<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Audi: I believe that another application of Cloud Hands in addition to the one you describe is a ward off with the upper hand, possibly with twist and grab as you suggest, according to circumstances, while the lower hand wards off a kick to the abdomen or genitals from the same side.</font>
Simon, I agree with your observation. That sounds like a definite possibility.
Your comment also brings to mind a different concern that may not apply to you, but is something I wish someone had offered to me early on in my practice. I have been taught that every posture has many different applications; however, as you do a posture in the form, you should adapt the fine motions of your movement and the focus of your mind to the application explained by your teacher for the form.
I think the form we do is not designed so much for the direct practice of applications as for learning and training movement principles and how they apply to various situations. To train applications properly, you need a live partner and the possibility of infinite variation. This is particularly appropriate after a good foundation in push hands, because only then is the training likely to increase knowledge of internal energy usage.
One reason I described the lower arm rotation in the way I did was because of a desire to describe a full “circle.” Most applications seem to require more than 180 degrees of “circular” motion, and one of the faults I most frequently commit and see in Push Hands is not to use circles in the proper way. This is a long way of saying that if we are talking about the motion of the right hand in Cloud Hands, the grab to rightward and downward is actually born with a circling motion leftward and upward. If we want to show a redirection of a kick leftward and upward, this should be born with a motion rightward and downward. The fine details of the movement should make the circle clear.
Another reason I focused on the application I did was to draw attention to the arm rotation that happens after the grab. Basically, there is an important elbow rotation that people often do not feel and so do not execute properly. I am not sure I can explain how to do it in words, but I think I can describe an exercise that could allow someone to feel what the issue is.
First, windmill your arms, keeping the elbows straight, with the center of rotation being the shoulders. This is probably the core visualization many people have for Cloud Hands. Notice the change in your palm orientation that makes the movement comfortable, but which serves no martial purpose.
Now try the circular rotation that is the reverse of Cloud hands (roughly like Brush Knee). Start with the arms hanging in front of the legs with the palms facing the thighs. (This position is similar to the “second” position of the Opening Posture (Qi shi/ Ch’i shih) after the initial arm rotation.) Now raise your arms slowly to the sides and a horizontal position, while keeping the palms facing the rear (this is different than in Brush Knee).
After your reach only about 45 degrees, keeping the palms facing the rear should begin to feel uncomfortable or at least martially vulnerable. If it does not, it is probably because you have allowed your arms to drift forward out of the vertical plane described by the thighs. Allowing this drifting shortens the size of the circle and cheats on some of what big frame movement is supposed to teach. To avoid the discomfort and maintain the power of the circle, you have to consciously rotate your “elbow” and make the palms face forward as you raise the arms to the side past about 45 degrees.
Now try the actual rotation of Cloud Hands. Just after you show the Fajin of the grab, your arm will be almost straight and your wrist will be seated. Your elbow will have led the motion of your hand. If you rotate at this point, your forearm and hand will describe (i.e., trace out) a cone and cheat the power of the circle. To avoid this you must straighten out the wrist and straighten your elbow even more as your arm descends through about 45 degrees. The problem at this point is that your elbow is about to lock. To avoid this you have to rotate your “elbow” and simultaneously change the orientation of your palm to face the rear. Your hand will now move “past” your elbow in the circle, so that your arm will in a slight curve and your elbow can now support the upcoming lifting motion “from behind.” The position will be like the transition into Cross Hands, where the fingers are pointing down, the palms face the rear, the elbows are slightly bend, and the arm has begun the curve that will carry into the final Ward Off position.
This elbow rotation happens in many places in the form (and in the Sword form as well). To me, it seems like some of the small circle work that his hidden in the big frame. When you get really big, you start to have to pay attention to the really small. Some of the details of the rotation will vary, because of differences in the applications, but the principle will not. Examples of places to look for this elbow rotation are Brush Knee and Twist Step, White Crane Spreads Wings, Cross Hands, and Cloud Hands.