Jing is a term that describes the myriad of options toward which one can direct his or her energy, both internally and externally. According to Bumi, they correspond to tactics and strategies in battle.
According to Bumi, there are, at least technically, eighty-five distinct types or "degrees" of jing, although only the main three have been mentioned:
- Positive jing, corresponding to advancing or attacking.
- Negative jing, corresponding to retreating or evading.
- Neutral jing, corresponding to waiting and listening, or, as Bumi described it, "doing nothing".
Positive jing is an aggressive expression of chi. As such, it complements the more aggressive tactics of firebenders during combat. Firebenders typically prefer action to inaction or conflict avoidance, relying heavily on preemptive strikes to overwhelm their opponents with sheer power. These positive jing attributes are also found in the attitudes and personalities that are common among the people of the Fire Nation.
Negative jing is mostly exercised in airbending, reflecting the Air Nomads' pacifistic lifestyle and their philosophy that all life is sacred; they assert that fighting is only to be used as a last resort when conflict cannot be avoided. Airbenders are more mobile fighters compared to earthbenders and possess a highly dynamic fighting style; to "avoid and evade" is recognized as a typical airbender tactic.
In the case of waterbending, common maneuvers involve following the moon and the ocean's example of "push and pull". As such, waterbenders will alternate between and maintain a balance of both positive and negative jing in combat, allowing them to turn defense into offense as they use their opponent's force against them while conserving their own.
Neutral jing is stated to be the key to earthbending. Fundamentally, neutral jing involves listening, though seemingly doing nothing, and waiting for the right moment to strike. When in combat, earthbenders are more stationary combatants, usually waiting for their opponent to come to them, while standing their ground and meeting their opponents' attacks head-on, before delivering a deadly strike of their own. Neutral jing forms the basis of true earthbending, and is the concept used by the first earthbenders, the badgermoles. The idea is also fundamental in seismic sense, a perceptive fighting style used by select benders, one of whom was Toph.
As highlighted, someone who has mastered neutral jing is someone who waits and listens before striking. Bumi relied on neutral jing while earthbending, to the extent that he refused to flee Omashu even when Aang came to his rescue. His desire to wait for an opportune moment to strike was initially baffling to his soldiers and to Aang, although the Avatar later accepted Bumi's decision. The king eventually freed himself during the Day of Black Sun, which he recognized as the right moment to strike, seeing as how his captors were defenseless without firebending.
- "I don't understand. Why didn't you free yourself? Why did you surrender when Omashu was invaded? What's the matter with you, Bumi?"
"Listen to me, Aang. There are options in fighting, called jing. It's a choice of how you direct your energy..."
"I know! There's positive jing when you're attacking, and negative jing when you're retreating!"
"... and neutral jing when you do nothing!"
"There are three jings?"
"Well, technically, there are eighty-five, but let's just focus on the third. Neutral jing is the key to earthbending. It involves listening and waiting for the right moment to strike."
"That's why you surrendered, isn't it?"
"Yes, and it's why I can't leave now."
"I guess I need to find someone else to teach me earthbending."
"Your teacher will be someone who has mastered neutral jing. You need to find someone who waits and listens before striking.""
- ―Aang and Bumi.
- Jing ( ) means "power" or "energy" in Chinese. It is also known as "Nei Jin" or "Fa Jin" ( ).
- Knowledge of jing seems to have been well known or was at least common knowledge prior to the Hundred Year War, as Aang and Bumi seem to understand its ideas with relative ease, while many modern earthbenders fail to exhibit knowledge of the concept.
- The concept of jing, while it can be reflected as the differences of options open to a person in battle, actually also corresponds to all aspects of a person's life and not just on the battlefield.
- A parallel to the series' concept of jing would be the "fight or flight" response in psychology; certain personality types are more inclined to act in accordance to a particular jing.
- Different spellings, pronunciations, and culturally-described definitions of the ancient term jing (勁)
- Nei Jin and Fa Jin, concepts similar to jing