Why do cats not like their front paws being held?
The biggest reason I can think of is that you're taking away a defence mechanism for the cat. Is your friends' cat declawed by any chance? If it is, it may be that it no longer sees those paws a defence. In general, though, I've found that cats see that as an aggressive behavior and react (mine will nip if I do it).
So it applies to the general population of cats? I think his is declawed... I know it's an indoor cat at least.
I'm pretty sure it's a general reaction. Some may respond more aggressively than others though. Also probably depends on their human comfort level.