In the martial art of Taekwondo, the foundation of every single technique begins with our stance. Stances are the foundation upon which everything else is built from. Without proper stances it is impossible to throw a perfect kick or strike. Now, various techniques can be thrown correctly in different stances, but the stance will either slightly alter the way the technique is executed, or be used for a specific reason dictated by the situation at hand.
In our training, we practice some stances that are very deep, or low to the ground. However, when we spar, it seems as though we never use these stances. So what is the purpose of practicing them? We see low stances being used in all of the other aspects of Taekwondo, including basic techniques, breaking, poomsae, and self defense, but the low stances seem to disappear in our sparring.
The answer, I believe, lies in Taekwondo's roots as a martial art. As Taekwondo becomes more and more sportified, less and less people understand the value of deep stances. Shorter stances are much more suitable in sparring as they allow for greater mobility and less telegraphing of techniques. But if you stop looking at Taekwondo as a sport, and instead look at it as a martial art, it becomes much easier to see why lower stances are so important to our art. Here I will go through a list of some of the major purposes of deep stances, namely the horse riding stance, and the front stance.
Usually, the go-to answer as to why deep stances are important is because they condition your legs. Granted this is true, it is absolutely not the main reason why we still continue to practice and utilize deeper stances. There are countless other ways to condition our legs that are much more effective than sitting in a horse riding stance. Even so, it does remain true that we do build strength and endurance in our legs while practicing our techniques in deep stances. Therefore, even though this is not really why we practice deeper stances, it is a good secondary benefit of this training.
2. Explosive Linear Movement-
Deeper stances allow for explosive movements going forward and backward. By bending your knees and lowering yourself, you can compare this to the coiling of a spring. Low stances allow for fast long-range attacks, as well as the ability to quickly move out of range of an opponents attack. Even in sport sparring, you see athletes occasionally dip down into a variation of a low side stance, usually in order to set up an attack, or allowing them to spring back and execute a counter-attack if their opponent strikes first.
3. Generation of Power-
Another one of the most common explanations for the importance of deep stances is that they help to generate power in our strikes. Stances such as the front stance give us a strong base from which to execute strikes because of the balance and low center of gravity the stance requires. One is very well-connected to the ground, which is essential to be able to generate maximum power through the hips and focused through your weapon of choice.
4. Transitional Movements-
When we think about our stances, they look to be very static in nature. However, stances are meant to be dynamic. One is not going to succeed in combat by standing in a static traditional stance. A lot of our low stances are used while transitioning from one stance to another, like the horse riding stance. When moving in combat, the horse riding will be used when moving from one stance to another as it gives the martial artist a well-balanced base to move from and into another stance.
5. Explosive Jumps and/or Kicks-
Just as lower stances provide a Taekwondoin with explosive movement when executing strikes, they also allow for explosive kicks and jumps as well. The concept of the spring is the same, and powerful and fast kicks can be delivered more efficiently from a lower stance. Also, they allow for less telegraphing of jumping kicks, as your body will already be in the position needed to spring up and execute a jumping technique.
6. Avoid Takedowns-
In arts that are mainly striking-based, like Taekwondo, it is important to make sure you don't end up on the ground. Using deeper stances allows you to defend better against being taken to the ground.
7. Finishing Throws/Joint Locks-
Lower stances are often used at the completion of a throw or joint locking technique. Due to the strong base of gravity, they allow us the maximum effectiveness in throwing/ grappling techniques. Also, being lower to the ground at the completion of a throw or joint lock allows for a quicker follow-on technique if necessary in the particular situation, such as an arresting technique or finishing strike.
As you can see, lower/deeper stances are absolutely necessary in Taekwondo, especially when training in the art for martial purposes. Most Taekwondo athletes may not understand, need, or appreciate these stances, but they remain to be largely practiced because grandmasters continue to see just how important they are to the overall style, and more importantly, martial art, of Taekwondo.