From big to small.
In the beginning students need to work on moving in the manner of a big frame. This is to make it easier for the student to feel what his body is doing. It is only after he really can feel his body’s movements and can control the way his body moves via the method of the 5 points that he should start to refine his movements to fit in with the requirements of moving using the small frame method.
In TaijiKinesis Vol 2 I have explained certain key principles that are frequently used in push hands. However, principles such as how the triangle rotates to create the circle, how a circle rotates in reference via a fixed point in a spiral motion to create a conical shape etc can really only be implemented into one’s movements in form play and push hands after reaching the small frame stage.
The easiest way to make the transition from big to small frame is via the method of 5 points. Thinking that one is doing it is not enough. You really must do it. The better you can do it, the better is your control and by extension your ability to actually apply core strategies such as how to use grasp sparrow’s tail to control your training partner’s movements during push hands.
Grasp sparrow’s tail or GST for short is both a training principle and application strategy. To be able to deftly handle something soft, nimble and fast moving like a metaphorical sparrow’s tail requires you to be able to have dexterous control of your own movements in addition to being able to move fast in response to an opponent’s quick, resisting reactions to throw off your attempts to control him.
In the form the principle of GST is trained through the movements of ward-off, rollback, press and push. Skillful application of GST requires you to control the opponent such that he cannot feel your strength clearly and hence cannot formulate a clear solution to it. When the opponent tries to move away he is unable to as he feels as if he will be thrown off were he to do so. But if he were to resist by rooting down strongly he should feel as if his strength is falling onto a ground that is giving way.
I spent the time this morning teaching my student how to refine his movements to be able to train GST better. Then we also worked on using GST in push hands to control and overcome strong resistance. Once he can apply GST consistently he can try doing push hands with strangers to test his skill.