It is well known that the show's creators based each bending style on an existing martial art. Waterbending was based off link
, Earthbenders off link
, for the most part, Firebenders off link
and Airbenders link
While ATLA focused on mastering these fighting styles in a physical sense that is only on single facet of the training that goes into becoming a master of the martial arts. Body is the easiest. Mind was covered though the opening of the link
, a real concept featured in tantric and yogic traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. If we assume that the writers put as much study and research into the third facet as the first two then it only falls to reason that our next lesson will be in the discipline of the spirit.
Traditional Chinese schools of martial arts, such as the famed Shaolin monks, often dealt with the study of martial arts not just as a means of self-defense or mental training, but as a system of ethics called Wude. Wude (武 德) can be translated as "martial morality".
Wude (武德) deals with two aspects; "morality of deed" and "morality of mind".
Morality of deed concerns social relations and include the virtues:
- Humility (Qian, 謙)
- Sincerity (Cheng, 誠)
- Courtesy (Li, 禮)
- Morality (Yi, 義)
- Trust (Xin, 信)
Morality of mind is meant to cultivate the inner harmony between the emotional mind and the wisdom mind and include the virtues:
- Courage (Yong, 勇)
- Patience (Ren, 忍)
- Endurance (Heng, 恒)
- Perseverance (Yi, 毅)
- Will (Zhi, 志)
The ultimate goal is reaching "no extremity" (Wuji, 無 極), where both wisdom and emotions are in harmony with each other.
Martial Morality in the World of Avatar
In A:TLA Aang's biggest shortcomings was definitly Will. By the end of the series he had overcome this flaw though self reflection. Korra as is her nature will have to learn the hard way, though trial and error.
At this point Korra is doing well in the Sincerity, Courage, Endurance, Perseverance and Will departments. She could use some work in the Morality and Trust departments but her biggest shortcomings are in Humility, Patience and Courtesy/Respect.
In the episode "Rebel Spirit/Southern Lights" the writers seem to be highlighting these flaws in a painfully blunt way. Many Martial arts films start off with an antihero with one or more major flaws (most more serious then Korra's) and a integral part of the movie (often more important then the actual fighting) is realizing those flaws and fighting to overcome them. A good example for those who don't watch too much kung fu movies is Zuko. In LOK our hero's flaws mostly have to maturity. I believe/hope that their reason for bringing these flaws to the foreground is so that these shortcomings in her character can be addressed and rectified so that Korra can reach Wuji and finally become a fully realized Avatar.
Example #1 - Humility
Korra has never been very good at keeping her ego in check. She seems to think that she is entitled to certain things because she is the Avatar. It "rebel spirit" she complains that Tenzin no longer has anything to teach her and cites the defeat of Amon as proof, taking full credit even though Mako is sitting right there. Modestly could go very far with this girl.
Example #2 - Patience
She rushes though her training with Tenzin cutting corners and insisting that she has mastered Airbending before she has even scratched the surface. Then when she discovers the powers of the spirit world instead of waiting and moving on to it after she had finished the task at hand she dropped her present studies and jumps right into the next. This impulsiveness is quite possibly Korras fatal flaw. She is constantly doing things without taking the time to consider the consequences. It has yet to come around and bite her in the butt but it is only a matter of time. I for one with relish the moment when this tough life lesson finally comes down hard on our hero.
Example #3 - Courtesy/Respect
Korra is so infuriatingly flippant with the advice and experience of her elders, particularly in these first two episodes. She dismisses Tenzin like a hired lackey and continually belittles her fathers attempts to help her. I honestly wanted to strangle her. Congratulations to the writers for so accurately portraying a willful teenage girl, now could we double-time it though the adolescent stage and hit her with a good dose of reality.