Thanks for the thoughtful comments. It seems that the issue of speed overshadowed the issue of position, but I am still interested in both.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Another way to look at speed is to take the same amount of time, roughly, to get to the end of a weight shift, such as reaching the end of a bow step.</font>
The more I consider the issue, I think this is what I primarily pay attention to. From this speed, I then obtain the rate of speed used to turn my torso (or perhaps the other way around).
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Of course I have in mind some "reference points" for each posture that were given me by Fu Qingquan laoshi. They could be pretty different reflecting specifics of particular posture. And of course as many others I still have questions doing the form - whether the posture (or the movement) is completely correct.…I mean - now almost all of us have possibility to check our postures in mirrors as often as we like - almost everyone has a big mirror in a house or a gym - isn't it a good "reference point"? </font>
Mirrors are indeed good reference points and ones that I try to use as often as possible. As I consider my original quite vague question further, however, I think I am asking about universals, rather than “specifics,” although which is which probably depends on what aspect of a posture is being considered.
At present my understanding of how to practice the forms involves using externals to reach internals. These internals can then be used to express the correct externals. For example, in push hands, the Jin should be expressed smoothly. One way to practice and explore this in the form is to keep the speed quite even. (Now, as I understand it, we do not in fact keep the speed even. We are asked to show the peak Jin expression in every posture, and this expression involves showing a change. Simply showing a change in speed would be too external, and so we try to show a sinking or a release that will show slightly externally, but that will not give the impression of a stop.) By trying to keep the speed even, this will tend to show places in your posture where you are not smoothly expressing the Jin.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Quite often "reference point" = jin point.</font>
I think I agree with this and take advantage of this; however, sometimes I think there are shifts between Jin points and it is not always obvious how quickly to transfer from one to another.
As for body positioning, I think there are four standards that can initially be considered: instruction in the details, the imaginary opponent, the external environment (i.e., the floor, the practice space, etc.), and your own body. My belief is that we have to take our understanding beyond instruction in details, since these represent the “finger pointing at the moon” and not the “moon” itself. I also discount the importance of the imaginary opponent, since opponents differ and since this is best explored through push hands. I am then left with the external environment and your own body.
When I first used to withdraw my right arm in preparation for the final punch of Parry Block and Punch, I think I used to draw it back out of habit from drilling punches in Karate. As a result, I drew it back so that my elbow pointed behind me, at angle with the “cardinal” directions in the room. I then learned to pay attention to the position of my arm with respect to my body and made small changes to the location of my wrist. I then learned that that drawing it back “straight” meant drawing back so that the elbow pointed straight back as aligned with the room and the overall direction of my advance. This was a major change. As I now think about it, I may not need to change my alignment yet again, but might learn more by ignoring the room orientation and thinking instead about opening maximally away from the point I want to close on and strike. This would allow me to focus on a principal of wide application, rather than just on a narrow detail of one portion of one posture.
[This message has been edited by Audi (edited October 18, 2009).]