Can normal benders bend more than one 1 member?

While the Avatar remains the master of all four elements, why can’t normal masters achieve the same glory in The Legend of Korra or Last Airbender?

It is common knowledge in the Avatar universe that only the Avatar is capable of handling and mastering the four elements. Meanwhile, all of the other benders only have control over a single element, while some can’t bend at all, boosting the Avatar title to legendary status.

Although fans have long debated whether normal benders can learn to bend more than one item, according to the canon material revealed in The Legend of Korra, The answer is clearly no. However, Avatar: The Last Airbender revealed that they are still capable of a lot when it comes to subflexion. In fact, some characters can use multiple forms of subbending, like Toph who can metalbend, sandbend, and use seismic sense – all of which derive from earthbending. So why can’t normal benders bend more than one item, and how are these abilities transmitted?

Related: How Katara Learned Bloodbending In The Last Airbender – & When She Used It

Elements Against Underbending

In Avatar, mastery is a special ability allowing an individual to manipulate one of the four physical elements: water, earth, fire or air. Each bending style is used as an extension of the self, something achieved by mastering the martial art style associated with the particular element. Of course, mastering an item is easier said than done and only those skilled enough can unlock a specialized bending technique.

These techniques are sub-skills related to a main element. Each requires a certain level of proficiency before the bender can branch off into one or more sub-bending techniques, while some also require a deeper understanding of the item or even other types of bending. These subcategories include waterbending (bloodbending, healing, and spiritbending), earthbending (metalbending, sandbending, lavabending, and seismic sense), firebending (lightning, lightning redirection, and combustion bending) and airbending (flight and mind projection).

Some forms of sub-bending are easier to acquire and therefore more common – like sandbending and metalbending – while other skills like bloodbending and combustionbending are more unique and much more difficult to obtain. Although it is possible for a master to acquire multiple sub-skills, like Toph in The last air Master, most can only get one. It depends on their skills. For example, Bolin trained desperately to unlock metalbending, but found he was better suited for lavabending.

Related: The Last Airbender: Zuko’s Best Chance To Capture Aang May Not Be What You Think

What happens when the masters of two different elements have children?

According to Avatar Wan’s lore, after merging with Raava – the spirit of peace and light – and becoming the first Avatar, lion turtles stopped granting humans bending abilities. From there, it is implied that bending was passed down through genetics. However, the ability acts more like a recessive gene since two nonbenders can give birth to a master – like Katara and Toph, who both had nonbender parents.

When two different element masters have children, those children can inherit either element or none. In the case of Mako and Bolin, who had parents from two different nations, Mako inherited firebending from their mother while Bolin inherited earthbending from their father. Although it is unknown if their parents were benders, they each carried recessive Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom genes respectively. Also, while Kya and Tenzin inherited an element from each of their parents, Bumi did not and was a non-bender for most of his life until Harmonic Convergence.

The power and talent of the element that is passed down varies, and it is not guaranteed that one powerful master will give birth to another. That being said, sub-mastery abilities are not passed on genetically since they are determined by an individual’s skill and talent. On the contrary, hard work and practice is the only way to achieve sub-flexion ability.

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Why only the avatar can bend multiple elements

As mentioned, the normal benders in Avatar cannot acquire more than one of the four primary elements. In the Legend of Korra episode “Beginnings, Part 2” a lion turtle explains that the human body is unable to contain two or more elements at the same time. To combat this obstacle in an attempt to defeat Vaatu – the spirit of darkness and chaos – during the Harmonic Convergence, Raava clings to the excess elements, while Wan trains to subdue them one by one. As such, Wan can only use one element until Raava passes through him, swapping one element for another.

Switching between elements proves to take too long in the heat of battle and lacks the power needed to take on Vaatu head-on. Wan convinces Raava to merge their energies and eventually takes advantage of the Harmonic Convergence to merge their minds permanently. This allows Wan to wield all four elements at once as he successfully defeats Vaatu and restores balance to the world. This created the Avatar state and thus, the first Avatar was born with the fundamental aspect needed to master the four elements being Raava.

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