The Avatar Comics' Best Chi-blocking Counter Was a Sokka Invention

One of the best anti-bending techniques from Avatar: The Last Airbender was chi-blocking. Invented by Ty Lee, the technique could paralyze an opponent's limbs and disable their ability to bend altogether. It proved so effective that, by the time of The Legend of Korra, it was a crucial part of the anti-bending revolution headed by Amon, and in combating it Korra and the rest of Team Avatar often had to fight at the top of their game to avoid it.

But the truth is that the best counter to it already existed before Korra's time. In Avatar: The Last Airbender - North & South, Sokka invents the perfect anti-chi-blocking device. Despite that, over the course of the decades, it seems the invention fell out of favor to the point that it never saw use by the future Team Avatar.

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Chi-blocking has an interesting history in Avatar, dating back to its original user, the acrobat Ty Lee. Blending her martial prowess with her interest in auras and chi, Ty Lee discovered that by striking precise points on an opponents' body, she could paralyze them and temporarily render their attempts to bend elements inert. When Ty Lee joined the Kyoshi Warriors, she taught the skill to others like Suki, who in turn trained Nonbenders discriminated against by Benders as a method of self-defense. By the time of Korra, the defensive measure became extremely offensive, as the Equalist Revolution trained countless fighters in the technique.

Chi-blocking was not their only resource, however. The chi-blockers of Korra also frequently used technology like bolas and taser gloves to incapacitate their foes. And yet at the same time, technological advancements that could have countered the Equalists already existed and were too often neglected. The most notable example is the anti-chi-blocking chainmail invented by Sokka in North & South. Faced against the ability at the Southern Water Tribe, Sokka discovered that he and his allies could discreetly armor themselves just enough so attempts at chi-blocking would be ineffective.

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It was Toph and her Metalbending Academy students who helped Sokka make the chainmail, and there's a clear connection between it and the armor worn by the Metalbending Police of Republic City. The taser gloves the Equalists used were their most effective means of getting around the armor, which also provided the Metalbenders with a ready supply of material to bend against their foes. But the real missed opportunity is that Sokka's use of the chainmail proved how subtle and widely-applicable the same principle could be. All of Team Avatar should have worn chainmail armor in the time of Korra, and if they had, it would have given them a firm advantage in their fights against the Equalists.

The interplay between technology and bending is one of the most interesting aspects of Avatar's world, and the arms race between countering Benders and Benders overcoming those counters provides the perfect battleground to showcase that contest. But that's moot if the inventions that are made along the way are lost, or used inconsistently without much explanation. Continuity is key when it comes to showing how interesting the back-and-forth is, but seems the bit of worldbuilding from the comics was largely lost in the wake of North & South.

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If nothing else, the chainmail armor stands out as a testament to Sokka's most valuable skill among the original Team Avatar: unrestrained creativity. Sokka's unique genius helped spawn a piloting system for hot air balloons, glue bombs and even sky bison armor that prepared Appa for the Day of Black Sun invasion.

Sokka forgetting his inventions after he creates them sells short the most valuable talent of Team Avatar's least powerful member. Such inventions should change the world, but it's hard for them to have a wider impact when they're all but forgotten. As the Avatar franchise presses on into the future, it would be great to see the chainmail armor re-incorporated as Korra and her fellows discover its value for themselves. Considering that they continued to fight chi-blockers in the comics, it would prove as useful as ever, and reconnect the comics continuity that's too often forgotten.

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Brenton Stewart (1028 Articles Published)

Brenton somehow earned a college degree in the middle of a multi-decade pop culture binge he continues to this day. His interests range across philosophy, literature, and the arts to comics, cartoons, television, and Dungeons & Dragons. Follow him on Twitter @BrentonStewart6 or reach out by e-mail at [email protected] if you have nice things to say!

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