice of the lion turtle, and he decided to act on it.
The lion turtle told him that in the era before the Avatar existed, the benders did not bend the elements, but the energy within themselves. In order to bend another's life energy, their own spirit must be unbendable, or they would be corrupted and destroyed.
It was Aang's "true heart" and "true mind" tested in the heat of battle at the moment of striking down Ozai that allowed him to harness the wisdom of the lion turtle and successfully energybend Ozai.
As this was happening, Aang's entire body glowed white and blue, while Ozai's body shone orange and red, revealing his life energy. At first, Aang's spirit was nearly enveloped by Ozai's, but at the last moment, his spirit took over and covered Ozai, removing his firebending. This was Aang's revelation; if he truly believed he had no right to take a life and did not want to try, he would have to risk his own to defeat his enemy without killing him. In doing so, he was able to remain true to his beliefs, and he secured his final victory over the Fire Nation.
In 128 ASC, the bloodbending criminal Yakone was put on trial before the United Republic Council for his crimes in Republic City; he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. However, using his dark skill, he managed to escape the courtroom. Avatar Aang pursued him, and thwarted his escape. Again, Yakone overpowered Aang with his bloodbending and this time attempted to kill the Avatar. In mortal peril, Aang entered the Avatar State and trapped Yakone in an earth shell, allowing him to get close enough to take Yakone's bending away.
Southern Water Tribe compound
In 170 ASC, after a confrontation with Amon in which he removed Avatar Korra's bending, the new Team Avatar, Lin Beifong, Tenzin, and his family traveled to the Southern Water Tribe compound to see if Katara would be able to restore Korra's bending. After Korra realized that Katara was unable to restore her connection to water, earth, and firebending, she became depressed. While Korra was at her lowest point, Avatar Aang's spirit appeared beside her, and proceeded to restore her bending, transferring to her the knowledge of energybending at the same time. Korra later used the technique on Lin Beifong, effectively restoring her earthbending.
There are only three known applications of energybending:
- The ability to transfer knowledge, as shown by the lion turtle when he granted Aang the knowledge of energybending, and when the spirit of Avatar Aang granted Avatar Korra the knowledge of energybending and access to Avatar State.
- The ability to remove another person's bending, as shown when Aang removed Fire Lord Ozai's firebending and Yakone's waterbending.
- The ability to restore a person's bending, as shown when Avatar Aang restored Avatar Korra's bending, and when Avatar Korra restored Lin Beifong's bending, which had been severed by Amon.
Energybending is an extremely powerful and potentially dangerous technique. If the bender's spirit is even slightly weak, or bendable, then they will be infected by the spirit of the one they are bending. As a result, the bender can be corrupted and even destroyed.
- The concept of taking away/disabling bending abilities is similarly found in Chinese martial arts literatures where the protagonist "disables" the martial arts abilities (废除武功) of the villain as a merciful alternative to taking his/her life.
- The chanting that can be heard while the lion turtle speaks to Aang explaining how to energybend, and when the lion turtle first called Aang to sleepwalk/swim to him, is a Buddhist chant "Na Mu A Me Tuou Fu Shi Ne" - spellings vary.
- The position of the hands over the heart and forehead while practicing energybending is reflected in the lion turtle's reference to "the true heart" and "the true mind".
- At a Comic-Con panel in July 2008, Mike and Bryan jokingly named this type of bending "Anti-bending" and "Unbending", since it was never given a name in the series, referring to the ability stripping a person of their bending.
- While unnamed in both series, the term energybending has been used on Nick.com and in Avatar Extras.
- Energybending may be seen as a deus ex machina - a plot device that has been foreshadowed little, if at all, before being introduced to easily solve a complex problem. However, it has been stated by the creators that the idea had been devised even before the pilot was picked up. In 2003, the creators brainstormed several ideas that made it into the final season, one of which was that Ozai would not be killed by Aang; instead, he would be stripped of his powers using a technique available only to Avatars. However, they did not know exactly what the technique was until later.
- When Aang used energybending for the first time, his body was shown as glowing bright blue while Ozai glowed orange. However, when he took away Yakone's bending, only his eyes and arrows glowed, as if he was entering into the Avatar State. The same thing happened to Korra.
- Energybending first made an appearance in the final episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and was again utilized, in a flashback, during the last episode of the first season of The Legend of Korra.
- Amon was able to duplicate energybending's ability to remove a person's bending through a very unique form of bloodbending. This makes bloodbending the only other known way to strip a bender of his/her bending.
- Avatar Aang is the only known character who has demonstrated all three applications of energybending; he utilized the bending-removal capabilities on Ozai and Yakone, and used both the bending-restoring and knowledge-transferral aspects on Avatar Korra.
- One can inherit a parent's bending even if said parent had their bending removed through energybending prior to conception, as seen with Noatak and Tarrlok, who both inherited Yakone's waterbending, even the ability to bloodbend without the full moon.
- Energybending is the only bending art that can be performed by spirits, without them fully manifesting through a medium.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Sozin's Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters". Aaron Ehasz (writer) & Giancarlo Volpe (director). Avatar: The Last Airbender. Nickelodeon. July 19, 2008. No. 19, Book Three: Fire
- ↑ From older Avatar: The Last Airbender official site, originally on Nick.com (link). No longer updated.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Avatar: The Last Airbender - Art of the Animated Series".
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang". Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko (writers) & Joaquim Dos Santos (director). Avatar: The Last Airbender. Nickelodeon. July 19, 2008. No. 21, Book Three: Fire
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Out of the Past". Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko (writers) & Joaquim Dos Santos, Ki Hyun Ryu (directors). The Legend of Korra. Nickelodeon. June 9, 2012. No. 9, Book One: Air
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Endgame". Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko (writers) & Joaquim Dos Santos, Ki Hyun Ryu (directors). The Legend of Korra. Nickelodeon. June 23, 2012. No. 12, Book One: Air