Avatar: The Last Airbender – Was Tenzin a Better Bender Than Aang?

One of the joys of The Legend of Korra was seeing the world of Avatar grow and develop, and one of the earliest pieces of advancement to the story of the original series came with the introduction of Aang's son, Tenzin.  It turned out that the last airbender was not actually the last after all, and in carrying his legacy, Tenzin made a constant effort to live up to Aang's legend.

In terms of raw power, there could never be any living up to the Avatar, but there's a lot more to bending than just power. When it comes to actual airbending, how well does Tenzin live up to the standard his father set? Did Tenzin manage to become a better airbender than Aang?

It's hard to believe that any other airbender could live up to the standard that Aang set. As the youngest airbending master to earn his tattoos, from the start of the original series, he proved to be one of the most powerful benders around even before he gained the use of the other elements. He could instantly cool a wall of lava, destroy gargantuan pieces of machinery with blasts of air, and even ended the series by redirecting Ozai's flame at point-blank range while it was infused with the power of Sozin's Comet.

However, his son Tenzin is no slouch in the power department either. During his battles with mecha tanks, Tenzin proves capable of not only knocking them around, but even on one occasion launching one high into the air, from where it lands on a nearby rooftop. Tenzin's airblasts never quite reach Aang's levels, but the art of airbending is far subtler than just being a matter of who produces more force.

To really look at their skill in the elemental martial art, it's important to take the full scope of their abilities into account. By that metric, many of Aang's talents were impressive and incredibly versatile while still not quite proving as practically applicable as his son's. Aang could make a funnel of air to launch ammunition or sweep away dust obscuring the battlefield, but more often than not, his creativity and imagination came at the cost of more pragmatic maneuvers. When it comes to fine control and weaving his airbending into a combat style rather than a constant tool for evasion, Tenzin stacks up favorably.

Consider how Tenzin can clear a breathable bubble of air around him and the metalbending officers when the precinct is flooded with gas, or how he uses the same maneuvers to manipulate incense in spiritual ceremonies. Even compared to an adult Aang's air scooter, seen in his flashback fight with Yakone as he tears across Republic City's rooftops, Tenzin's own air wheel has far more finesse than just serving the defensive function of deflecting the attacks of the mecha tanks around him. And of course, in looking at Tenzin's greatest displays of skills in airbending, there is no achievement greater than his duel with the Red Lotus.

Tenzin - The Legend of Korra

After overpowering Zaheer in a one-on-one duel, Tenzin manages to keep fighting even as the full force of the Red Lotus comes down upon him. If P'li were not perched out of reach in a sniper position, it's possible he could have held them off for even longer -- and considering the Red Lotus are some of the deadliest benders of their day, this showing may actually demonstrate more skill than Aang ever managed.

We may have to wait until more is revealed from Aang's adulthood in order to do a fully fair comparison, but as it is, Tenzin surprisingly seems to have the edge. Aang may be more powerful, but when it comes to the practical application of skill, there's just no beating his no-nonsense son.

About The Author