In the Avatar World, many of the concepts involved with the bending of the four elements are associated with real life martial arts.
Airbending is based mostly on Ba Gua as well as Hsing Yi. These arts show the swift, evasive movements which evoke the intangibility and explosive power of wind, with energy originating from the center of the abdomen.
In earthbending, hints of Hung Gar are visible. This fighting style features heavily rooted stances, as well as strong kicks and punches that represent the mass and power of earth. However, Toph's earthbending style is derived from Southern Praying Mantis style of Kung Fu to make her earthbending conform to her blindness and her unique way of "seeing" through vibrations in the ground.
Firebending is based on Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. This art features quick, successive attacks that exert extreme power for just a moment, sacrificing defense to provide continuous offense.
The martial art of T'ai chi ch'uan is visible in waterbending. The art deliberately focuses on slow movements and elegant forms that evoke the feel of flowing water. In waterbending, energy is redirected, and defense is turned into offense.
Avatar: The Last Airbender's martial arts consultant is Sifu Kisu, along with Sifu Manuel Rodriguez.