Avatar: The Last Airbender and Martial Arts (Part II)

Avatar: The Last Airbender is probably one of the most iconic shows from the 1990s-2000s. This cartoon showcased element bending – fire-bending, water-bending, air-bending, and earth-bending. This beloved show had audiences around the world and was praised for its depiction of Chinese culture. But how accurate was it?

The bending styles and movements shown in the show were based on Chinese martial arts. The animators of the show familiarized themselves with these techniques and incorporated them into the poses of the characters. Today, we will be covering earth-bending and air-bending.


Earth-bending was based on Hung Gar. This martial arts used various different stable stands. These include the horse stance and strong hand techniques. Most of its emphasis is on stability and solid stances. As depicted in Avatar, the earth-bending poses demonstrate great balance.


Air-bending was based on Ba Gua Zhang. Similar to tai chi, Ba Gua Zhuang has a great emphasis on balance and flow of energy. However, unlike tai chi, Ba Gua Zhuang directs the energy inward. Its circular movements are well illustrated, as Aang (the Avatar) uses the various circular movements to attack enemies.

There are 2 comments

  1. Nicholas Yum

    Great article, Maya! I distinctly remember Avatar: The Last Airbender being one of my favorite shows growing up. The connection between the bending styles of the four elements and real martial arts is really fascinating! Great work!

  2. Meghna Satheesh

    Avatar: The Last Airbender was one of my favorite tv shows, and it’s fascinating to learn about how the show tied in elements of martial arts!

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