Among other things, Taekwondo forms involve the precise execution of techniques including stances. The practice of forms can teach us many things such as attention to detail (because there are millions of details in forms to pay attention to), body coordination, and technique flow and familiarity. We learn these things by repeatedly practicing the forms and attempting to replicate their prescribed techniques and order.
I always accepted stances as just being another layer of detail in the forms; I could see where some transitions had stances that rationally coincided with the technique, but most of the time I found the various stances to be pure added detail to a form.
Another way to view the relevance of stances never occurred to me until one of my instructors asked me if I would ever defend myself while in a front stance? I answered no because front stance seemed too deep and awkward to move around in relative to what is referred to as a “natural fighting stance.” He then asked me about other stances that we practice in Taekwondo and whether I would use them. It seemed odd because I had never considered before how directly practical any of our stances were; of course I could see situations in which some stances were better for some situations, but it had never occurred to me as to whether I would use any specific stances in a real life combative situation.
The instructor I was with enlightened me that we don’t practice our stances because of their direct practicality because they are not really practical in any real life situations; we practice stances because mastering movements in stances will make natural footwork movement that much easier. One would never fight in a front stance because its length slows down one’s ability to kick and move. Similarly, walking stance is so small that hip motion and balance when being pushed become more challenging. However, if one can get really good at moving through long, awkward stances and tiny, little stances, then something like moving with a natural fighting stance will be a piece of cake.
Because the stances are less natural, they force us to work harder on basic principles such as balance, hip movement, and center of mass. By mastering these principle in more difficult stances, more natural and easier stances become that much easier to perform masterfully. This concept may seem pretty simple, but it was ground shaking for me at the time and has continued to form the way I practice forms and stances, and I definitely now have a great deal more appreciation for stances and why we practice them.