“While it is always best to believe in one’s self, a little help from others can be a great blessing.” -Iroh, Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)
Avatar is the story of a world in which some people can ‘bend’ the elements of earth, water, fire, and air, which is a sort of magical martial arts, yet only the Avatar can bend all four elements and must maintain balance in the world over successive reincarnations. This two-part Nickelodeon series has some of the best fantasy depictions of traditional Chinese martial arts, in any medium or format. With styles and techniques copied straight from the real-world martial arts of Shaolin Long-Fist, Tai Chi Ch’uan, Baguazhang, and Hung Gar. Here’s a quick intro:
As you can see in the above compilation video on the four styles of martial arts that are depicted in the initial series, the arts of West Gate Kung Fu School are actually well represented in this show. Study with us to learn waterbending, firebending, and airbending….you may have to travel elsewhere to get the Hung Gar-earthbending though and complete your avatar training 😉 Any new student to our Baguazhang class will quickly become acquainted with Aang’s spiral power of light, agile mobility through a new kind of stepping. Learn the depth of soft motion by studying our Wu-style Tai Chi Ch’uan, and you will see how the ultimate softness of water can become the ultimate power of Korra and Katara’s chi. Or come on into our mainstay class, Mizhong Lohan Kung Fu, a style of Northern Shaolin Long-Fist, and you will begin firebending in your first class, by beginning to learn Say Fone Say Bay, the first form, you’ll find yourself firebending just the same as Zuko and Mako.
But why would you want to do so? Here’s where it gets good. The main theme of this series is of balance rather than good vs evil. It’s not so much that the show features Game of Thrones style multi-dimensional characters who all transcend such a dualism, but rather that the series approaches the topic of good and evil from a more fundamentally Taoist/Buddhist/Confucian perspective of natural order where no ‘thing’ possesses inherent ‘good’ or ‘evil’, which are human mental constructions. Restoration of the natural balance to be achieved in accord with the harmony of the elements across the world is the thematic focus of Avatar: The Last Airbender, while achieving balance between the physical and spiritual planes is a heavy driver of Avatar: The Legend of Korra’s plot.
The Legend of Korra tells the story of how the spirit world can come to abide peacefully within our material realm, albeit with some birthing pains, such as we are seeing played out on a larger scale of holistic reimagining taking place across the Earth today that goes hand in hand with the story of our martial arts. All paths through the martial arts are journeys of transformation, in every sense, and this show depicts the protagonist Korra, the Avatar, in her formative years of personal development as the protector/harmonizer of her world.
All in all, this series is worthy of the considerable critical acclaim is has generated. Fans of the series engage in robust discussion and argument on internet forums (See http://www.reddit.com/r/TheLastAirbender/ for example). Whether it is for the excellent story and cool fight scenes, or the memorable, well-developed characters within an engaging martial arts setting, this is an absolutely must-see for any martial arts student, or lover of the wuxia genre. The Legend of Korra has been renewed for 2 additional seasons, so it appears this show will be sticking around. Check it out, or just come on into one of our classes to get a more personal preview of the show’s dynamic arts!