Nation: Water Tribes
Martial Arts Style: Tai Chi
Opposing Bending Art: Fire
Notable Waterbenders: Katara, Master Pakku
Waterbending's defensive maneuvers focus on control through turning an opponent's own strength against him, rather than directly harming the opponent. Waterbending provides a versatility of experience.
Waterbenders also possess thermokinetic abilities regarding their element, meaning that they can freeze, melt, evaporate or condense the water they manipulate at will. Waterbenders in particular possess the ability to heal wounds by redirecting energy paths (or chi) throughout the body, using water as a catalyst.
A Waterbender's primary weakness is his or her need for an external source of water, though a skilled Waterbender can condense the natural moisture in the air or on the ground into a usable form. A Waterbender's power is connected to his or her present emotional state. If an inexperienced Waterbender loses his or her temper, his or her waterbending power is intensified, but in turn, control is lost.
Nation: Fire Nation
Martial Arts Style: Northern Shaolin Kung Fu
Opposing Bending Art: Water
Notable Firebenders: Prince Zuko, General Iroh, Princess Azula
Firebending has few defensive moves aside from blocking and dodging, although master firebenders are able to create walls of fire to absorb incoming attacks. Firebending uses concentrated barrages of fire to overwhelm opponents before striking a fatal blow. Firebenders use their internal body heat as a source of their bending to create fire. This facet of Firebending is in sharp contrast to the other bending arts, which manipulate already present representations of their element.
Firebenders can control the intensity of their Firebending, reflected in the color of the flames. Master Firebenders are skilled enough to create highly-efficient flames that look blue or light blue, with red and orange flames representing lesser forms of Firebending. With blue fire, a Firebender is able to pulverize solid rock with compact fireballs, and can cleanly slice or pierce through various other solid objects with fiery wisps. Also known as "the cold-blooded fire", certain powerful Firebenders are able to generate and manipulate lightning.
It is said that true Firebending power comes not from physical size nor strength, but rather from the very control of one's breath. Firebender discipline stresses self-control and breath control as a means of directing and containing the fire manifested. Poor breath control means dangerously poor control of any fire generated. Due to its aggressive nature, it traditionally lacks defensive techiques, which can leave a bender considerably vulnerable to attacks.
Nation: Earth Kingdom
Martial Arts Style: Hung Gar Style of Kung Fu
Opposing Bending Art: Air
Notable Earthbenders: Toph Bei Fong, King Bumi, Long Feng
Earthbending maintains a balance between offensive and defensive capabilities. Common attacks involve levitating nearby earth and stone, and propelling them at foes by way of a punching or kicking motion. A levitated slab of rock can also double as a shield when positioned in front of a Bender. are typically barefoot, presumably to increase their connection with the earth.
Sandbenders are Earthbenders who utilize earthbending in a specialized style, which emphasizes the manipulation of sand. Because sand is sediment which travels in flows, their style resembles air- and waterbending more than earthbending.
An Earthbender's powers are firmly rooted to the ground they stand on. Taking them any substantial distance away from the earth, such as on the ocean, strips them of their powers. Additionally, because of their inability to bend processed metals, the bending abilities of an Earthbender can be negated by securing them within a metallic barrier.
Nation: Air Nomads
Martial Arts Style: Ba Gua
Opposing Bending Art: Earth
Notable Airbenders: Avatar Aang, Monk Gyatso, Sister Iio
Airbending is known for its constantly circular movement, which makes it difficult for opponents to attack directly. Maneuvers employ the entire body with smooth coiling and uncoiling movements, utilizing dynamic footwork, open-hand techniques, and throws. Airbenders enhance their movement in battle, and can run swiftly by decreasing wind resistance, jump high and far by conjuring gusts of wind, slow falls by creating cushions of air, and even sprint across or up vertical surfaces by generating a wind current behind themselves.
Airbending is the most passive of the four arts, as many of its techniques center around evading and eluding the opponent. Airbending lacks fatal finishing moves, being an almost entirely defensive art.