"There is energy all around us. The energy is both yin and yang; positive energy and negative energy. Only a select few firebenders can separate these energies. This creates an imbalance. The energy wants to restore balance and in a moment the positive and negative energy come crashing back together. You provide release and guidance, creating lightning."
Lightning generation is a sub-technique within firebending where firebenders are able to produce and direct a bolt of lightning from their fingertips. The generation of lightning was first shown by Princess Azula while she was being overseen by Lo and Li.
Lightning, also known as the "cold-blooded fire", is very dangerous, even among firebenders, and only a few powerful firebenders are capable of generating it; during the Hundred Year War, the only firebenders who had demonstrated the ability to actively generate lightning are Azula, Iroh, and Fire Lord Ozai. Zuko expressed a desire to learn these abilities, but his emotional turmoil prevented him from successfully creating lightning. Although he overcame his inner turmoil, he has not been seen generating lightning. Creating lightning was first demonstrated by Azula, though the redirection technique had been previously used by Iroh months prior. Lightning looks visually similar to, but is distinct from the blue fire that Azula used in combat.
During the Invasion of the Fire Nation on the Day of Black Sun, Fire Lord Ozai, being an extremely powerful firebender, was able to generate a powerful lightning strike with great speed, proving not only that lightning can be generated very quickly, but also that it can be sustained, or be shot in a continuous bolt of lightning and held until the user stops producing it. It is unclear what his capabilities with lightning were at normal times given all instances of Ozai generating lightning took place either in the closing moments of the eclipse, where his powers may have been reduced from their normal capacity, or while the Comet was present, which granted him a large boost to his power.
Despite Iroh's initial claim that generating lightning requires peace of mind, Azula was still somehow able to conjure it during her Agni Kai with Zuko despite her emotional instability and growing insanity, suggesting that she may still have been able to due to her expertise in using it or the presence of Sozin's Comet. It could also be argued she was still single-minded on killing Zuko, allowing her a certain clarity of mind.
As shown during his performances against Zuko and Aang, Ozai was able to generate lightning faster than any other firebender of the time.
By 170 ASC, the ability to generate lightning had become far more widespread. Lightning generation is used in Republic City's power plants where lines of firebenders create and direct lightning simultaneously to create electric currents for the city's power grid. Mako, the firebending member of the new Team Avatar, has been shown to be able to generate lightning at extremely fast speeds.
Generating lightning involves a circular motion with the arms. Mentally, it involves a complete absence of emotion and peace of mind, and physically it requires separating the energies of yin and yang, also interpreted as positive and negative electric potential respectively. When the yin and yang collide together to become whole again, lightning is created, with the bender only guiding, rather than controlling, the lightning's direction. Because of this complexity, a lightning attack usually takes much longer to initiate than standard fire attacks, though skilled benders, like Ozai, have generated lightning much faster than the others. Mako, however, was shown capable to generate lightning with minimal motion, even while under Amon's bloodbending grip.
As Lightning Bolt Zolt's short-lived duel demonstrated, the electric arc produced by this technique can be maintained for several seconds, during which time the lightning can be swept about to produce widespread damage.
Based on the conclusion of the Coup of Ba Sing Se and its aftermath, it appears that if it is not blocked or redirected in some way, a lightning blast will be fatal to any human being, although Amon was shot with lightning and was able to survive. The generation technique cannot be used to defend against lightning; knowledge of a separate technique is required.
Zuko and Aang both survived Azula's lightning strikes due to Katara's healing abilities. Aang was fatally wounded but fortunately he was resurrected by the spirit water, and Zuko had to be healed after hurriedly redirecting a lightning bolt Azula fired at Katara. While he was successful in redirecting much of the lightning, his state afterwards suggested that Zuko did not have time to finish the move, resulting in some of the energy remaining in his body. This left him incapacitated and unable to keep fighting Azula.
Even in cases where a person survives a strike, it seems they will still be critically wounded: Aang's wound was still raw, to the point where it still bled, and debilitating over a month after he sustained it, and had not completely healed by the end of the War. Zuko's was apparently still raw and painful by the time of his coronation, even though Katara had healed him shortly after he sustained the wound.
The charge, and thus the damage, of a lightning strike can be regulated, as Mako was capable of controlling the charge of lightning and firing a blast strong enough to incapacitate, but otherwise not harm his opponent.
- Ozai (formerly)
- Lightning Bolt Zolt (formerly)
- General Iroh of the United Forces
- Republic City power plant workers
- The movements involving lightning generation are drawn from a form of Shaolin martial arts known as "Dragon Shoots Its Whiskers".
- Azula is the only firebender throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender to successfully injure someone with her own generated lightning. Iroh is only seen demonstrating lightning generation to Zuko and to blast through a wall, and Ozai either missed or had his attempts redirected by Zuko and Aang. Azula on the other hand was able to kill Aang with lightning.