Thanks again for the responses.
Jeff, I am not at all offended by your comments and agree completely with what you and your teacher have said. However, I am not quite sure what about my post or the replies makes you think anyone is a conflict seeker.
For instance, I have had the pleasure of meeting Michael Coulon in person, and we have explored applications with each other. I assure you that anyone looking for bloodsport in our applications play would have found more excitement in the average chess match.
I study T'ai Chi for self cultivation, philosophical exploration, fun, health, and martial training. Despite what it might seem, martial training is really a distant last on my list, both in terms of priorities and in the manner in which I practice.
I find the various aspects of T'ai Chi to be completely interrelated. For instance, whenever I have passionate philosophical discussions with friends or family, I often act out my ideas physically. The same feelings of qi/ch'i I cultivate to generate martial power, I cultivate to maintain my own health. The same principles that apply to push hands, I apply to nurture interpersonnel relationships and to the work place.
I have had less than satisfactory experiences and exposure to T'ai Chi literature and practioners who divorce T'ai Chi from its martial roots. Since T'ai Chi and its theories were originally cast in explicitly martial terms and I have some background in martial arts and contact sports, I am most comfortable analyzing T'ai Chi in those terms, rather than purely philosophically or medically.
I have occasionally been called upon to assist in teaching health-seeking seniors who are almost twice my age and half my weight. Even with them, I find it more helpful to talk in martial terms, even though I have no intent to train them to be "fighters."
This very evening I was going over applications of the Beginning Posture with someone completely uninterested in applying T'ai Chi for fighting, but who was appreciative of how feeling out the applications helped in understanding principles of energy exchange, rooting, seating of the wrist, etc.
I hope all of this is helpful.
Bob, one question I have about your suggestions is how you prevent the opponent from striking you with his or her right hand. I find that if I follow the withdrawing left arm in, I am exposed to counterattack by the other arm. Also, is it not more difficult to lock the opponent's arm on withdrawal, since the opponent will have a tendency to lead backward with the elbow?