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Firebending is based on Northan Shaolin

Northern Shaolin is an external style based on extending the body and long, aggressive techniques that explode and drive through the opponent. Northern Shaolin dates back to the year 527, and is the origin of many martial arts. Many of Shaolin’s movements come from nature, utilizing the behaviors of various animals and the five Chinese elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Shaolin teaches students use their energy to penetrate their opponents, sending it forward for thousands of miles. Northern Shoalin fits the art of firebending because, like fire, it is aggressive, expanding, and extravagant.
Waterbending is based on Tai Chi

The Waterbenders use Tai Chi, an internal style that focuses on the control of energy. It is a very soft, gentle and flowing, but devastating when mastered. Tai Chi students learn to use little strength to defend themselves. With Tai Chi, the practitioner creates circles to pass by attacking energy and issues their own energy outward. While being used for combat, Tai Chi also serves as therapy for the purpose of health and longevity. “Tai Chi” literally translates into “Incredible Energy,” and it earns its title.
Being an art of both healing and combat, Tai Chi is the perfect match for waterbending.

Eathbending is based on Hung Gar

The Earth Kingdom utilizes the Hung Gar system, a mix of the Tiger and Crane animal styles. This style uses deep, low stances, such as the horse stance, and strong hand techniques. Hung Gar is one of the more external styles, but also practices some internal movement. Emphasis is put on having firm, solid stances. The more connected to the Earth one is, the more power they will have. The Chinese character “Hung” is a family name which means “to stand firm and tall with integrity.”
With a focus on strong, balanced stances and powerful strikes, Hung Gar is an earthbender’s best weapon.

Airbending is based on Ba Gua Zhang

An internal style like Tai Chi, Ba Gua is based around the eight trigrams of the Yijing. “Baguazhang” translates into “eight trigram palm.” These can refer to the eight animals which Ba Gua movements are based on; Lion, Snake, Bear, Dragon, Phoenix, Rooster, Qilin, and Monkey. ‘Circle walking’ is used to train stance and movement. This teaches the practitioner how to move and change direction without pausing or losing momentum, as well as staying behind the opponent’s back. The tactics used are outflanking and outmaneuvering. The inverse of Tai Chi, Ba Gua surrounds the opponent and delivers energy inward.
The Ba Gua style of kung fu is what helps our favorite Avatar Aang fight the forces of the Fire Nation. Using its array of circular, whirlwind motions, Aang is able to defend himself and his friends

Toph uses her own style of eathbending based on

Southern Praying Mantis

Southern Praying Mantis is a close range style that focuses the arms while keeping leg work to a minimum, using low and short range kicks. Like Hung Gar, Southern Praying Mantis originates from southern China. Practitioners strengthen the arms and keep them extended in order to reduce the recoil needed to gather energy for the next strike. This style was inspired by a mantis defeating a bird, and is apparent by the footwork that Southern Praying Mantis utilizes.
Southern Praying Mantis is a unique martial art and is the basis for Toph’s unique style of earthbending.

The characters all learned from teachers

Aang – Monk Gyatzo, Katara, Zuko, Toph, Jeong Jeong, Pakko, Ran, Shaw

Katara – Self taught, Pakko, Hama

Zuko – Ozai, Iron, Ran, Shaw

Toph – Badger Mole

While each had their own teachers the arts were all derived from different places.

Man was originally given the power by Lion turtles for protection against the spirits. (9850 BG, before air genocide)

They eventually master the power by copying the animals around them.

Firebending – Dragons

Waterbending – The moon

Airbending – Sky Bison

Earthbending – Badger moles