Thanks for the interesting replies.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And it is very enjoyable, too!</font>
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I practiced at first because it was a lot of fun to do and really cool.</font>
If I am honest with myself, I have to say that these are the reasons I practice push hands. I simply enjoy the fun.
A good part of the fun comes from being able to execute martial techniques without getting bruised or sore for the next day (except maybe in the legs). Almost nothing beats being able to effortlessly toss your partner around through the air, except maybe having him or her effortless toss you through the air. Those are the moments I crave. Who doesn't want to fly?
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Well Audi, I think that martial applications should be the final goal of practicing Tai Chi Chuan.</font>
I am not sure if I agree with the literal meaning of this, but I definitely agree with the sentiment. I have found such richness in studying Push Hands through a martial lens that I cannot believe that everyone would not want to do it.
I find it hard to get much from doing more than an hour or an hour and a half of form; however, I find two hours of Push Hands to be not nearly enough to go through everything what I would like to accomplish in an average practice session.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I guess I practice push hands now because I can clearly see the need to understand the energies of both myself and my opponent. Push hands allows me to feel how the principles apply to Tai Chi Chuan and to some extent how to use its energies to good effect.</font>
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">While forms, standing postures, meditation, etc. train certain aspects important both for martial ability and health (e.g. integrated body structure and mechanics, proper breathing, increased use of energy over untrained strength, etc.), the sensitivity to energy is, in my opinion, best felt through interactive work.</font>
Above all, the more I practice T'ai Chi, the more I too find that what interests me revolves around energy/Jin. In fact, I would say that the interactive work feels like more than merely a deepening of what I have learned by doing solo form, but more like an opening of whole new fields of understanding and areas of inquiry.
At the moment, what I am enjoying most is working on applications that come out of the standard circles, as well as counters to the applications and counters to the counters, etc. Examples of what I am currently finding interesting to explore are:
1. The differences between using my arms and hands to block, to touch, and to stick (the latter is, of course, what I really want).
2. The different energies that seem to correspond to changes in the seating of the wrist.
3. Finding more and more circles and exchanges of Yin and Yang in the applications.
4. Finding more uses for being centered and neutral and trying to find a Taiji center amid the Yin/Yang changes.
5. Finding truth in soft overcoming hard and stillness controlling speed.
These may sound quite abstract, but what I find exciting is that I can experience them in absolutely concrete ways. It is actually the union of the abstract and the concrete that I find to be most fun and interesting.
[This message has been edited by Audi (edited April 28, 2009).]