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In the era before the Avatar existed, the benders did not bend the elements, but the energy within themselves. In order to bend another's life energy, their own spirit must be un-bendable, or they would be corrupted and destroyed. This basically means that the user of energybending must have a strong spirit, which can be shown in many ways. In Aang's case, it is his true heart and true mind, tested in the heat of battle at the moment of striking down Ozai, that allowed him to harness the wisdom of the lion turtle and successfully energybend Ozai.

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